Alexander Forbes (bishop of Aberdeen)

Alexander Forbes (1564–1617) was a late 16th-century and early 17th-century Scottish churchman. Born around 1564, he was the son of Helen Graham and her husband John Forbes of Ardmurdo.

Alexander Forbes
Bishop of Aberdeen
ChurchChurch of Scotland
SeeDiocese of Aberdeen
In office1616–1617
PredecessorPeter Blackburn
SuccessorPatrick Forbes
Consecration1611, at Brechin Cathedral (for Caithness)
Personal details
Bornc. 1564
Died(1617-12-14)14 December 1617
Previous postCaithness (1604–1616)

He graduated with a Master of Arts degree in 1585 from the University of St Andrews, becoming minister of Fettercairn in the Mearns in 1588, using this position to take an active role in the church politics of the day. As a result, on 22 November 1604, he became Bishop of Caithness, retaining control of Fettercairn, something which created animosity with the anti-episcopal section of the Church of Scotland. Forbes took part in most national church meetings in this period, and was part of the meeting at Glasgow in 1610 which restored the old authority and powers of bishops. It was in the following year that he was finally consecrated as a bishop, in Brechin Cathedral.

He was alleged to have granted the consent of the Scottish church, dishonestly, to the absolution of the Catholic magnate, George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly, carried out on the king's wishes by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was perhaps for this reason that, in 1616, Forbes was translated as Bishop of Aberdeen. This position brought him the Chancellorship of King's College, Aberdeen. Forbes, however, attempted and failed to succeed George Gledstanes to the Archbishopric of St Andrews, a position he was beaten to by John Spottiswoode.

He died at Leith, near Edinburgh, on 14 December 1617, a figure of hate amongst the hard-line presbyterian section of the Scottish church. He married once, to a woman named Christian Straton, and had ten children.


  • Cooper, James, "Forbes, Alexander (1564–1617)", rev. A. S. Wayne Pearce, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 , accessed 23 Feb 2007. The first edition of this text is available at Wikisource: "Forbes, Alexander (1564-1617)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  • Keith, Robert, An Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops: Down to the Year 1688, (London, 1924)
Religious titles
Preceded by
George Gledstanes
Bishop of Caithness
Succeeded by
John Abernethy
Preceded by
Peter Blackburn
Bishop of Aberdeen
Succeeded by
Patrick Forbes
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