Sinclair of Finnekumla, Sweden

After the death of John Sinclair of Toab and Brabster, sometime between May 1600 and October 1615, his widow Marie Stewart, ‘brother daughter’ of Robert Stewart, Earl of Orkney, married David King of Warbister in Hoy, a servant of her cousin, Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney.

David King’s eldest son James, born about 1589 prior to his marriage to Marie, entered the army in Sweden around 1613 and during his lengthy career serving in various regiments, he reached the rank of General. He left Swedish service for a while and based himself in Hamburg, where he was tasked to enlist men for the royalist army by King Charles I, who created him Lord Eythin and Kerrey in 1642. King was a commander at the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, when the royalists were defeated, and he left England for Hamburg a few days later, on his way back to Sweden where he was also ennobled as Baron Sandshult with an annual pension. No doubt with his encouragement and connections, his half-brothers – the sons of Marie Stewart, plus the two elder sons of his other half-brother, William Sinclair of Sabay, went to Sweden seeking their fortune.

William Sinclair’s elder son, John, arrived in Sweden around 1630 as a Captain in Mackay’s Regiment. He was promoted to Major in Hepburn’s Green Brigade in 1631, where at the battle at Frankfort on the Oder [a town in eastern Germany near the border with Poland], according to the Historical Record of the First Regiment of Foot written by Richard Cannon in 1836, ‘Lieutenant-Colonel Masten, with a party of musketeers of Hepburn’s Brigade, followed the pikemen into the town, and joining in the charge, augmented the confusion and slaughter of the enemy. Meanwhile Major John Sinclair and Lieutenant George Heatly, with another party of fifty musketeers of Hepburn’s Brigade, scaled the walls with ladders and drove their opponents into the town; but were immediately afterwards charged by a troop of Imperial cuirassiers [cavalry armed with cuirasses, swords and pistols]. The brave Scots retired a few paces, and placing their backs to the wall, kept up such a sharp fire that they forced the cuirassiers to retreat.’

By 1632, John had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and Richard Cannon describes another incident that year: ‘The King afterwards formed a fortified camp within cannon shot of the enemy, and the two armies confronted each other until the 8th of September, when his Majesty retired, and five hundred musketeers of the old Scots Brigade, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Sinclair, covered the retreat to Neustadt. A few days afterwards, the Marquis of Hamilton being about to return to England, Brigadier-General Hepburn obtained permission to accompany him, and the regiment was left under the command of the Lieutenant-Colonel.’ Nothing more is known of John’s army service, except that he apparently died in the same year at Thorn or Toruń, in what is now Poland.

John’s brother David had a somewhat longer army career. He arrived in Sweden around the same time as John and served firstly as an Ensign in Colonel Robert Cunningham’s Regiment in 1631, then rose up the ranks, serving in several different regiments, including William Gunn’s infantry squadron in 1636 as Lieutenant. He then returned to Cunningham’s Regiment, apparently alongside his father William, who appears to have joined David in Sweden by 1637. The following year, David served as lieutenant in a regiment apparently raised by his father. From then onwards, they both disappear from Swedish records, but we know David joined John, Lord Sinclair’s Regiment of Foot and returned to Scotland as Lieutenant Colonel in the Covenant Army, as did many other loyal Scots serving overseas. Lord Sinclair’s Regiment of Foot was garrisoned in Aberdeen from May 1640 and, by November 1641, regimental discipline was breaking down with many of the soldiers deserting. It was blamed for 65 pregnancies among the female servants, as well as drunkenness, fighting and swearing. David decided to set an example but went too far; he had a soldier hung for desertion for trying to sneak home to his wife and children. Lord Sinclair, who was in Edinburgh at the time, was horrified. On his return in January 1641 he promptly discharged David and replaced him with his brother, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Sinclair.

Exactly where David went for the next few years is unknown, but given his strong Jacobite leanings, it seems likely he fought for the Royalist cause in England. However, after the execution of King Charles I, he gave up the cause and returned to Swedish service. He was soon promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and then became Colonel of a foreign-recruited cavalry regiment around 1650. At that point, he used the money which his father had set aside to pay for him to return to Orkney, and used it to buy the estate of Finnekumla, in Älvsborg county, Sweden. He married Catherine, daughter of John McLean [or Makeleer as he was enobled in Sweden], a very rich, also staunchly royalist Scottish merchant based in Gothenberg in 1651, and they had a son born the following year who died soon after birth. He was followed by the birth of a daughter, Anna in 1653, and another son named William in 1655. In 1651, on the death of his uncle, James King, Lord Eythin, David received a bequest of 2,400 Reixdollars, ‘which I am adebted to him by vertue of obligations I have given him, but also to have and resave money or satisfaction in lands and otherwayes for the soume of twa thousand fyve hundreth Reixdollars, the which I lent to his father, my brother William Sinckler of Seaby as a token of my love for him.’

From 1653 to 1654, David served as an interpreter for the English Ambassador to the Swedish court, Bulstrode Whitelocke, and according to the Ambassador’s diary, David went to great lengths to proudly convince him of the size and strength of the Swedish fortifications. In 1655 he was ennobled as Baron of Finnekumla, with his own coat of arms with the addition of a white five-petalled rose in the centre of the engrailed cross, to emphasize his Jacobite leanings. Sadly, David was leading a charge of his regiment at the battle of Warsaw on 18 July 1656 when he was fatally wounded by a cannonball in full view of King Karl X, and he died the next day. He was buried in Gothenberg on 11 January 1657. His widow Catherine married again in 1661, to Major-General Malcolm Hamilton, Baron of Hageby, and David’s young children, were brought up in the household of their mother’s new husband.

David’s son William had a similarly successful army career, joining the army as a musketeer in the Ӧstgöta Infantry Regiment in 1673 and rose through the ranks to various posts, including captain of the garrison regiment of Gothenburg in 1680 under his maternal uncle, Gustav MacLean. In 1698 he was recommended for the post of Major in the Västgöta-Dal Regiment, which was commanded by another of his uncles, David MacLean, although it seems he may not have taken up the post. On the outbreak of the Great Nordic War in 1700, however, he was a Major in the Älvsborg Regiment. The following year he became Lieutenant Colonel of a Mountain Regiment until 1705, when he became Colonel of the Västgöta Infantry Regiment and Commandant of the regiment’s garrison at Malmö in 1711 and Major-General of the Infantry in 1713. He married his first wife, Catherine Hamilton, who died probably following the birth of their son, Malcolm, in 1690 and he subsequently married Maria de Moucheron in 1694. He was ennobled in 1714 as Baron of Finnekumla but was never inducted into the House of Nobles because he died on 2 February 1715 at Malmö and was buried at Gothenberg in the same church as his father. William had children by both marriages; his eldest son Malcolm had an illustrious career [see Sinclairsvisan].

William’s son by his second wife, David William Sinclair, was born in 1696 and began his career in the Swedish army as a non-commissioned officer in 1707 at the very young age of 11 years, gaining promotion to Ensign by 1709. He was promoted to Captain in 1712 and then briefly left the army in 1718. However, he rejoined as Captain of an infantry regiment in 1719 and remained in service until 1741. Nothing more is known of his army life until 23 October 1753, when he was admitted to Vadstena military prison, west of Linköping, for an unknown punishment and unknown length of time. The final record of him is his death, unmarried, on 23 November 1770, still in Vadstena.

William’s next son, Henry Gideon Sinclair was born in 1701 and at the age of 16 joined the Skåne Infantry Regiment and became Sergeant in 1717 and Field Sergeant in 1719. After various other commissions, he received permission to enter French service as a Captain in 1729. He returned to Sweden at the outbreak of the Russo-Swedish War in 1741 and became Captain in Willebrand’s Regiment until 1747, when he returned to France as Captain in his previous regiment. He died in 1776 in Strasbourg, eastern France, and was the only one of William’s sons not to die childless. Sometime before 1730, Henry married Beata Catherina von Grape, probably the daughter of a lieutenant in Swedish service, Gerslot Henrik von Grape and his wife Dorotea Maria von Benckendort, and they had one son.

Charles Gideon Sinclair was born on 12 November 1730 in Stralsund in Germany and at the tender age of 11 was a Driver in the Hamilton Regiment but then left to became a student at one of the oldest European Universities at Griefswald in Germany until 1746. He returned to Sweden as a Second-Lieutenant in the Royal Swedish Regiment and then rose to Captain in the German infantry regiment La Dauphine, fighting in Germany, and rising to Colonel by 1762. By 1771 he had returned to the Royal Swedish Regiment as Colonel and for the next few years, until 1773, was appointed teacher in the art of warfare to Prince Maximillian, later King of Bavaria. At that point, his reputation and military skills were so in demand he became Adjutant-General to King Gustav III in 1777.

He was Colonel and Commander of the Björneborg Regiment in 1778, and became the King’s first Adjutant-General and Major-General of the army in 1780, and as such, he was an effective leader of the reforms to the armed forces. He firstly produced the Regulations for the Infantry in 1781 and became head of the Artillery, where he introduced better order. He was Field Master-General in 1784, a member of the commission of enquiry and the secret war preparation in 1789, Lieutenant-General in the army in 1790 and General of the Infantry in 1799. As Adjutant-General, he introduced stricter discipline, a fairer promotion system and higher military training in the officers, although he did not consider he had sufficient support from King Gustav III.

He left several written memoirs; one concerning King Gustav’s war with Russia in 1788 and, in another, indicating a strong dislike for the King, who he felt had wanted to make him the scapegoat for the setbacks in the Russian war. In others, he gives his opinion on the shortcomings of the Swedish military system; he also wrote several works on military science and notes on his French campaigns. In 1796, he was one the founding members of the Swedish Warring Society, renamed after his death as the Royal Military Academy, where he is the second on the membership list. He was also a Commander of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Sword. He married Louise Henriette Eckbrecht von Dürckheim in 1773 in Strasbourg, but they had no children. They both died in 1803 in Sweden, at which point, the family line all the way back to Toab and Sabay in Orkney, died out.

Nina Cawthorne


William Sinclair of Toab, then Sabay ( -bef.1653)
m. (1) (?)Barbara Halcro, dau. of Sir Hugh Halcro of Halcro
Lt.-Col John Sinclair (c.1610-1632)
Harie Sinclair ( -bef.1647)
Col. David Sinclair of Finnekumla (c.1612-1656) m. 1651 Catherine, dau. of John Maklier/MacLean and Anna Gubbertz
Unnamed son (1652-1652)
Anna Sinclair (1653-1743) m. Carl Gustaf Kruse of Verchou
Maj.-Gen. William Sinclair of Finnekumla (c.1655-1715) m. (1) Catherine, dau. of Elias Hamilton de Guischery, Commandant of Maastricht and Johanna Maria von Bommert
David Sinclair (1689-1689)
Catherina Johanna Sinclair (1688-1773) m. Lt.-Col. Christian Eberhard von Schantz
Maj. Malcolm Sinclair (1690-1739)
m. (2) 1694 Maria, dau of Henrik de Moucheron
Capt. David William Sinclair (1696-1770), unmarried
Anna Maria Sinclair (1698-1771) m. 1718 Gerhardt, Baron de Leijonhielm, Capt. of Cavalry
Maj. Henry Gideon Sinclair of Finnekumla (1701-1776) m. Beata Katherina, dau. of (?)Lt. Gerslot Henrik von Grape and Dorotea Maria von Benckendort
Gen. Charles Gideon Sinclair of Finnekumla (1730-1803) m. 1773 Louise Henriette, dau. of Count Christian Eckbrecht von Dürckheim, no issue

Coat of Arms of Colonel David Sinclair of Finnekumla, with the white cockade in the centre of the engrailed cross. Image courtesy of Adelsvapen-Wiki

Caterina Maclier/MacLean, wife of David Sinclair of Finnekumla, c.1660. Courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Anna Sinclair (1653-1743), daughter of David Sinclair of Finnekumla, by an unknown artist. Reproduction courtesy of, where it was auctioned in 2016.

Major-General William Sinclair of Finnekumla (1655-1715). Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons, uploaded from

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