A Scottish Regiment in Catholic Riga?

While skimming through Haralds Biezais’s 1957 edition of the church book of St. Jakobskirche in Riga during its brief tenure by the Jesuits (1582-1621), I found an unexpected entry:

None of these individuals appear elsewhere in the church book unless the Albertus Kromeus who witnessed a 1606 baptism is to be taken as one and the same with Albertus Kromme; it would seem their residence in Riga was of short duration. Our one clue comes in the form of John Hill, presumably the same man who was a captain in the Swedish service in 1610 when he was amongst Karl IX’s mercenaries in Russia (he was later in the Polish-Lithuanian service under Sigismund III).

We can, however, make a few educated guesses based upon the record itself. Hill is described as “Capitanaeus scotores militum” – “captain of the Scottish soldiers”, while Boehne and Kromme are plain soldiers (miles), with Boehne further clarified as being a “miles arcen[sis]”, i.e., a soldier belonging to the garrison of the castle at Riga. It seems reasonable to suppose that Hill was the commanding officer of Boehne and Kromme and that all three belonged to a Scottish regiment which was in Polish-Lithuanian service in 1607 and which, based on Hill’s later service record, temporarily entered Swedish service before returning to that of the Commonwealth. We might even be tempted to imagine that Boehne and Kromme were Patrick Ban and Alasdair Graham, suggesting a potentially Gaelic-speaking origin for at least some of the regiment’s soldiers.

This is all conjecture and no such regiment is immediately identifiable in Peter Paul Bajer’s Scots in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but it is tempting to imagine that what we see here is an early example of the flood of Scottish soldiers who would come to play such an important part in European history during the Thirty Year’s War.

(c) 2019 Kelsey Jackson Williams

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