Patrick Ruthven, Earl of Forth, Earl of Brentford, d.1651

Scottish veteran of the Swedish service, he was Captain-General of the King's armies until 1644.

Portrait of Patrick RuthvenT he younger son of William Ruthven of Ballindean in Perthshire, Patrick Ruthven enlisted in the Swedish service around 1606. He fought in the Swedish campaigns in Russia and against Poland, gaining a reputation as a tough, hard-drinking soldier. By 1630, he had attained the rank of colonel and was a lieutenant-general in 1635 under the great champion of Protestantism, Gustavus Adolphus, who rewarded him with estates in Sweden. After serving as governor of Ulm, Ruthven retired to Scotland in 1638 but was summoned by King Charles I to muster Scottish troops against the Covenanters in the Bishops' Wars. From May to September 1640, he defended Edinburgh Castle for the King, for which he was raised to the peerage as Lord Ruthven of Ettrick.

On the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, Ruthven, aged around 70, joined the King at Shrewsbury and was created Earl of Forth. On the eve of the battle of Edgehill, he was appointed captain-general of the King's armies when the Earl of Lindsey resigned following an argument over deployment of the troops. Thereafter, Forth was the senior officer on the King's council of war and chief military adviser to the Oxford army.

Although wounded at the siege of Gloucester, Forth directed a skillful pursuit of the Earl of Essex's army. The Royalists succeeded in blocking the Parliamentarians' retreat at Newbury but were unable to defeat them decisively. In March 1644, Forth brought reinforcements to Lord Hopton's army at Winchester and took command at the battle of Cheriton, but the Royalists were defeated by Sir William Waller. However, Forth was created Earl of Brentford the following month and directed the strategy that resulted in the successful campaigns of Cropredy Bridge and Lostwithiel. He was wounded again at the second battle of Newbury in October 1644.

Too old to continue in active service, Brentford was appointed an adviser on the Prince of Wales' council in the West while Prince Rupert superseded him as commander of the King's armies. He accompanied Prince Charles on his exile in France and, after the King's execution, accompanied Charles to Scotland in 1650, despite orders from the Scottish Parliament forbidding him from entering the country.

Brentford died at Dundee in February 1651. He left no sons and his titles became extinct.


Stuart Reid, Patrick Ruthven, earl of Forth and earl of Brentford, Oxford DNB, 2004