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Genealogy of the family of Forbes online

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Sed genus, et proavos, et quas non fecimus ipsi,
Vix ea nostra voco.


Printed at the journal office,






* 1J281101


Right Honourable

fyc. &)C. Sfc.


(The Royal North British Fuzileers ; )


Bobilitp anD (E&nirg




( Kon ut families nomeni consul et,
Xam tali auxilio minim e egef,)

Is respectfully Inscribed by the



J. f it is enquired, why print the following narratives? our answer
is simple : the printing may gratify many of the name of Forbes?
and of those connected with that ancient family. The antiquity
of the original essays will at least supply the place of what inter-
est may be lost by the extinction of branches of the main stem ;
and it is most truly remarked, that none despise family preten-
sions but those who have no title whatever to family. * These
circumstances will give our little pamphlet some credit in as
large a circle as the number of copies printed will perhaps ex-
tend its wings, f Of so conspicuous and numerous a family,
descendants or friends must be found very generally throughout
the kingdom. We have on our side, indeed, not only a principle

* We may here remark, that genealogical investigations are subject
to unpopularity, as being very destructive of cherished delusions, and
if true, of bringing forward the plain and unadorned parts, as well as
the more brilliant : somewhat of the former attach to the most noble,
and even royal pedigrees ; and it is well known that even Louis XIV.
in all his glory, had a blank (or, as the heralds term it, a window) ia
his escutcheon.

f Perhaps in Asia may be found more traces of profound veneration
for family or races of men than elsewhere ; the casts and manners of
that continent almost everywhere denote an amazing tendency to pay
cven adoration to illustrious descent.



very generally diffused over the globe, but one of the very high-
est antiquity. The respect to family pretensions are to be found
equally among the savages of every region as among the Euro-
pean governments ; and the very first traces of any records of
nankind give unequivocal proofs, by their anxious enumeration
nd pedigrees, that this propensity is one of those most deeply
rooted in human nature. * From the holy histories, our atten-
tion may first be arrested by the Egyptian Pyramids, those se-
pulchral monuments, doubtless meant to eternise the families of
the founders, and whose masses remain equally the evidences of
human vanity, and its futility. To inspect these wonders of stupen-
dous toil has of late been a frequent satisfaction : but to come at any
further discovery has baffled every research and probable disqui-
sition ; intended to perpetuate the actions and names which once
filled the kingdoms with their glories, they impart the strongest
and liveliest conviction of the fleeting state of man and of all
jhis monuments ; and the works themselves of the labours of men ;
they seem destined to carry through hundreds and thousands
of ages, the mournful certainty, that those labours have been
Tain, and that though the materials remain hardly yielding, yet,
to time, that the memorials of the epoch of their first existence
have perished, and that the earliest historians were just as igno-
xant of their mysterious birth, as thirty succeeding centuries
Jiave been, and, in every probability, will ever remain. Unlike
ihe general fate of ancient structures, which leave the history of
their foundations, while age has obliterated the materials which

* Vast as the ideas of antiquity are, suggested by the Pyramids,
still ttey are so only from comparison ; when we consider the disco-
verie» of tbe successive worlds of Cuvier, in his " Itesherches sur les
«' Ossemens fossiles ;" his clear demonstration of deluges after deluges;
of 128 differeM sorts of animals in those ancient worlds, now extinct;
ejf tlie surface of the earth being formed of layer upon layer of worlds
of amimals and plants of different and distant climates, destroyed and
reproduced, and that man has left no remains in any one stratum
—what a field for reflection ; yet, to eternity, what a nothing are a^Jt
these tests of tbe progress of time I

composed them, and tin-own the veil of oblivion over their staii-
ces, these affecting and supernatural monuments mock the histo-
ries and traditions of men, and, for a season at least, falsify the
poet's description —

We turn to dust, and all our mightiest works
Die too j the deep foundations that we lay
Time ploughs them up and not a trace remains ;
"We build with what we deem eternal rock—
A distant age asks where the fabric stood,
And in the dust, sifted and search'd in vain,
The indiscoverable secret sleeps.

Coeval probably with the erection of the6e amazing works, are
the chiefs of the ancient mythologies. Men who, emerging from
the first savage and forlorn state of the infant societies of the world,
have been ennobled into divinities by the gratitude of their co-
temporaries, and descended as such, from the credulity of after ages.
These godheads sufficiently bear the indications of their first merits
and of their rewards — and Apollo, Neptune, Bacchus, Ceres, Mars,
Mercury, Minerva, are evidently the names which celebrate the
first inventors or great improvers of music, navigation, vineyards,
agriculture, war, trade, and learning. The vast utility which a sa-
vage race must have found in the uses of iron, in its formation
into tools and weapons, may well account for the deification and
splendid parentage of Vulcan ; for who but the son of Jove
could forge the thunder of the eternal father of the godheads ?
The monarchs of the early ages either really derived their des-
cent from these splendid personages, or else contrived to have
the belief established that this was the case ; for submission and
reverence were soon found to be most easily secured to men sup-
posed to emanate from a divine origin ; and though Alexander
the Great* may have failed in gaining a general belief to his beinc

* If Alexander really was surprised (as Plutarch says) that the
blood of his wound was not the Ichor of the gods, he must have been
in the highest state of insanity.


the son of Jupiter- Ammon, yet probably few doubted his being
the 58th in descent from Hercules ; and perhaps this last glory
may not be justly withheld from him, even by modern genealo-
gists. The divine descent of these ancient times was subject to.
many shades of inferior rank to that of the immediate offspring
ot Jove. The belief was general that the gods had often deigned
to be captivated with the charms of human beauty, (a belief not
unsanctioned in holy writ,) and hence sprung many a demigod,
the ancestor of many a hero, and king, so that in a short time
few great families in Greece but could boast equally, or nearly
so, with the monarch, of divine ancestors. The apotheosis in-
deed seems to have been subject anciently to the power of men ,
as much as making of saints has been in modern times. The
Emperors of Rome, in their lives, emulated the highest offices
of the priesthood, and were dignified with the title of Divus after
their decease, and even during their lives. Romulus, the founder,
of course had a divine birth ; and the Julian dynasty derived
its chief glory from being, through Eneas, descended from
Venus. The reverence for high descent seems indeed to have
been just as great in Rome as in Greece, even in the high and
palmy days of its freedom. The statues of their ancestors, (these
most ostensible titles of nobility,) were preserved with more than
filial respect— and the epithet of Novus Homo was certainly
more conclusive against the elevation and the possibility of reve-
rence to the person to whom it might be applicable, than it is,
or has been, for many years, in our most civilised states. Thus
we may be satisfied, that until all civilization was lost by the
conquests of the armies of the barbarians, the most ancient na-
tions, and those most polished and refined, have uniformly been
imbued with the most ardent admiration of, and reverence for
family ; that the want of it has been an almost insurmountable
bar to the elevation of new men, and that even in the popular
republics of Greece and Rome, the number of distinguished ple-
beians was very small indeed, in comparison with those of noble
birth ; much less than when the decline of every noble principle
In the decay of the empire introduced a greater proportion of
men of mean origin into situations of command and honour.
The feebleness and want of unity, and lengthened exertion in
the plans of men, is nowhere more visible than in the short pe-


ricd which can be claimed for the best authenticated nobility,
From the chiefs of the barbarous tribes which subverted the
Roman power, the most noble stocks may wish to trace their
pedigree ; but these attempts are oftener baffled by inconsist-
ency and want of proof than confirmed even by probability ;
and when the unprejudiced mind is employed upon our greatest
European families of " Royal siege/' it finds that six or eight
centuries (often much less) uniformly put an end to all their glo-
ries, and bring their founders forward either as fortunate soldi-
ers, or less meritorious politicians ; le premier qui fut roi,fnt zcrt
soldat heveux. The Austrian Majesty ends in the puny Counts
of Hapsburgh — the Russian Emperors, in the barbarous chiefs
of the unknown Muscovites — the Bourbon pride, in the little
illustrious Hugh Capet — and our own in the doubtful and base
birth of the son of the Duke of Normandy. We believe that
not one great family in Europe can with any certainty go back
1000 years, and probably the oldest families which can record
their nobility, or rather their descent, Hre those of Venice, des-
cended from the obscure founders of that marine city.*

Yet, during the long night of nearly 1000 years, which dark-
ened the European nations, after the decline of the Roman arts
and empire, the institutions of religion and of chivalry, tended to
give softness and sentiment to the barbarity of those ages of ra-
pine and ferocity. The idle lives of the monks were not entirely
spent in delusion and licentiousness j the arts of life and the re-
membrance of former civilization were cherished amidst the se»

* The pride of the Germans is almost proverbial ; and such was the
hauteur of the Spanish grandees, that each one in succession signed
after their names, consenting to the Bourbon dynasty, " As noble as the
" King." The subtle embassador of France concealed his feelings at
this arrogant assumption, till one, signing as usual, and with the addition
of " and more so," be demanded the reason ; the answer at once silen-
ced the Frenchman — " You allow I am as noble ; but I am a Casti-
lian, and he is a Frenchman j go I am so much nobler than the king ,"


elusion of the convents, and the vital spark of literature preserv-
ed for happier times. The noble maxims of chivalry, which were
founded on the purest humanity and sense of* honour, raised a
counterpoise to the savage lawlessness of the times before un-
known ; for when has so solidly powerful and seriously respected
a system been ever cherished, either before or since ? The
order, though t weak at first, grew with the increasing know-
ledge and stability of the new military fabrics ; it became
the pride of the highest, after having long protected the low,
and in its brightest period of four centuries, formed the
strongest tie of kings, and their proudest title.* In its observ-
ance was found the incentive to every virtue : religion was ho-
noured ; military glory inflamed and purified ; and the gentle
virtues and accomplishments nourished and created. Its fa-
vour melted the obdurate manners of the times into politeness,
and gave the glow of sentiment and generosity to enlighten the
gloom of ignorance and depravity — nor did it cease to spread ir s
benign influence till, having humanized the nations, it lost in the
general blaze of reviving virtue and high feeling which it created,
its own bright distinction : and having, like conquerors, given its
laws to the world, was no longer arrayed in arms, because it had
superseded the necessity for them. Glory had passed from the
phalanx of Greece to the Roman legions, with the disciplined
valour and ancient renown of which she long dwelt, and even at
last seemed averse to go over to the conquerors — whose long
assaults rather gradually usurped than brilliantly overcame the
empire she had so long exalted. During the ascendancy of chi-
valry, the glory of arms was vested in the heavy cavalry, which
were indeed the chivalry (as their name denotes) of the states.
The infantry, (except the archers) were of little or no estima-

* In Magna Charta, the king reserves powers of raising money
for two great events, viz. marrying his eldest daughter, and making
his eldest son a knight.— Barbour generally calls King Edward the
"First " Sir Edward ;" thus—" When that Sir Edward, that redoubtec
king," &c. &c- &c


tion well deserving the mention of that kind of troops made by
Froissart, who calls them " lusty varlets ;" and until the English
archery was ennobled by the days of Cressy, Poictiers, and Azin-
cour, even the archers were in very inferior estimation. When Ed-
ward the * Second fought the battle of Bannockburn, his most
dreaded force was his chivalry — and the Scotch army seems to
have had no adequate force of this noble description, but to
have chiefly depended upon its schiltronsf (battalions or columns)
of pikemcn.

Barbour describes Bruce's caution to his troops certainly from
hearsay of good authority :

On horse arrayed will tbey ride,
And come upon ye in a hie,
"With yr. spears receive them manfully-
Then think upon the muckle ill]
That they and theyr's did to ye still.

These pikemen were however able to perform wonderful marches,
being provided each man with a pony to carry himself and his pro-
visions ; so that when Bruce invaded England, under Edward the
Third, the English army was constantly baffled, and finally ruined
by their quick changes of position.^ This great King of the Scots

* Many who admire Wallace, are perhaps ignorant that he wa9 a
man of humour ; at Falkirk he thus addressed his schiltrons, after draw,
ing them up for battle, alluding te dancing, " I haiffbroght ye to the
" ring— hap gif ye can !"

■}• An old English author describes the schiltrons as follows;
" Ther formost couvay tber bakkis togidere sette,
Ther speres poynt over poynt so sare, so thikke
And fast togidere joynt, to see it was ferlike,
Als a castelle thai stode, that were walled with stone,
, Ther wende no man of blode thorgh tham suld haf gone-

\ The soldiers of Bruce are described to have each been furnished
with a cow-horn, which they kept blowing all night like so many thou.-


seems to have himself (along with Wallace) created and brought
the warlike state of his kingdom to its[acme of glory, and, as he liv-
ed the ornament of chivalry,he died like a true knight, ordering his
heart to be carried by Sir James Douglas to the Holy Land : the
end of this story is well known : Sir James being engaged in a battle
with the Moors, in Spain, threw the silver case, containing the
heart (which he wore suspended from his neck) among the
enemy, exclaiming, " Go forward, as thou wast ever wont ;" and
was soon after slain. The noble spirit of chivalry deeply per-
vaded* the reign of Edward the Third : his very deed of acknow-
ledgment of Bruce as King seems to breathe a sense of his con-
viction of his high renown ; and when a Minstrel at his table
mentioned Bruce as one of the three greatest men he had known
in Europe, the King reprimanded a courtier who was offended
at an enemy being praised, and rewarded the Minstrel for his
honesty. Towards the end of the fifteenth century,f however,
the European system seems to have thrown more consequence
upon the bands of infantry than during former centuries. The
States became more consolidated ; and when Charles the Eighth
of France invaded Naples, standing armies began to be formed .'

sands of devils; they left 10,000 pairs of brogues In their camp, and
a vast quantity of flesh half boiled, in skins suspended on sticks over the
embers. — In this expedition the English seem to havs known nothing
of the motions of the Scotch, or where they were to be found ; so ex-
cellent were Bruce's operations and so quick his marches. — In this
campaign, Douglas penetrated as far as king Edward's tent, and very
nearly made him prisoner ; he forced past the English sentinels in the
night, calling out, " Ha ! St. George — no ward !"

* It is delightful, upon coming to particulars regarding such men,
to find them increase in splendour instead of diminishing : Bruce was
saved from death at an assault upon Perth by a French knight, who
exclaimed, " It is a pity to see so great a king expose himself so much,
" to gain a miserable hamlet."

I The discovery of the use of gunpowder, early in the 14th, and of
printing in the middle of the fifteenth centuries, had effected a com-
plete change ia Europe, and led the way to changes stil! greater,


These were naturally more easily kept together, formed chiefly
of infantry, than of the more costly bodies of cavalry — which
could not exist without vast magazines of provisions for the
horses; a thing impossible in the state of agriculture. Thus
the same cause which probably made infantry the strength
* of Scotland, occasioned its rise into reputation when stand-
ing armies were necessary for princes to maintain. Of the
bands which seem first to have risen into high reputation,
may be mentioned the German and Swiss mercenary black
bands, and the Spanish infantry, which bodies were decorated
with the victories of Marignan, Pavia, and St. Quentin, and kept
the palm of renown till the battle of Rocroy transferred it to
the impetuous valour of the French : thus glory passes from na-
tion to nation, and from system to system. Petrarch, during the
reign of Edward the Third, expressed himself somewhat as fol-
lows : — " I have seen the grass growing in the streets of Paris,
which in my youth were crowded with students. The French
soldiery has been entirely overcome by the English, formerly
the lowest of all the barbarians, inferior even to the vile
Scotch. It is thus that dominion changes; it departs-'r from
the unworthy, and goes over to the virtuous." About the
same period may probably be dated the formation of bodies
of light horse. At Pinkey, Sir Ralph Sadler commanded the
English light horse; at this combat, the Scotch cavalry was
mounted on small horses, and the infantry was chiefly composed
of pikemen, clothed in sheepskins. The horsemen were called
prickers. The English cavalry and artillery seem to have de-
cided the battle with great slaughter and little opposition on the
side of the Scotch. The French had about this lime even a Co-
lonel-General of light horse ; so that from the use of artillery,
matchlocks and the formation of regular standing regiments, the

* We may mention, that in Edward the Fourth's time, Sir John
Fortescue says, " The might of the realm of England standeth upon
" its archers."

f It is evident that Petrarch was here swayed by the superior rank
which Bruce and Bannockburn had given to Scotchmen.
P 2


old heavy-armed cavalrv, or men at arms, with their lances
pointed with Bourdeaux steel, as *Froissart tells us, seem to have
gone quite into disuse. In their day of glory, these men, defend-
ed with impenetrable armour, must have been extremely for-
midable and irresistible by troops nearly naked ; but the moment
fire-arms came into use, their superiority in a great measure ceased.
Their motions in body must have been tedious and unwieldy ;
their marches slow and toilsome, and incumbered ; and upon
any accident happening to the horse or rider, the last became:
useless, or the motionless prey to the varlets who, with their
knives, either cut their throats, as they lay helpless on the
ground, or else took them prisoners. It is somewhat remarkable
that the history of the fields of Cressy, Poictiers, and Azincour s
are precisely the same ; defeat, to a rash tumultuous onset, by a
small number, steady in defence ; just such was Bannockbum,
where perhaps the English gained a lesson, from which they pro-
fited, during the century which followed, .when combating in
France; when the ebullition of courage in the noble chivalry of
that kingdom being unaided by discipline, only betrayed it to de-
feat and slaughter. Fiction, which seems to pervade all of the
early institutions of mankind, was not wanting to exalt the early
days of chivalry. The actions of Arthur, Rolland, (or Orlando)
Tristan, Palmerin, Amadis, and many others, were sung, to inflame
the emulation of the knights ; these songs were partly mere in-
ventions of the minstrels, and partly the exaggerated colouring
of deeds, the history of which bore little resemblance to the poe-
tical superstructure : every nation had its knight or champion ;
and the minstrels and poets naturally added feat upon feat, to ex-
a lt the hero of their own country. The princes and nobles pas-
sed the convivial hours of each day and night in hearing the
songs and tales of these wandering bards. They supplied the
place of drama, music and literature :f the history of the passing

* The Editor passed much of 1793-4 in the country around Va-
lenciennes, where Froissart was born; the hamlets are just as he des-
cribed them 400 years ago, at this day ; his accuracy and minutenesg
are admirable.

•j- An English author, who wrote in 1440, thus describes James the
First's evening occupation the night of his murder : —

" Then after this came aporach the nyght yn the which the said
ames Stuart kyng of Scottes, shul'd falsely hym unwittyng suffere


season was conveyed and embellished by these musical chroni-
clers; and to them and the travelling monks was Europe in-
debted for the knowledge of what had recently happened, or was
at the time in progress — so little were the Spanish wars known,
to the rest of Europe that Froissart made a journey of many hun-
dred miles to get their history at the Court of Gaston Phoebus at
Orthes, and went even into Holland to gain more intelligence from
a knight who had been in those campaigns. The song of Rolland
seems to have been the most famous, and longest in repute, of
the performances of these minstrels. The Normans came on at
Hastings,* singing this romance ; and nearly 300 year.; afterwards,
the French soldiers advanced singing it at Poitiers.-j- Except in
the trivial learning of the convents, no other literature for many
centures prevailed in Europe. The universal religion was chi-
valry ; the minstrels were its priests, and the romances its can-
ons of worship. There is a very natural bias in mankind to
paint in imagination, the ages past as more gifted with every
thing enviable than the present : from what this proceeds, it is
not perhaps easy to account ; yet those who suppose the seasons
warmer, the produce more luxuriant, and the men to have been

his horribile death by murdure ; this which is pite that any gentill or
gode man to thynk upon ; so both afor soper, and long aftire ynto
quarter of the nyght, in the which the Earle of Athetelles and Robert
Stewart were about the kyng, where thay wer occupied at the playing
of the ckesse all the table, yn reeding of Romans, yn sy?igyng and pyji-
yng, yn harpyng, and in other honest solaces of grete pleasance and

.* King John of France, at Poictiers, reproved a young soldier for
singing this song at the time that the defeat seemed certain, saying,
" "Why sing his song— there are no Rollands among us?" " Plenty,"
replied the youth, " but we want a Charlemagne to head us."

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Online LibraryMatthew LumsdenGenealogy of the family of Forbes → online text (page 1 of 9)