Sir John Forster

Sir John Forster (c.1520–1602) was an English military commander and Warden of the Middle Marches.


Born about 1520, he was son of Sir Thomas Forster (d. 1527) of Etherston, Northumberland, marshal of Berwick, and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Ralph Ogle, 3rd Baron Ogle and Margaret Gascoigne. Trained from early youth in border warfare, he was in August 1542 put in command of Harbottle Castle with a garrison of a hundred men. He fought at the Battle of Solway Moss, 23 November 1542, under Thomas Wharton, 1st Baron Wharton, and claimed to have captured Robert Maxwell, 5th Baron Maxwell; Cuthbert Tunstall and Suffolk, however, determined that Maxwell's real captor was Edward Aglionby.

He fought also at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, 1547. Knighted by Protector Somerset in 1547, he was sheriff of Northumberland, 1549-50.

On 4 August 1563 he was appointed a commissioner to treat concerning the delimitation of the borders, and on 10 January 1565 to discuss the position of James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray and other Scottish exiles in England. In 1569 he assisted in suppressing the Rebellion of the Northern Earls, and in 1570 took punitive measures against the Scottish borderers who had helped them. In August 1572 he was ordered to have the Earl of Northumberland executed.

In July 1575 he was captured during a border fray and taken to Jedburgh. He was to meet the Scottish Warden, and make truce every so often. Forster, however, was known for cheating. His meeting with Sir John Carmichael turned into a battle, and he was defeated and captured. His lieutenant, Sir George Heron, among others, was killed. Forster was, though, immediately released by the Scottish regent, on Elizabeth's remonstrances.

On 27 July 1585, Forster and his son-in-law, Francis, Lord Russell were attacked by Sir Thomas Ker of Fernieherst, and Russell was killed. Forster at first described it as an accident, but this did not suit the English government, and, with a view to exacting compensation, Russell's death was represented as the result of a deliberate plot. Meanwhile various accusations, promoted perhaps by local feuds, were brought against Forster; he was said to have connived at murder, set thieves at liberty, executed others on insufficient grounds, and had dealings with Northumberland wreckers. Articles based on these accusations were drawn up on 27 September 1586, and Forster was dismissed from his office, Lord Eure being appointed in his place.[1] Lord Hunsdon, however, thought the charges frivolous, and about April 1588 Forster was restored. He held the wardenry until October 1595, when he was again superseded by Lord Eure; his removal was due partly to his old age, partly to a renewal of the charges against him.

On 24 October 1597 he was nearly surprised at Bamburgh Castle by a party of Scots. He died at Bamburgh on 13 January 1602.


He only had daughters with his wife Jane, daughter of Cuthbert Radcliffe, and widow of Robert Ogle, 5th Baron Ogle.[2] Their daughter Eleanor,[2] or Juliana, wife of Francis, Lord Russell, was the mother of Edward Russell, 3rd Earl of Bedford; and another daughter, Grace, married Sir William Fenwick of Wallington, and was mother of Sir John Fenwick, 1st Baronet.[3]

His son Nicholas, deputy-warden under John himself, was knighted in 1603. He was the father of Sir Claudius Forster, 1st Baronet, who died without issue; and John, who did not inherit the title but succeeded to his brother's estate.[2] Nicholas' mother is unknown.[2]


  1. The Complete Peerage, Volume V. St Catherine's Press. 1926. p. 181.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Collins, A. (1720). The Baronettage of England: Being an Historical and Genealogical Account of Baronets, from Their First Institution in the Reign of King James I. : Containing Their Descents, the Remarkable Actions and Employments of Them and Their Ancestors: as Also Their Marriages, Issue, &c. with Their Coats of Arms and Crests Engrav'd and Blazon'd, (Vol. 2, pp.121). London: W. Taylor. Google Books.
  3. Hodgson, J. & Hodgson-Hinde, J. (1827). "Pedigrees of Strother and Fenwick of Wallington." A History of Northumberland in Three Parts, (pp.256). E. Walker. Google Books.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Sidney Lee, ed. (1901). "Forster, John (1520?-1602)". Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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