James King, 1st Lord Eythin

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James King Lord Eythin

James King, 1st Lord Eythin (1589–1652) was a Scottish soldier, who served in the Swedish army, and who later supported King Charles I in the Bishops' Wars, and then later in the English Civil War.


James King was born on Warbester Hoy, in the Orkney Islands. He was recruited into the Swedish Army in 1615, and in 1622 he was a Captain in Ruthven's regiment. By 1634 King had gained some prominence and commanded three of the regiments at the siege of Hildersheim. For this action he was promoted Major General.[1] By 1636, he was a Lieutenant General and commanded the left wing of the Swedish Army at the Battle of Wittstock as part of Alexander Leslie's Army of the Weser.[2] His report of the battle, and his role within it lay undetected until recently, but has now been published.[3] After Wittstock, King's cavalry formed an Army Volante supported by his fellow Scot, Major General John Ruthven who had also fought at Wittstock. The conducted a largely successful campaign around Minden throughout early 1637. However, the Swedish campaign began to falter and problems arose with the German allies. Many of the Scots found themselves unpopular in wishing to press for the Restoration of the Palatinate causing tensions with some of their Swedish allies. Moreover, tensions in Scotland saw Leslie leave to form the Army of the Covenant in Scotland leaving King in charge of the remnant Army of the Weser. With this much reduced force, coupled with fresh levies from England led by William Lord Craven, King was defeated at the Battle of Vlotho.[4] Craven and Prince Rupert of the Rhine were captured by the victorious Imperialists. It was unfortunate that King blamed Rupert's rashness for the defeat, while Rupert in turn blamed King's caution.

After quarrels with the Swedish commanders, King was sidelined to duties in Stockholm, although he was ennobled. He travelled to Hamburg in 1639, where King Charles employed him initially as a military recruiter.[5] He sat out the Bishops' Wars between Charles I and the Scottish Covenanters, thus avoiding conflict with his long-time comrade, Alexander Leslie. Indeed, his actions may have been sanctioned by Leslie who appeared to constantly protect him in the Scottish Parliament.[6] However, his two surviving wills indicate that King was either a Roman Catholic or High Lutheran as he invokes the Holy Trinity in each - something not common in the typical Scottish testament of the period.[7]

After the Civil War broke out in England in 1642, King was created Lord Eythin and was despatched to the continent once more to recruit experienced soldiers from the various European armies and acquire munitions. He returned to England in the suite of Queen Henrietta Maria. Landing at Bridlington, he was appointed Lieutenant General to the Marquess of Newcastle.

On 2 July 1644, Prince Rupert relieved York, where Newcastle's army had been besieged. Rupert had fallen out with the Lord General of Royalist forces, Patrick Ruthven, who left the army to join the king after an argument with Rupert. Devoid of an infantry commander, Rupert summoned Newcastle's troops to join him on Marston Moor, where he was preparing for battle with the Covenanter and Parliamentarian besiegers led by Alexander Leslie. The meeting in the late afternoon between Rupert and King was apparently chilly, Rupert taking his most senior cavalry commander and placing him in command of the infantry (thus replacing Ruthven). In the subsequent Battle of Marston Moor, the Royalist army was destroyed, the Royalist cavalry losing discipline and heading off in pursuit of plunder rather than hammering home their initial advantage. Newcastle and his senior officers, among them King, went into exile in Hamburg after quitting Rupert's service in disgust.[8]

In March 1650 he was to have taken part as Lieutenant General in Montrose’s expedition which initially landed in the Orkney Islands. But before he left Sweden, he aborted his mission to support Montrose, because Charles II reached an accommodation with the Covenanters and abandoned Montrose (who was subsequently captured by the Covenanters and executed in Edinburgh). King died in Stockholm on 9 June 1652, he was honoured by the Swedish court with a burial in the Riddarholm Church, the burial place of the Swedish kings.[9]


King had two wives. His first wife was Dilliana Van der Borchens (died c. 1634) who came from Pomerania. They had no children. With his second wife, whose name is not known, King had a daughter who died before him.[9] From the wills that King has left to us we know that he left his goods and geir to his nephews, James and David King.[10]



  • The Will of James King (notarial copy), Aberdeen University Library Special Collections, MS2957/5/4/1, 20 April 1651<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The Will of James King (notarial copy), Nottinghamshire Archives DD/4P/41/5, 10 June 1646<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Certificate of General King upon arms sent to England, The National Archives at Kew, SP 81/47, f.102, 28 June 1639<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Murdoch, Steve (2006), Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746, Leiden, pp. 17–18, 39–48, 233, 356–357<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Murdoch, Steve; Wales, Tim (2009). "King, James, Lord Eythin (1589–1652)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/15566.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Murdoch, Steve; Zickermann, Kathrin; Marks, Adam (2012), "The Battle of Wittstock 1636: Conflicting Reports on a Swedish Victory in Germany", Northern Studies, 43: 71–109<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Murdoch, Steve; Grosjean, Alexia (2014), Alexander Leslie and the Scottish Generals of the Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648, Pickering & Chatto<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Berg, Jonas; Lagercrantz, Bo. "Scots in Sweden – Seventeenth Century – Part 1". electricscotland.com. Retrieved December 2012. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  •  Goodwin, Gordon (1892). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FKing%2C_James_%281589%3F-1652%3F%29_%28DNB00%29 "King, James (1589?-1652?)" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 31. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 135–136.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Grosjean, Alexia (2003). An Unofficial Alliance: Scotland and Sweden, 1569–1654. Leiden.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Grosjean, Alexia; Murdoch, Steve (November 2004). The Scotland, Scandinavia and Northern European Biographical Database [SSNE]. University of St Andrews. ISSN 1749-7000.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>