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Alexander Forbes of Tolquhon and the Battle of Worcester


Detail of "Battle of Worcester" by Thomas Woodward

Catholic Charles I, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, fought the armies of the English and Scottish parliaments in the English Civil War. He was beheaded in 1649 for high treason in 1649 for refusing to agree to a constitutional monarchy. In England, the monarchy was abolished and the Commonwealth of England was established as a republic. However, the Scots accepted his son King Charles II as the true British monarch.


Under the command of Oliver Cromwell, the English “New Model Army” marched into Scotland in 1650. The Royalist army was led by David Leslie, 1st Lord Newark and included a cavalry regiment led by William, Master of Forbes and later 11th Lord Forbes. The Scottish army was utterly defeated at the Battle of Dunbar on September 3, 1650. While many Forbes clansmen were captured, the Master of Forbes cavalry escaped relatively intact.


One year later, King Charles II himself took to the field and led an army with the cavalry regiment commanded by William, Master of Forbes, and another headed by his cousin Alexander Forbes, later 10th laird of Tolquhon (c.1630 – 1702.) The commander of the Scots, David Leslie, 1st Lord Newark, supported the plan of fighting in Scotland, where royal support was strongest. Charles, however, insisted on making war in England and advanced on London. By the time he arrived in Worcester, his army of 16,000 were mostly Scots.


On September 3,


1651, Charles marched with the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Grandison, and cavalry through the city, and out at Sudbury gate by the Fort-royal, which was commanded by Alexander Forbes of Tolquhon.

Sir Alexander Forbes, 10th laird of Tolquhon

An account of the battle relates: “At this time Cromwell was setled in an advantageous Post at Perry wood within a mile of the City, swelling with pride and confident in the numbers of his men, having besides rais’d a breast work at the Cockshoot of that Wood, for his greater security; But Duke Hamilton (formerly Lord Lanerick) with his own Troop and some High-landers, Sir Alexander Forbes with his Regiment of Foot, and divers English Lords and Gentlemen voluntiers, by his Majesties command and encouragement, engaged him, and did great execution upon his best men…” (Blount, Thomas; Boscobel: or The Compleat History of his Sacred Majesties most Miraculous Preservation after the Battle of Worcester, 3 Sept., 1651, published in 1680.)


Charles drew out his troops from the city for an “all or nothing” attack. “The men and artillery in Fort Royal would provide covering fire. The forces consisted of mixed Highland and Lowland Foot, including the regiment of Sir Alexander Forbes, supported by the small force of English Horse under the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Grandison. But of critical importance to the course of events, the 3,000 men of Leslie's Horse did not take part in the attack. (Atkin, Malcolm; Worcestor, 1651: English Civil War, September 1651, 2004)


Cromwell's Parliamentary New Model Army of 28,000 soldiers defeated King Charles II's 16,000 Royalists. An esti


mated 3,000 men were killed during the battle and a further 10,000 were taken prisoner at Worcester or soon afterwards.


“In this Action Duke Hamilton (who fought valiantly) had his horse kill’d under him, and was himself mortally wounded, of which he dyed within few days; and many of his Troop (consisting much of Gentlemen, and divers of his own name) were slain; Sir John Douglas receiv’d his deaths wound; and Sir Alex. Forbus, (who was the first Knight the King made in Scotland, and commanded the Fort-royal here) was shot through both the Calves of his legs, lay in the wood all night, and was brought Prisoner to Worcester next day.” (Blount, Thomas; Boscobel: or The Compleat History of his Sacred Majesties most Miraculous Preservation after the Battle of Worcester, 3 Sept., 1651, published in 1680.)


Alexander Forbes of Tolquhon, “rendered particular service to that Monarch at the Battle of Worcester, and to have given the King his own horse during the battle” and “he was an extraordinary agent in his subsequent escape from England, for which services he received the honour, of knighthood in 1653-4.” (Burke, Sir John Bernard; A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, Eighth Edition, 1894)


Charles II fled to mainland Europe and Oliver Cromwell, as Lord Protector, ruled all of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Cromwell died in September 1658 and his son Richard Cromwell succeeded as Lord Protector. However, he could not secure the support of the army and ceded power to the English Parliament. King Charles II made several political promises in his Declaration of Breda of April 4, 1660, and a month later on May 8, Parliament proclaimed that King Charles II was the lawful monarch. Charles was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661.

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