Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Forster, John (1520?-1602)

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FORSTER or FOSTER, Sir JOHN (1520?–1602), warden of the marches, born about 1520, was son of Sir Thomas Forster (d. 1527) of Etherston, Northumberland, marshal of Berwick, and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Robert, fourth baron Ogle. Trained from early youth in the methods of border warfare, he was in August 1542 put in command of Harbottle Castle with a garrison of a hundred men. On 23 Nov. following he fought at Solway Moss under Thomas, first baron Wharton [q. v.], and claimed to have captured Robert, fifth baron Maxwell [q. v.]; Tunstall and Suffolk, however, determined that Maxwell's real captor was Edward Aglionby. In the autumn of 1543 Forster was engaged in a burning foray on the Rule (Hamilton Papers, ii. 119, 139), and on 10 Sept. 1547 he fought at Pinkie; he was knighted by Protector Somerset at Roxburgh on the 28th (Lit. Remains of Edward VI, Roxburghe Club, p. 220). On 7 Jan. 1548-9 he burnt Hume Castle and the villages in its neighbourhood, and from November 1549 to November 1550 he served as sheriff of Northumberland. Before the end of Edward VI's reign he was granted the captaincy of Bamborough Castle inreversion after Sir John Horsey's death. Horsey died in 1555, and Queen Mary, having caused the patent to be examined,confirmed Forster's appointment (Acts P. C. 1554-6, p. 133). His implication in a border feud (see Strype, Eccl. Mem. iii. ii. 69) was pardoned on the ground that he was 'a man of great service on the borders and did notably well now of late' (Acts P.C. 1557-8, pp. 270, 338, 396). This reputation he justified in the summer of 1557 by checking a Scots raid into England, and then severely handling the raiders on their retreat to Scotland.

Forster, whose interests lay exclusively in border warfare and family feuds, had no difficulty in complying with the various religious changes of the time; he continued his service on the borders under Elizabeth, and on 4 Nov. 1560 he was appointed warden of the middle marches. This office he held for thirty-five years, and he had some part, either as warden or as special commissioner, in most of the dealings between England and Scotland almost to the end of Elizabeth's reign; references to him occupy seven columns in the index to the 'Border Papers.' On 4 Aug. 1563 he was appointed a commissioner to treat concerning the delimitation of the borders, and on 10 Jan. 1564-5 to discuss the position of Moray and other Scots exiles in England. In 1569 he assisted in suppressing the rebellion of the northern earls, and in 1570 chastised the Scots borderers who had helped them. In August 1572 he was ordered to have the Earl of Northumberland executed, and in July 1575 he was captured during a border fray and taken to Jedburgh; he was, however, immediately released by the Scots regent, Moray, on Elizabeth's remonstrances. Ten years later, on 27 July 1585, Forster and his son-in-law, Francis, lord Russell [see under Russell, Francis, second Earl of Bedford], were attacked by Ker of Fernihurst, and Russell was killed. Forster at first described it as an accident, but this did not suit the English government, and, with a view to exacting compensation, Russell's death was represented as the result of a deliberate plot.

Meanwhile various accusations, prompted perhaps by local feuds, were brought against Forster; he was said to have winked at murder, set thieves at liberty, executed others on insufficient ground, and had dealings with Northumberland wreckers. Articles embodying these accusations were drawn up on 27 Sept. 1586, and Forster was dismissed from his office. Lord Hunsdon, however, thought the charges frivolous, and about April 1588 Forster was restored. He held the wardenry until October 1595, when he was superseded by Lord Eure: his removal was due partly to his old age, and partly to a renewal of the charges against him. On 24 Oct. 1597 he was nearly surprised at Bamborough Castle by a party of Scots, and was only saved by Lady Forster promptly bolting the door of his chamber (Border Papers, ii. 441). He died at Bamborough on 13 Jan. 1601-2 (ib. ii. 780), leaving several sons and daughters by his wife Jane, daughter of Cuthbert Radcliffe, and widow of Robert, fifth baron Ogle; his son Nicholas was deputy-warden under his father, was knighted in 1603, and was father of Sir Claudius Forster, created a baronet on 7 March 1619-20 (see G. E. C[okayne], Complete Baronetage, i. 137); his daughter Juliana, wife of Francis, lord Russell, was mother of Edward, third earl of Bedford, and another daughter, Grace, married Sir William Fenwick of Wallington, and was mother of Sir John Fenwick (1579-1658?) [q. v.]

[Border Papers, 1560-1603, passim; Hamilton Papers, vol. ii.; Thorpe's Cal. of Scottish State Papers, 1509-1603; Bain's Cal. of Scottish State Papers, 1547-69; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547-1602, and Addenda, 1547-65; Cotton MSS. Calig. B. viii. 217, ix. 222, 230, 278-9, 337, 360, 390, C. i. 303, 384, iii. 442-3, 449, iv. 7, 48-50, v. 24, 40, vi. 74, 163, vii. 2, 71, 76, 233, viii. 2, 14, 39, 155, 273, ix. 157, 172 287, 314-5, D. i. 308; Lansd. MS. viii. 65; Harleian MS. 6999, art. 97; Acts P.C. ed. Dasent, vols. i-xxi.; Strype's Works (general index); Froude's Hist. of England; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1900; Hodgson's Hist. of Northumberland; A. H. Foster-Barham's Descendants of Roger Foster, 1897.]

A. F. P.