William Spens – Sweden – 1600-1647

William Spens was the son of James Spens sr. and his first wife Agnes Durie. His brother was James and he had several half brothers and sisters after his father remarried. William Spens appeared in England with a Captain James Ramsay in April 1624 where they received permission to recruit as many volunteers as would go with them to Sweden. He must have been in England with his brother James. Thereafter his career progressed becoming first a major, then a lieutenant colonel in Sweden. He appears to have returned to Britain in 1634, again to recruit 1200 infantry for Swedish service at the Crown’s expense. It was probably he, referred to only as ‘the young Spens’ whom the Swedish Privy Council noted was recruiting a regiment of Scots in October 1634. Whether he spent his own money on this venture is not clear, but on 9 July 1635, the Swedish Privy Council wrote to the Marquis of Hamilton stating that Spens’s barony in Orreholm was allowed to be mortgaged. He certainly did not lose any status through this and was present at the 1638 and 1640 Swedish parliaments. In 1639 he received a donation of land from the Crown. That year he was also noted as a colonel in Swedish service. According to some accounts he lost some of his mental faculties and died on 2 May 1647. There appears to be a specific reference to this in a letter from a William Moneypenny to Axel Oxenstierna dated 5 May 1647.


Riksarkivets ämnessamlingar. Personhistoria https://sok.riksarkivet.se/bildvisning/A0073861_00107#?c=&m=&s=&cv=106&xywh=2351%2C1027%2C3748%2C2161



William co-signed letters with his step-mother, Margareta Forrat [SSNE 6267] regarding his father’s estate. Riksarkivets ämnessamlingar. Personhistoria https://sok.riksarkivet.se/bildvisning/A0073861_00008#?c=&m=&s=&cv=7&xywh=3352%2C2704%2C2763%2C1594


In a notarial letter from c.1660 it is noted that William had a sister called Elisabeth Spens (who probably remained in Scotland) and a brother-in-law called Robert Hamilton. Given that we know the names of the husbands of his sisters it is not clear how that relationship fits. There may have been yet another unidentified sister? Robert might be either [SSNE 2563] or [SSNE 2607], if he was even in Sweden. https://sok.riksarkivet.se/bildvisning/A0073861_00346#?c=&m=&s=&cv=345&xywh=3549%2C1753%2C2536%2C1462

R. Monro, His Expedition with the worthy Scots regiment called Mackeyes (2 vols., London, 1632), II, List of the Scottish Officers in Chief; Acts of the Privy Council of England 1623-1625 (London 1933), p.204; Swedish Riksarkiv, P. Sondén, Militärachefer i svenska arméen och deras skrivelser; Stockholm Krigsarkiv, Muster Roll, 1625/3,5,6; 1626/3-9; 1629/22; 1631/22-27; Svenska Adelns Ättartavlor, vol 7, p.429; N. A. Kullberg, et. al., (eds.), Svenska Riksrådets Protokoll, 1621-1658, (vols. 1-18, Stockholm, 1878-1959), IV, p.229. 7 October, 1634; Swedish Riksarkiv, Riksarkivets Ämbetsarkiv, Huvudarkivet FV a:31-32 Ang. Skottar i svensk tjänst, notes compiled by Hammerskjöld; National Archives of Scotland, GD 406/1/9261, 9 July 1635, Swedish Privy Council to Hamilton; Register till Sveriges Ridderskaps och Adels Riksdags-Protokoll (17 vols, Stockholm, 1910), vols. for 1638 and 1640; Swedish Riksarkiv, Axel Oxenstierna brev E661.

Service record:

Arrived 1624-01-01, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1629-12-31, as MAJOR
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1624-04-01, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1624-12-31, as CAPTAIN
Capacity RECRUITER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1631-01-01, as LT. COLONEL
Departed 1640-12-31, as COLONEL
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
Arrived 1638-01-01
Departed 1640-12-31

Source: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/ssne/item.php?id=3553