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Walter, 18th Lord Forbes, and the Coldstream Guards

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

Walter Forbes was born in 1798 at Crailing House in Palmood as the second son to James Ochoncar, 17th Lord Forbes, and his wife Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Walter Hunter of Polmood and Lady Caroline Mackenzie Hunter. On his baptismal record at Crailing Parish Kirk, his parents are listed as the Hon. Lord Forbes of Crailing and the Hon. Elizabeth Hunter of Polmood.

His elder brother James joined the Coldstream Guards in February 1812 and Walter joined two years later in June 1814. (Dalton, Charles; The Waterloo Roll Call With Biographical Notes and Anecdotes, 2016.) Just a few months later in June 1815, both brothers served as officers in the Battle of Waterloo under the victorious British commander Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, (1769 – 1852) against the French army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 –1821.) James was an ensign in the Second Company of the Coldstream Guards and Walter served as an ensign in the Third company. James was promoted to Lieutenant in December 1815 and Captain in July 1830. Walter was promoted to Lieutenant in February 1823. (MacKinnin, Col. Daniel; Origin and Service of the Coldstream Guards, 1833)

Coldstream Guards at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo

In 1825, Walter left service and married Horatia, 7th daughter of Sir John Gregory Shaw, Bart. In that same year, both Walter and his elder brother James were elected to the Nulli Secundus Club, an officers’ dining club for the Coldstream Guards who had completed a minimum number of years of service.

In October 1832, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. James Forbes commanded the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guard. The battalion was stationed at Leighlinbridge Castle (the “Black Castle,” in of County Carlow, about 50 miles southwest of Dublin. He was commended for the “exemplary conduct” and of the discipline of the corps while serving in Ireland. (Tayler, Alistair and Henrietta; House of Forbes, 1937.)

Leghorn British Cemetery in Livorno, Toscana, Italy.

James, Master of Forbes, died in 1835 and was buried in the Leghorn British Cemetery in Livorno, Toscana, Italy. His grave marker is inscribed: “Sacred to the memory of Lt. Colonel the Hon. James Forbes of H.B.M. Coldstream Regt. of Guards, eldest son of General Lord Forbes of Scotland who in the prime of life and at a moment of participation in the splendour and festivities of a ball in the Pitti Palace at Florence on the 25th of February 1835 was suddenly removed from this world by an attack of apoplexy in the 38th year of his age, thus affording an awfully striking instance of the instability of human enjoyment and of the uncertainty of human life. His afflicted family have caused this stone with this simple record of his untimely fate which it bears to be placed over bis grave.”

Since James died without issue, his younger brother Walter, became Master of Forbes. As such, he also inherited the estate of Polmood through his mother the Hon. Elizabeth Hunter of Polmood. In May 1843, James Ochoncar, 17th Lord Forbes, died in Bregenz, Austria, and Walter become the 18th Lord Forbes. Since his first son Walter Frederick had died when two years old in 1828, his second son Jonathan Barrington Forbes became Master of Forbes.

Episcopal St. Ninian's Cathedral at Perth.

Lord Forbes sent his sons to Oriel College at Oxford University. He himself kept a townhouse at 52 St. John’s Street in Oxford. There he met his son’s friend George Frederick Boyle (1825–1890), was the fourth son of the George Boyle, 4th Earl of Glasgow. Forbes and Boyle (later 6th Lord Glagow) were instrumental in funding and funding the Episcopal St. Ninian's Cathedral at Perth. The cathedral was consecrated on December 10, 1850, by the Rt. Rev. Alexander Penrose Forbes of Brechin. Construction continued until 1890.

Grave of Walter, 18th Lord Forbes; Brompton Cemetery, London

Lord Forbes died in 1868 in Richmond, Surrey. His obituary appeared in the Gentlemen’s Magazine and Historical Review, Volume V, January – May 1868: “He was a magistrate and deputy-lieutenant for Aberdeenshire, and a very munificent supporter of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and he may be said to have been almost the fonnder of St. Ninian's Cathedral at Perth. He was formerly a lieutenant and captain in the Coldstream Guards, and was one of the youngest officers, if not the very youngest officer, on the field of Waterloo, having joined his regiment only a few weeks previously.”

Old Coldstream Memorial Chapel, bombed in 1944

In 1880, his son Horace Courtenay, 19th Lord Forbes, placed a memorial in the Coldstream Guards Chapel in Westminster, London, to honor his father: Walter, 18th Lord Forbes; uncle Lt. Col. James Forbes; and grandfather General James Ochonar, 18th Lord Forbes. On June 18, 1944, a German flying bomb entered the Coldstream Guards Chapel through the west end and exploded, collapsing the roof and walls. During the chapel reconstruction in 1963, the fragments of all the memorials were laid under the floor.

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