A Scot in the Service of the Tsars

Ian Grey profiles General Patrick Gordon, Scotsman of such standing in Imperial Russia that he received a state funeral upon his death, in which the Tsar himself marched on foot.

Scots have played a notable part in nearly every period of Russia’s history. As soldiers of fortune they were serving the Tsar before the end of the sixteenth century, and their numbers rapidly increased. Such names as Menzies, Bruce, Drummond, Crawfurd, Ogilvie, and others occurred frequently. But in the seventeenth century no Scot was more prominent in Russia than Patrick Gordon who served three Tsars1 and on his death received a state funeral in which the Tsar himself marched on foot.

Patrick Gordon was born in Auchleuchries, Aberdeenshire, in March 1635. He had a thorough schooling, but as a Roman Catholic he could not go to a university. He had no prospects in his native land, being in his own words ‘the younger son of a younger brother of a younger house’. Like so many Scots of his age and position, he resolved to seek his fortune abroad.

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