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Patrick Forbes of Corse

1564 - 1635


Patrick Forbes, 5th Laird of Corse, was born to William Forbes, Laird of Corse and Elizabeth Strachan on August 24, 1564, at Corse Castle. He was the eldest son and his siblings included Sir William Forbes of Menie and Craigevar, Kt.; Rev. John Forbes; Sir Arthur Forbes, 1st Baronet Forbes of Longford; Alexander Forbes; and James Forbes. Forbes attended the High School of Stirling, the University of Glasgow and then the University of St Andrews. At St Andrews, he came under the influence of the theologian Andrew Melville. In 1598, Forbes's father died, leaving him his estate. He married Lucretia Spens, daughter of David Spens of Wormiston. They produced five children, one of whom was the noted theologian John Forbes.

​At the turn of the century, the Reformed Church of Scotland had not established ecclesiastical polity. In this environment, Forbes became religiously puritanical and an avid preacher. George Gledstanes, Archbishop of St Andrews, ordered him to enter the ministry or stop preaching. Forbes then confined his preaching to his own household. In 1612, bowing to the dying request of his friend John Chalmers, the minister of Keith, Forbes received his ordination into the ministry and became minister of Keith.

In 1613, Forbes wrote the theological treatise An Exquisite Commentarie upon the Revelation of Saint John (1613), in which he argued that the Catholic Church had become corrupted by the greed of bishops. In 1614, he wrote Short Discovery of the Adversarie (1614), in which he moderated his views but still declared bishoprics to be unnecessary institutions.

In March 1618, Forbes was elected as Bishop, succeeding Alexander Forbes as Bishop of Aberdeen. He obtained royal provision in April and received consecration in May. Forbes was hesitant about takin the position because he had encountered some hostility from the anti-episcopal presbyterians in the Church of Scotland. In this role, he succeeded in recovering many of the revenues which were neglected during the reformation of the church.

After his promotion to the bishopric, Forbes was appointed Chancellor of King’s College of the University of Aberdeen. In that role, he oversaw the repair of many buildings; he increased the library; revived the professorships of divinity, canon law, and physic; and procured the addition of a new professorship in divinity

In his Life of Bedell, Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, wrote of Forbes: “He had a quick eye and sprightly countenance, which proved an additional ornament to his expressions, which were grave and majestic, and of peculiar insinuation and grace. In parliament, he was elected one of the lords of the articles, and his judgment there, and in council, was considered as an oracle."

Forbes began to suffer from apoplexy and died on 28 March 1635. He was buried in Aberdeen Cathedral.

Top: Patrick Forbes of Corse. Print by Richard Gaywood, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

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