Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Forbes, John (1571-1606)

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FORBES, JOHN (1571–1606), Capuchin friar, known as Father Archangel, born in Scotland in 1571, was the second son of John, eighth lord Forbes, by his first wife, the Lady Margaret Gordon, eldest daughter of George Gordon, fourth earl of Huntly, the leader of the Scottish catholics at the time of the Reformation. Lord Forbes was a protestant, and eventually drove his wife away from his house on account of her continued attachment to the ancient form of religion. Their son John adhered to the same faith, being encouraged to do so by his elder brother William, who had gone to Flanders and joined the Capuchin order, and by his uncle, Father James Gordon, the celebrated jesuit. Having changed clothes with a shepherd boy, he crossed over to Antwerp, where he was arrested by a soldier of the Spanish army and imprisoned as a spy in the citadel. On recovering his liberty he learned Flemish and Latin; and on 2 Aug. 1593 he received the habit of a novice in the Capuchin monastery at Tournay. On the same day in the following year he took the solemn vows. He was remarkable for his zeal and piety, and resided in succession in the houses of his order at Bruges and Antwerp. It is related that at Dixmude he converted three hundred Scottish soldiers to the catholic religion. His mother ultimately went to Flanders, and a pension was granted to her by the king of Spain. She died at Ghent on 1 Jan. 1605–6, and her son John survived her only seven months, dying on 2 Aug. 1606. He was buried in the nave of the Capuchin Church at Termonde. He and his brother William, also called in religion Father Archangel (who died 21 March 1591–2), are regarded as distinguished ornaments of the Capuchin branch of the Franciscan order.

The life of John Forbes was written in Latin by Father Faustinus Cranius of Diest, under the title of ‘Alter Alexius, natione Scotus, nobili familia oriundus, nuper in Belgium felici S. Spiritus afflatu delatus, et in familiam Seraphici Patris S. Francisci Cappucinorum adscriptus, sub nomine F. Archangeli,’ Cologne, 1620, 12mo. It was translated into Italian under the title of ‘Narrativa della Vita d'un Figlio et d'una Madre,’ Modena, 1634, 4to. An English version, with Forbes's portrait prefixed, engraved by J. Picart, was printed at Douay, 1623, 8vo, together with a memoir of Father Benedict Canfield [q. v.], and ‘The Life of the Reverend Fa. Angel of Ioyevse, Capvchin Preacher.’ These three biographies had previously appeared in French at Paris in 1621.

[Life by Faustinus Cranius; Harl. MS. 7035, pp. 182–7; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 22; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit. vii. 550; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 5th edit. ii. 82; Douglas and Wood's Peerage of Scotland, i. 593; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, No. 15985; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xi. 455; The Brothers Archangel, by an English Catholic, Lond. 1872; Michel's Les Écossais en France, ii. 276.]

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