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Forbes of Rires

Forbes of Rires family members were fiercely loyal to Catholic Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century but became avid supporters of the Protestant Covenanter movement that opposed Stuart monarch Charles I in the 17th century.


The first cadet family of Pitsligo was founded by Arthur Forbes of Rires, third son of Sir Alexander Forbes, 2nd laird of Pitsligo. In 1477, he married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Michael Wemyss, younger of Rires. Elizabeth had a royal charter confirming her as heiress to her grandfather in the lands of Rires in Fife, thereby establishing her family as the first Forbes of Rires. They resided in Castle Rires, built by Sir John de Wemyss at the close of the 14th century.


Their son Sir William Forbes, Knight of Rires, first married the daughter of Sandilands of Calder and secondly Elizabeth Lundin. David, his first son with Elizabeth, died in his lifetime and so his second son George succeeded as the 3rd laird of Rires. George’s son Arthur, the 4th laird of Rires, married Margaret, daughter of John Beaton (also spelled "Bethune" or "Betoun") of Creich. While Beaton’s home was Creich Castle, he was also the keeper of Falkland Palace in Fife, a royal palace of Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1550, their first son, John, was granted life rent for his parents’ estate, and so he was known as the “fiar” of Rires. They had a second son, called Arthur after his father.


Margaret Beaton Forbes of Rires, later known as Lady Rires or Reres, was a lady-in-waiting Queen Mary. She was also the aunt of Mary Beaton, another lady-in-waiting who was known as one of the Queen’s four “Marys.”

Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary assumed the crown in 1542 upon the death of her father, James V, King of the Scots. She was a devout Catholic, in spite of the growing Protestant movement during the Scottish Reformation. The reformation was both liturgical and political. The protestant reformist Martin Luther had been preaching a rejection of teachings of the Catholic Church since about 1520. However, the reformation was provided momentum when English King Henry VIII pushed through the English Parliament the Ecclesiastical Appeals Act in 1532 that eventually led to the establishment of the protestant Church of England.


As Queen of the Scots, Mary attempted to make accommodations for both Catholics and Protestants. Her chief advisor was Mary's illegitimate half-brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, who was a leader of the Protestant faction while many of her powerful earls where Catholics. The friction between the factions came to a head in 1546 when Norman Leslie, master of Rothes, and William Kirkcaldy of Grange assassinated David Beaton, Catholic Archbishop of St. Andrews -- and the uncle of Margaret Forbes of Rires.

James Stewart, Earl of Moray

In 1560, the Scottish Reformation Parliament, claiming to be a “Scottish Parliament” in defiance of the Queen, approved a Protestant confession of faith that rejected papal jurisdiction. Obviously, Mary did not ratify this “Reformation Settlement.” Mary added fuel to the religious fire when she married a well-known Catholic in 1565, her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. This prompted her chief advisor and half-brother, the Earl of Moray, to an open rebellion with other powerful Protestant lords. After two years, Mary was forced to abdicate 1567 in favor of her infant son James VI, who was to be raised as a Protestant. Mary was first imprisoned in Scotland but escaped to England in 1568, anticipating that her cousin Queen Elizabeth would assist in regaining her throne. Instead, the English queen again imprisoned Mary.


Scotland roiled with open hostilities between the Catholic “queen’s men” who supported Mary and the Protestant “king’s men” who supported the infant James VI and his regent, the Earl of Moray. In June 1569, Moray met the Highland and Island chiefs in Inverness. This journey was intended “to put down troubles in the north," as noted by Moray’s secretary John Wood. (Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 2. 1900. Edinburgh.)


On January 23, 1570, James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh assassinated Moray. Three months later in April 1570, John Wood, Moray’s secretary was assassinated -- by Arthur Forbes, 4th of Rires and his two sons John and Arthur. John was killed in the conflict but his father and brother survived. They were summoned to trial for the “slaughter” of John Wood on February 6, 1573, along with Henry Forret. However, they did not appear and Walter Scott of Branxholme, and Alexander Forbes, 7th laird of Pitsligo were fined 98 (“ijc li.”) pounds. In addition, “the principal parties adjudged to be denounced rebels, and their moveables excheated.” (Pitcairn, Robert Editor. Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland, Volume I, Part Second. 1833. Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club. p. 40) Scott was the son of Janet Beaton Scott, a former mistress of Queen Mary’s third husband James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, and sister of Margaret Beaton Forbes of Rires.


Arthur Forbes, the elder, died in 1586, and was succeeded by his son Arthur as the 5th of Rires. He and his wife Elizabeth Morton had three sons and four daughters. Since their eldest son William died before his father, Robert succeeded to the estate in 1610. Robert Forbes 6th of Rires had married in 1606, Christian, daughter of Sir William Moncrieff, by whom he had six sons and eight daughters. His eldest son William married Catherine, daughter of Sir John Buchanan of Scots Craig. Their children were Arthur and Margaret, who married Thomas Gourlay, younger of Kincraig. His second son James married Catherine, daughter of David Bethune of Creich, by whom he had a son, Arthur.

Covenanter Flag (replica), National Museums of Scotland

While his grandfather Arthur and great-grandfather Arthur were staunch partisans of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, James Forbes of Rires supported the signers of the 1643 “Solemn League and Covenant” who defied King Charles I and supported a Presbyterian Church of Scotland. In fact, he joined the Covenanter army under John Wemyss, Lord Elcho. The Wemyss family were the original owners of the Rires estate. Lord Elcho fought the army of Charles I, under the command of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, at the Battle of Tippermuir on September 1, 1644. Montrose's Royalist forces routed the Covenanter-dominated army of the Scottish government.

"A tombstone which stood at one time in the field to the north of Needless Road marked the spot where many covenanters from Fife were slain in flight after the Battle of Tibbermuir on 1st September 1644"

According to historian Robert Chambers: “Betwixt the battle-field and the town of Perth , to which the flight was chiefly directed, it is stated by the most credible authorities that that nearly four hundred persons were killed, including the young Laird of Reires in Fife, Patrick Oliphant younger of Bachilton, George Haliburton of Keilor in Angus, David Grant, captain for the burgh of Perth, and many other persons of local consequence.” (Chambers, Robert. 1828. History of the Rebellions in Scotland, Under The marquis of Montrose, and Others, from 1638 till 1660. Edinburgh: Constable and Co.)


Since his father died after the Battle of Tippermuir in 1644 and his uncle William died in 1651, Arthur became the 7th laird of Rires when his grandfather Robert died in 1658. Arthur married Janet, daughter of Patrick Kininmont of that Ilk and his sister Elspeth married, as his second wife, Alexander, 11th Lord Forbes. Arthur died before 1686 and was succeeded by his third son, Robert, who sold the estate in 1691. Rires Castle eventually became ruins, which were demolished and cleared away in 1840.

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