James King, Lord Eythin, 1589-1652

Scottish veteran of the Swedish service whose quarrel with Prince Rupert contributed to the Royalist defeat at Marston Moor.

Portrait of James KingJames King was the son of David King of Warbester in Orkney; his mother Mary was the the daughter of Adam Stewart, an illegitimate son of James V of Scotland. King's military career began around 1609 when he joined the Swedish service. By 1630, he was lieutenant-colonel in a Scottish regiment in the Swedish army commanded by Patrick Ruthven and in 1636 he served as lieutenant-general in Alexander Leslie's army in Westphalia.

In 1637, King commanded an army for the Landgrave of Hesse in an attempt to drive Imperial forces out of his territory. The following year, he joined forces with Charles Louis, the Elector Palatine, and his brother Prince Rupert against General Hatzfeld, but their army was defeated at the battle of Vlotho in October 1638 and Rupert taken prisoner. King made an orderly withdrawal with the only part of the army not to be routed. He blamed the defeat squarely on Rupert's impetuosity.

King retired from the Swedish service in 1639, receiving a Swedish knighthood and pension. He was unwilling to join the Covenanters in the Bishops' Wars against Charles I and became Charles' agent in raising money and forces from Europe in preparation for the civil war in England. In March 1642, he was created Lord Eythin and was persuaded by Queen Henrietta Maria to take up a command in the Royalist army. Eythin accompanied the Queen to Yorkshire in February 1643 and was appointed lieutenant-general and commander of infantry in the King's northern army. He acted as chief military adviser to William Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle, in the campaigns of 1643-4 against the Yorkshire Parliamentarians.

With the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant between Parliament and the Scots, Eythin was placed in the invidious position of fighting against his fellow countrymen and his former commander Alexander Leslie, now Earl of Leven. Eythin held Newcastle-upon-Tyne against the Covenanters but his failure to prevent them from advancing south led to the expression of doubts regarding his loyalty.

From April 1644, Eythin directed the defence of York, which was besieged by the forces of Lord Leven, Lord Fairfax and the Earl of Manchester. The siege was lifted by the arrival of Prince Rupert in July 1644. Recriminations over the battle of Vlotho six years previously still soured relations between Eythin and the Prince. Eythin opposed Rupert's plan to fight the Allied army and was slow to obey the order to bring the infantry up from York. His hostility to Rupert and lack of co-operation in marshalling the army was a factor in the defeat of Marston Moor, which shattered the Royalist military presence in northern England. Regarding the King's cause as lost, Eythin advised Newcastle to escape abroad and accompanied him to Hamburg. He later learnt that Rupert had considered charging him with treason and wrote to the Prince in January 1645 protesting his innocence.

Eythin settled in Sweden and was created Baron Sandshult in Kalmar. In 1650, Charles II commissioned him lieutenant-general under the Marquis of Montrose. He was expected to lead a force of mercenaries in Montrose's projected invasion of Scotland, but only a small advance party ever sailed and Eythin himself never left Sweden. He died in June 1652 and was buried at Stockholm.


Steve Murdoch and Tim Wales, James King, Lord Eythin, Oxford DNB, 2004