FORSTER, Thomas (1683-1738), of Adderstone, Northumb.
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Family and Education
bap. 29 Mar. 1683, 1st s. of Thomas Forster of Adderstone, M.P., by Frances, da. of Sir William Forster of Bamburgh Castle. educ. Newcastle sch.; St. John’s, Camb. 1700. unm.
Of an ancient Northumbrian family, Forster was the co-heir of his maternal uncle, Ferdinand Forster, M.P., of Bamburgh Castle, whose branch of the family represented Northumberland from 1689 till his murder in 1701. Returned for the county as a high church Tory in succession to his father in 1708, he continued to represent it till his expulsion from the House of Commons for participating in the rebellion of 1715.
On 21 Sept. 1715 Forster, then in London, was one of six Members whose arrest was ordered on a charge of being ‘engaged in a design to support the intended invasion of the kingdom’.1 Evading arrest, he made his way to Northumberland, where he joined Lord Derwentwater and at the head of 300 horse proclaimed the Pretender at Warkworth. After an unsuccessful attempt on Newcastle he joined another body of rebels north of the border and a detachment from Mar’s army. Despite a complete lack of military experience he was chosen to command the combined force as a popular Protestant M.P., receiving a commission as general of all the Pretender’s forces in England.2 With a force of 1,500 men he marched into Lancashire, where he expected to find substantial support, but was surrounded at Preston by the government forces, and capitulated after a brief resistance. His chaplain, who accompanied him, describes him as ‘better at his beads and prayers than at his business as a soldier’, adding ‘we all thought him fitter for a priest than a field officer’. Interrogated by Craggs, he refused to turn King’s evidence, merely saying that ‘he looked on the whole body of the Tories to be in it’.3
Taken to London with the other chief rebels, Forster was imprisoned in Newgate, from which he escaped a few days before the day fixed for his trial. The Government issued a description of him as ‘one of middle-stature, inclined to be fat, well-shaped, except that he stoops in the shoulders, fair complexioned, his mouth wide, his nose pretty large, his eyes grey, speaks the northern dialect’, and placed a reward of £1,000 upon his head.4 He succeeded in making his way to Paris, where he was sent money by William Dicconson, the Pretender’s treasurer. Next year he joined the English Jacobites at the Stuart court, where he was made steward of the Household.5 Five years later (10 Jan. 1722) the Pretender wrote to the Duke of Ormonde,
I have convinced Mr. Forster that it is reasonable for him not to think of leaving this place at least for some time. He is a mighty honest good man, and I am very glad to have him here and shall endeavour to make him as easy as I can as to money matters.
When the Pretender moved to Avignon from Rome he summoned Forster (16 Oct. 1727) to join him:
You see honest Tom I am as good as my word, I have no sooner fixed my habitation here, but I send for you.
As Forster had been excepted from the Act of Indemnity, his brother John succeeded to Adderstone in 1725. Thereafter, he corresponded with the next heir, his nephew Thomas, who held out ‘little hopes’ of his ‘getting anything from the succession’. In October 1738 he died at Boulogne, in France, awaiting news from his nephew.6 His body was brought home and buried at Bamburgh Castle 7 Dec. 1738.