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Keith, Francis Edward James

KEITH, FRANCIS EDWARD JAMES (1696-1758), Scottish soldier and Prussian field marshal, was the second son of William, 9th earl marishal of Scotland, and was born on the nth of June 1696 at the castle of Inverugie near Peterhead. Through his careful education under Robert Keith, bishop of Fife, and subsequently at Edinburgh University in preparation for the legal profession, he acquired that taste for literature which afterwards secured him the esteem of the most distinguished savants of Europe; but at an early period his preference for a soldier's career was decided. The rebellion of 1715, in which he displayed qualities that gave some augury of his future eminence, compelled him to seek safety on the Continent. After spending two years in Paris, chiefly at the university, he in 1719 took part in the ill-starred expedition of the Pretender to the Highlands of Scotland. He then passed some time at Paris and Madrid in obscurity and poverty, but eventually obtained a colonelcy in the Spanish army, and, it is said, took part in the siege of Gibraltar (1726-27). Finding his Protestantism a barrier to promotion, he obtained from the king of Spain a recommendation to Peter II. of Russia, from whom he received (1728) the command of a regiment of the guards. He displayed in numerous campaigns the calm, intelligent and watchful valour which was his chief characteristic, obtaining the rank of general of infantry and the reputation of being one of the ablest officers in the Russian service as well as a capable and liberal civil administrator. Judging, however, that his rewards were not commensurate with his merits, he in 1747 offered his services to Frederick II. of Prussia, who at once gave him the rank of field marshal, in 1 749 made him governor of Berlin, and soon came to cherish towards him, as towards his brother, the loth earl marishal, a strong personal regard. In 1756 the Seven Years' War broke out. Keith was employed in high command from the first, and added to his Russian reputation on every occasion by resolution and promptitude of action, not less than by care and skill. In 1756 he commanded the troops covering the investment of Pirna, and distinguished himself at Lobositz. In 1757 he commanded at the siege of Prague; later in this same campaign he defended Leipzig against a greatly superior force, was present at Rossbach, and, while the king was fighting the campaign of Leuthen, conducted a foray into Bohemia. In 1758 he took a prominent part in the unsuccessful Moravian campaign, after which he withdrew from the army to recruit his broken health. He returned in time for the autumn campaign in the Lausitz, and was killed on the 14th of October 1758 at the battle of Hochkirch. His body was honourably buried on the field by Marshal Daun and General Lacy, the son of his old commander in Russia, and was shortly afterwards transferred by Frederick to the garrison church of Berlin. Many memorials were erected to him by the king, Prince Henry, and others. Keith died unmarried, but had several children by his mistress, Eva Mertens, a Swedish prisoner captured by him in the war of 1741-43. In 1889 the 1st Silesian infantry regiment No. 22 of the German army received his name.

See K. A. Varnhagen von Ense, Biographische Denkmale, part 7 (1844) ; Fragment of a Memoir of Field-Marshal James Keith, written by himself (17141734; edited by Thomas Constable for the SpaldiYig Club, 1843); T. Carlyle, Frederick the Great, passim; V. PaczynaskiTenczyn.Leben des G. F. M. Jakob Keith (Berlin, 1889) ; Peter Buchan, Account of the Family of Keith (Edinburgh, 1878); Anon., Memoir of Marshal Keith (Peterhead, 1869); Pauli, Leben grosser Helden, part iv.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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