Arbuthnot, James (1791-1863)

Born in Edinburgh on 24th of December 1791, James Arbuthnot, known in Spain as ‘Jaime Arbuthnot y Arbuthnot’, was the son of William and Mary Ann Arbuthnot. It is possible that he was illegitimate at birth and that was originally from an aristocratic family with a Catholic background. This may explain why he was sent to the Real Colegio de Escoceses de Valladolid (Royal Scots College of Valladolid) to train as a priest. He became a seminarist at the college in 1803, but later was drawn to volunteer in the Spanish War of Independence, also known as as the Peninsular War (1808-1814). He joined the army of Asturias with the rank of teniente de infanteria in 1808. This was the army of one of the many regional juntas that emerged out of the collapse of the central administration. From this point onwards he took part in multiple  military actions such as the battle of San Vicente de la Barquera in 1808 and in a number of skirmishes in Santander until captured on 26 August 1809. He managed to escape and participated in the defence of the bridge Colloto to be captured again on 14 February 1810. He was eventually transported to France where he remained prisoner from mid 1811 until 29 April 1814.

He continued his career in the Spanish army where he obtained the ranks of teniente (1808), capitán (1814), teniente coronel (1820), coronel (1833), teniente coronel mayor (1835), brigadier (1840) and mariscal de campo (1843). He fought against Spanish American ‘rebels’ in Venezuela, Panama and Colombia during the period 1814-23. Back in Spain, he continued progressing in his military career, climbing to the position of military governor of Lerida in 1847 and later of Galicia from 1854 to his death in 1863.              

Sources: G. Iglesias-Rogers, British Liberators in the Age of Napoleon: Volunteering under the Spanish Flag in the Peninsular War, (London: Bloomsbury, 2013). Maurice Taylor, The Scots College in Spain, (Valladolid, 1971).

Author:  Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, assisted in online editing by Adam Nour El-Din Hafez

How to cite:  To cite from this page, please use any style (Chicago, Harvard, etc). Our preferred citation form is: Iglesias-Rogers, Graciela,  ‘Arbuthnot, James (1791-1863)’, The Hispanic-Anglosphere: transnational networks, global communities (late 18th to early 20th centuries), project funded by the AHRC and the University of Winchester in partnership with the National Trust, [, accessed – please add date].

Thematic categories:

War and the Military , Exile and MigrationReligion and Philosophy, Education

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