Sir John Forster, Knight of Bamburgh

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About Sir John Forster, Knight of Bamburgh

Sir John Forster (1502?-1602) was an English military commander and Warden of the Middle Marches.


Born about 1501, he was son of Sir Thomas Forster (d. 1527) of Etherston, Northumberland, marshal of Berwick, and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Ralph 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 Hunsdon, however, thought the charges frivolous, and about April 1588 Forster was restored. He held the wardenry until October 1595, when he was 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 left several sons and daughters by his wife Jane, daughter of Cuthbert Radcliffe, and widow of Robert Ogle, 5th Baron Ogle. His son Nicholas was deputy-warden under his father, was knighted in 1603, and was father of Sir Claudius Forster, 1st Baronet. His daughter 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.

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Sir John Forster, Knight of Bamburgh's Timeline

Etherstone Castle, Durham, England
Age 15
Badby, Northamptonshire, UK
Age 55
Age 82
Spindlestone, England