Robert Munro, 18th Baron of Foulis

Robert Munro, 18th Baron of Foulis

Colonel Robert Munro of Foulis (d . 1633) also known as the Black Baron was the 18th Baron of Foulis and 21st chief of the Clan Munro in Scotland. He was a soldier of fortune, who served in Germany under the banners of Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden. It is not certain how he got his epithet of the 'Black Baron', but quite possibly it was from the colour of his hair rather than any perceived martial ferocity. Modern Highland enthusiasts have retrospectively declared him 21st chief of the the Highland Scottish Clan Munro.

Other Munros

He is often confused with his more famous cousin, Robert Monro of the Obsdale branch who died sometime around 1675/1680, and also served in the Swedish army in this period, writing a famous history on his exploits. This is perhaps forgivable, since during the Thirty Years' War of 1618–1648, there were as many as 27 field officers and 11 captains with the name of Munro in the Swedish army. (Men of several other Scottish clans fought in these wars including men from Clan MacKay, Clan Leslie, Clan Ramsay, Clan Hepburn, Clan Lumsden and Clan Ruthven).

A misspent youth in Scotland

While still very young, in 1603, Robert became the 18th Baron of Foulis, after the death of his father Hector Munro. He married Margaret Sutherland the daughter of William Sutherland of Duffus on 24 November 1610. He was never very good with money and squandered her £600 fortune within two years. By 1618 he was so broke that he had to sell his lands and the barony of Foulis.

oldier of Fortune

In June 1626 in an attempt to escape his financial difficulties he joined the Scottish regiment of Donald Mackay, 1st Lord Reay (1591-1649), which was then being recruited for Danish service, largely in the Scottish Highlands. The actions of this unit are well documented in the famous "History of Mackay's Regiment" written by his cousin Robert Monro of Obsdale, and published in 1637.

In Swedish service

iege of Stralsund

Munro of Foulis progressed quickly through the ranks, advancing to Captain, then Major and finally Lieutenant Colonel in Mackay's Scottish Regiment. In 1628 the Danes sent several regiments including Mackay's regiment which included Munro's company to fight in the Battle of Stralsund also known as the defense or siege of Stralsund, where they helped defeat Imperialists who were forced to withdraw. A Munro officer proudly recorded that at the defense of Stralsund in 1628 one of his men by the name of Mac-Weattiche, "did prove as valiant as a sword, fearing nothing but discredit".

However, Danish intervention in the Thirty Years War was unsuccessful, the Danish king Christian IV made peace, and in 1629 Mackay's regiment including the Munro company was paid off, only to be re-hired as a going concern by the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus.

Hereafter much confusion reins between Robert Munro of Foulis, who this article concerns and Robert Monro of the Obsdale branch, especially in the 19th century accounts. Both were officers of Mackay's regiment, though it is evident that Foulis was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel before Obsdale.

Rugen Island

Parts of Mackay's regiment were shipwrecked off the coast of Rügen Island, on the way to the Swedish army, while Rugen was still held by the Imperialists. The soldiers had saved their lives and their muskets, but they possessed no ammunition. In this plight Robert Munro succeeded in discovering an old castle, belonging to the duke of Pomerania near the small town of Rügenwalde.

For a present of powder and lead Robert Munro promised him to clear the island of the enemy. A well prepared and executed midnight attack put him in possession of the town. A panic spread among the Imperialists, who had never expected any danger in this direction, and it was not long before the whole island was in the hands of the Scots. They also stormed and took the Castle of Bloc in Mecklenburg. ["History of the Munros of Fowlis". p.80. By Alexander MacKenzie]

iege of Schiefelbein

In 1630 the MacKay and Munro Highlanders had marched to Schiefelbein, a small fortified place in Brandenburg, known as Schiefelbein Castle, in order to obstruct the passage of the Austrians, who were advancing for the relief of Colberg. They were commanded to hold the town as long as possible and to defend the castle or fort to the last man. How well they fulfilled this task an eloquent Latin Ode tells us, printed in front of Munro’s Memoirs and bearing the title: "Schiefelbeinum urbs et arx Marchiae Brandenburgicae a generoso Domino Roberto Munro bene defensae." The five hundred Highlanders under Munro are said to have have withstood a siege from an enemy of 8000 Imperialists [Grant's Memoirs of Sir John Hepburn]

Battle of Frankfurt on the Oder

The next offensive exploit of the united Scottish Brigade was the taking of the two strong fortresses: Frankfurt-on-the-Oder and Landsberg. During the assault on the Frankfurt-on-the-Oder Colonel Hepburn was wounded in the leg and one Scott is actually stated to have slain eighteen men in succession, with his own hand. King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had inflamed the courage of his Scottish troops by reminding them of Tilly’s pillage of New-Brandenburg, where so many of their countrymen, after a stubborn, nine-days’ defence, had fallen victims to the enraged and cruel general.

Battle of Breitenfeld

In 1631 the Scottish army marched to Leipzig. The famous Battle of Breitenfield took place, near Leipzig, in September of that year. Tilly was defeated by Gustavus Adolphus and the Munros, who by their last charge contributed most to the victory of the Swedish Army. ["History of the Munros of Fowlis". p.80. By Alexander MacKenzie] Sir James Ramsay was in command of the Scottish vanguard, and then it was on the 7th of September "after we had in the early morning, as the larke begunne to peep commended ourselbes and the event of the day to God," that the great battle commenced. Whilst the Imperial cavalry scattered the Saxons on the left wing, the Scottish stood firm, firing for the first time in platoons. Hepburn formed a square and, when the Austrians had approached near enough, caused his victorious pikemen to advance. In the meantime Lord Reay’s MacKay and Munro Highlanders were equally successful. With terror did the Imperialists see them, the ‘right hand of the King’ as they were called, and it was not long before they yielded to their impetuous onslaught. Soon the defeat became a rout. If it had not been for the dust favouring their flight, the loss of the enemy would have been much greater still. "We were not able," says Robert Munro, "by the rising of the dust to see about us, much less discerning the way of our enemies or the rest of our brigades, whereupon, having a drummer by me, I caused him to beat the Scotch march, which recollected our friends unto us."

It was on the 11th of September 1631 that Hepburn took possession of the town. On the evening of that day the King, accompanied by all his officers, went to the Ulric Church to thank God for the victory, and there "I heard," says Robert Munro, "the sweetest melodious musicke that could be heard and I also did see the most beautiful women Dutchland could afford."

On the afternoon of 4 December 1631, a bitterly cold day, when the country was covered far and wide with a sheet of snow and ice, Hepburn and Munro were sitting behind the earth-works enjoying the contents of a jug of country-wine. Suddenly the garrison of Oppenheim, being roused by the light of the watch-fires reflected by the snow, fired a thirty-two pounder across the river, which buried itself quite close to the two friends in Hepburn’s old travelling coach. All night the firing continued. A sortie of two hundred Burgundians was repulsed by the Scots. On the following day the "sconce" surrendered on favourable terms.

iege of Mainz

Encouraged by this victory the King of Sweden at once marched against Mainz, one of the strongest fortresses in the whole seat of the war. Here also Munro and Hepburn were given the most dangerous place in the besieging army. Munro gives us a very graphic account of these days. One night the Swedish Colonel Axel Lily had come on a visit. Hepburn and Munro had chosen a spot where the snow had been cleared away and sitting before a large fire, enjoyed what their cooks had been roasting on old ramrods. Every moment there was a flash of light on the dark ramparts of the citadel and the canon balls whizzed over their heads and were lost in the night or fell into the deep River Rhine. Then Lily said jestingly, stooping after one of those flashes, "What would they think of me, if anything happened to me here? I have no business here and am exposed to their cannons." Immediately after these words the enemy fired another shot, which, after piercing the defective entrenchment, tore away his leg. Hepburn’s men carried him to a surgeon in a sheltered place and the King showed him every attention. Don Philipp, the commander of Mainz, surrendered unexpectedly on the following morning without waiting for the final assault. Gustavus Adolphus entered the town in triumph. Eighty cannons and the rich library of the Elector were among his booty. He received moreover 200,000 florins as ransom and 180,000 from the Jews, who thereby purchased the safety of their Synagogue.

After Donauwörth Augsburg was occupied on the 8th of April; Munich on the 7th of May, Colonel Hepburn was made governor of it, and it was to his regiments that the King entrusted, much to the disgust of the Swedes, the protection of his person. Munro’s description of the palace is full of interest. Round about it there were beautiful gardens with fish ponds and fountains. One of them represented Perseus with the head of Medusa. In the large park "plentie of hares could be seen"; there were also Tennis Courts in which the kings sometimes "did recreat" themselves. In connection with the palace there were magnificent galleries and a rare library with many precious books. It was here that the two friends Hepburn and Munro walked together recalling to their memories. In the arsenal the King found an enormous booty; the so-called "twelve apostles" and many other cannons were found hidden under the floor. In one of them there were discovered 150,000 ducats sewed up in cartridges. Gustavus Adolphus then took up his quarters at Augsburg.

Battle of Lutzen

Robert Munro was wounded when he and his men were fired upon when crossing the River Danube in Germany during the Battle of Lützen (1632). He survived but later died of his wounds almost a year later in Ulm, Germany in 1633. In Ulm Sir Patrick Ruthven was Governor. Here Robert Munro lived in the house of a barber and surgeon called Michael Rietmuller and died towards the end of April, 1633. By permission of the magistrates he was buried in the Franciscan or "Barfüsserkirche," where also his standard, armour and spurs were hung up. Magister Balthasar Kerner delivered his funeral sermon on 29 April 1633.

Robert Munro was succeeded by his brother, Hector Munro 19th Baron, who was also was made 1st Baronet of Foulis by King Charles I. Hector continued to command his brother's old infantry regiment in Germany, but the unit was so weak in numbers that it was disbanded very soon after.

ee also

*Gustavus Adolphus
*Thirty Years' War
*Clan Munro

ources and External Links

* A.N.L. Grosjean, ‘Monro, Robert, of Foulis (d. 1633)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [] .
*Fischer, The Scots in Germany. A 19th century work which confuses Robert Munro with his cousin of the same name who died in c.1675/80.
*The Clan Munro by C.I Fraser of Reeling, Johnston & Bacon Clan Histories.
* []

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