Patrick Gordon

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For other people named Patrick Gordon, see Patrick Gordon (disambiguation).
A bust of Patrick Gordon in Yekaterinburg, Russia

Patrick Leopold Gordon of Auchleuchries (31 March 1635, Auchleuchries, Aberdeenshire, Scotland – 29 November 1699, Moscow, Russia) was a general and rear admiral in Russia, of Scottish origin. He was descended from a family of Aberdeenshire, holders of the small estate of Auchleuchries near Ellon. The family were connected with the noble branch of Haddo. He assumed the name Leopold at the Catholic confirmation shortly before he died.


He was raised and remained a lifelong Catholic, at a time when the Catholic Church was being persecuted in Scotland, which had become Calvinist. After completing his education at the parish schools of Cruden and Ellon, he entered, at age fifteen, the Jesuit college at Braunsberg, East Prussia (then belonging to Poland); however, his character did not tolerate well the strict and sombre way of life at the school, and soon decided to return home. He changed his mind, however, before re-embarking on the journey back to Scotland, and after journeying on foot in several parts of what is today Germany, he ultimately enlisted at Hamburg in the military service of Sweden in 1655.

In the course of the next five years he served alternately for Poland and Sweden and was taken prisoner by both. At the Battle of Chudnov in 1660, Gordon was wounded.[1] Upon hearing of the Stuart restoration, Gordon left Polish service, but found himself unable to obtain military employment in Britain.[1] In 1661, after further experience as a soldier of fortune, he took up service in the Russian army under Tsar Aleksei I, and in 1665 was sent on a special mission to England. After his return he distinguished himself in several wars against the Turk and Tatar ethnic groups in southern Russia. Gordon disliked Russian service, complaining of the corruption and venality of Russian officials, which left Gordon in his own words "almost at wits end with vexation".[2] In recognition of his services he was made major-general in 1678, was appointed to the high command at Kiev in 1679, and in 1683 was made lieutenant-general.

He visited England and Scotland in 1686. In 1687 and 1689 he took part in expeditions against the Tatars in the Crimea, being made full general for his services. On the breaking out of "revolution" in Moscow in 1689, Gordon with the troops under his command virtually decided events in favour of Tsar Peter I,[3] and against the Regent, tsarevna Sophia Alekseyevna. Consequently he was for the remainder of his life in high favour with the Tsar, who confided to him the command of his capital during his absence from Russia. In 1696, Gordon's "moveable rampart" played a key role in helping the Russians take Azov.[3]

Gordon's tomb at Vvedenskoye Cemetery in Moscow. Originally buried in Foreign Quarter, his remains were reinterred here in 1877. Note that the German inscription wrongly names his rank as oberst (colonel).

One of his greatest achievements was securing permission from the Tsars to establish the first Roman Catholic church and school in Muscovy, of which he remained the main benefactor, and headed the Catholic community in Russia until his death. For his services his second son James, brigadier of the Russian army, was created Count of the Holy Roman Empire in 1701.

The Tsar employed him in organizing his army according to the West European system; and raised him to the rank of full general.

At the end of his life the Tsar, who had visited him frequently during his illness, was with him when he died, and with his own hands closed his eyes.

He was not the only Scottish soldier in the Tsar's service; his compatriots Paul Menzies and Alexander Livingston also found themselves in Russia fleeing religious intolerance or seeking adventure.

General Gordon left behind him a uniquely detailed diary of his life and times, written in English. This is preserved in manuscript in the Russian State Military Archive in Moscow. An incomplete and faulty German translation, edited by Dr Moritz Posselt (Tagebuch des Generals Patrick Gordon) was published, the first volume at Moscow in 1849, the second at St Petersburg in 1851, and the third at St Petersburg in 1853; and Passages from the Diary of General Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries (1635–1699), was printed, under the editorship of Joseph Robertson, for the Spalding Club, at Aberdeen, Scotland, 1859. A new full scholarly edition of Gordon's Diary in English is being published by the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies in Aberdeen since 2009.

His daughter (died 1739) was married firstly to a German colonel Strasburgh, and then from 1699 or 1700 to his kinsman in Russian service General Alexander Gordon of Auchintoul, author of "The History of Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia".[4]



  1. ^ a b Fedosov, Dmitry “Cock of the East: A Gordon Blade Abroad” pages 1-10 from Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy edited by Ljubica and Mark Erickson, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 page 6.
  2. ^ Fedosov, Dmitry “Cock of the East: A Gordon Blade Abroad” pages 1-10 from Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy edited by Ljubica and Mark Erickson, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 page 7.
  3. ^ a b Fedosov, Dmitry “Cock of the East: A Gordon Blade Abroad” pages 1-10 from Russia War, Peace and Diplomacy edited by Ljubica and Mark Erickson, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004 page 9.
  4. ^ (1755) Alexander Gordon: The History of Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia: A short account of the Author's Life, page 10

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