Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Forbes, John (1733-1808)

FORBES, JOHN (1733–1808), of Skelater, usually known as Forbes-Skelater, general in the Portuguese service, was the only son of Patrick Forbes of Skelater in Aberdeenshire, a branch of the Forbes of Corse. He entered the army when a boy of fifteen as a volunteer at the siege of Maestricht, and was successful in winning a commission. He was essentially a soldier of fortune, and when Portugal applied to England for officers to reorganise her army under the Count of Lippe Buckeburg, he was one of the first to volunteer. Forbes remained in Portugal after the termination of the seven years' war; and as he was a catholic and had married a Portuguese lady, he had no difficulty in getting employment. He acted for many years as adjutant-general of the Portuguese army, but at last, in 1789, he was asked to resign, owing to the jealousy of the Portuguese officers, and was made a knight of the order of Aviz, and promoted general. When Portugal decided to join the war against the French revolution, a corps was sent to assist the Spanish army in Roussillon, under the command of Forbes. The Portuguese soldiers behaved well, but the commanders of the Spanish army were always at variance, and Forbes himself had much trouble with his adjutant-general, Gomes Freire de Andrade. In the result the French republicans utterly defeated the combined Spanish-Portuguese army, and Forbes returned to Portugal with his corps. He was too old to seek further active service, so he went to Brazil with the Queen Maria Pia, the prince regent, and the court when they fled before Junot, and on arrival there he was appointed governor of Rio de Janeiro, in which city he died on 8 April 1808.

[Gent. Mag. September 1808; Diego de Lemos's Historia de Portugal.]

H. M. S.