top of page

Prince William: Descendant of a Forbes Jacobite

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

William, Prince of Wales (Photo: Hugo Rittson-Thomas,)

William, Prince of Wales, is a direct descendent of John Forbes of Boyndlie who diverted the Aberdeenshire “cess,”or propery taxes, to fund the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. Mitochondrial DNA also links the future king of the U.K. to the Indian-Armenian housekeeper of the Jacobite’s great-grandson, Theodore Forbes, a Scottish merchant who worked for the East Indian Company.

John Forbes was born in 1680 to Sir John Forbes, 3rd Baronet of Monymusk, and his second wife Barbara Dalmahoy. Sir John granted his son the estate of Pitfichie near Monymusk. The enterprising son later purchased the estates of Upper and Lower Boyndlie in 1711 from his impoverished cousin Alexander Forbes, 4th Lord Pitsligo. He was thus styled as John Forbes, 1st laird of Upper Boyndlie.

John Erskine, Earl of Mar

John Erskine, Earl of Mar (1675–1732), had been Scottish Secretary of State and a Privy Counsellor after the creation of Great Britain in 1707. When Queen Anne died, the incoming monarch George I dispensed with his services in 1714. As a result, Mar claimed loyalty to “King James 3rd and 8th,” the son of exiled King James II and VII. As a newly-minted “Jacobite” (a term coined from the “Jacobus,” the Latin for of “James”), Mar started a rebellion at Braemar on September 6, 1715. Since he needed funds to support this rebellion, he turned to the “cess” or tax collector, John Forbes of Boyndlie. As a confirmed Jacobite himself, Forbes “naturally put all the machinery of his office at the disposal of Mar, and during the months of November and December collected the Single or Double amounts, that is six months' or twelve months' Cess, according to Mar's instructions.” (Tayler, Alistair and Henrietta. 1932. The Jacobite Cess Roll for the County of Aberdeen in 1715. Edinburgh: Third Spalding Club.)

John Forbes of Upper Boyndlie

The Jacobite Uprising of 1715 was suppressed by the Battle of Preston on November 9 through 14, 1715. Forbes was forced to flee the country but returned the next year. According to his wife Susanna Morison Forbes in 1716 Forbes “left Scotland about the middle of November that year and in a few days after was unluckily washed overboard and drowned in a storm upon the Coast of Scotland, leaving four daughters, Christian, Barbara, Mary and Margaret, and three sons, Theodore, John and George. (Forbes, Susan Morison. Papers at Fettercairn.) Learn more here.

His great-grandson Theodore Forbes (1788 – 1820) was the son of John Forbes, 5th laird of Upper Boyndlie, and Katherine (Kitty) Morison. Since his elder brother Alexander was to inherit the estate, Theodore decided to seek his fortune with the East India Company in 1809. “The 21-year-old merchant was posted to the port city of Surat in western India, where he met Eliza Kewark through her brother-in-law, Aratoon Baldassier, who was acting as his agent.” (Brown, David. The Sundy Times, “Doomed Indian love story had happy end for the daughter who sailed to a better life.” June 14, 2013.)

“Susan Harvard, who has been researching Eliza and Theodore’s relationship for almost 30 years, believes that the couple were married in the Armenian church in Surat in early 1812, shortly before he was posted to Mocha in current-day Yemen.” (Ibid.)

According to historian Mohan Meghani, Forbes was posted to Yemen in 1812 and took Eliza who was then pregnant. “When the child was delivered in Yemen, he named her Kitty after his mother. By the time Eliza and Forbes returned to Surat, they had had another baby, Alexander. Later, she delivered another son, Fraser, who died after six months.” (Goswami, Samyabrata Ray. The Telegraph of India, “On the elusive trail of Eliza Kewark.” June 13, 2021).

Forbes left his family behind when was offered a partnership in Forbes & Company, a trading company founded by a distant cousin John Forbes of Bellabeg, known as “Bombay Jock,” and later managed by his nephew Sir Charles Forbes of Newe and Edinglassie, 1st Baronet. “Although Forbes neglected the family after moving to Bombay, he did send a close friend, Thomas Fraser, another Scotsman, to look up Eliza in Surat. It was on Fraser’s suggestion that he sent Kitty to Scotland.” (Ibid.)

Forbes decided that his then six-year-old daughter should be sent to his family home and be raised by his parents Kitty and John Forbes, 5th laird of Boyndlie. “Kitty left for Scotland in August 1819 and Theodore decided to return to Britain the following year, but died aboard the Blenden Hall in September 1820.” (Brown, David. The Sundy Times, “Doomed Indian love story had happy end for the daughter who sailed to a better life.” June 14, 2013.)

In his will, Forbes left his wife a monthly allowance of 100 Bombay rupees a month, left Kitty 50,000 Bombay rupees, and his son Alexander 20,000 rupees. Forbes stipulated that Alexander should remain in India. (Ibid.) According to historian Harvard, “I don’t think her grandparents would have encouraged her to talk about her past because it could have given the impression that she was illegitimate and ‘coloured’.” (Ibid.)

Grave of Kitty Forbes Crombie, Hatton of Fintray Kirkyard, Aberdeen

Kitty Forbes married James Crombie, son of John Crombie and Catherine Harvey, on 30 March 1837 at St. Nicholas, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. They had eight children, including Jane Crombie who was born in 1843 at New Machar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She married David Littlejohn, son of William Littlejohn and Janet Bentley. They had five children, including Ruth Littlejohn who was born in 1879. She married Colonel William Smith Gill, son of Alexander Ogston Gill and Barbara Smith Marr, in 1898. They had one child, Ruth Sylvia Gill, who was born in 1908.

Ruth Sylvia Gill married Edmund Maurice Burke Roche, 4th Baron Fermoy, son of James Boothby Burke Roche, 3rd Baron Fermoy and Frances Ellen Work, on September 17, 1931. As the Baroness Fermoy, she held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for Norfolk in 1944 and was appointed Officer, Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in 1952. She held the office of Extra Woman of the Bedchamber to HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother between June 1956 and March 1960. She held the office of Woman of the Bedchamber to HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in March 1960 and was appointed Dame Commander, Royal Victorian Order (D.C.V.O.) in 1966.

Diana, Princess of Wales, with her maternal grandmother Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy

She and the Baron Fermoy had three children, including Hon. Frances Ruth Burke Roche, who was born on January 20, 1936. She married Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, son of Albert Edward John Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer and Lady Cynthia Elinor Beatrix Hamilton, on June 1, 1954 at Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, England. They had four children, including Lady Diana Frances Spencer who was born on July 1, 1961. She and the 8th Earl Spencer were divorced in 1969 and that same year she married Peter Shand Kydd.

Lady Diana Frances Spencer married Charles, Prince of Wales, and they had two sons: William, then the Duke of Cambridge, and Harry, the Duke of Sussex. When Queen Elizabeth II died in 2022, William became the Prince of Wales, next in line to the British throne -- as the great-great-great-great-great grandson of Theodore Forbes and his Armenian-Indian wife Eliza Kewark.

1,541 views0 comments


bottom of page