BADGES: Royal - Cluaran (carduus) thistle
Clan - Darach (Quercus robur) oak
PIBROCH: Earrach an 'aigh's a'ghleann, and Creag-an-Sgairbh
When Shakespeare, in writing Macbeth, paid his great compliment to King James VI and I, he was drawing attention to the popular tradition that the monarch's lineage was at least as far descended as that of the English nobiliity whose ancestors "came over with William the Conqueror". Whether the Stewarts were really descended from Banquo, Thane of Lochaber in the eleventh century, may be disputed, but there can be no question of their descent from Walter Fitz-Alan, the Shropshire knight whom David I settled at Renfrew about the year 1138.
[Walter's elder brother William was the progenitor of the Earls of Arundel; his younger brother, Simon, of the Boyds, Earls of Kilmarnock an now Earls of Erroll]
The purpose of that settlement is tolerably clear. The burning question of the hour for the Scottish monarch was the menace of Norse invasion in the Firth of Clyde. To oppose this invasion, David planted Walter Fitz-Alan where he could best bar the way to the heart of the kingdom, and made him Steward of Scotland. Most efficiently that guardian of the gate justified his appointment, driving the Norsemen out of Cowal and Bute, and when the mighty Somerled of the Isles brought an army to force the passage, overthrowing and slaying him at Renfrew itself in the year 1164. It was possibly as a thank-offering for this victory that Walter the Steward founded Paisley Abbey in that year.
For exactly another hundred years the great struggle went on, till in 1263, Walter's great-grandson, Alexander, now Lord High Steward of Scotland, finally overthrew the Norsemen under their king Hakon at the battle of Largs.
Alexander's son James, who died in 1309, was the fifth High Steward or Stewart. From his brother, Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl, who fell fighting along with Wallace for the cause of Scottish independence at the battle of Falkirk in 1298, a number of famous Scottish families took their origin. The line of his eldest son, Sir Alexander, became Earls of Angus, and ended in a female who carried the earldom to the Douglases, who are Earls of Angus and Dukes of Hamilton at the present day. From his second son, Sir Alan Stewart of Darnley, descended the Stewart Earls of Lennox, whose heir, Lord Darnley married Mary Queen of Scots, and became ancestor of the later Stewart kings. From Sir Alan also descended the Earls of Galloway, who are chiefs of the Stewarts at the present hour. From Bonkyl's fourth son came the Stewarts of Innermeath in Strathearn, from whom descended the Stewart Lords of Lorn, the Stewarts of Murthly and Grandtully, the Stewart Earls of Athol, and the Stewarts of Appin. And from Bonkyl's sixth son, Sir Robert, came the Stewarts of Allanton and their cadets.
Meantime Bonkyl's nephew, Walter, the sixth High Stewart, had greatly distinguished himself in the cause of King Robert the Bruce, at the great battle of Bannockburn, and at the heroic defence of Berwick, and as a reward had received the hand of Bruce's only daughter, the Princess Marjory. Their married life was short. As she rode by the Knock between Renfrew and Paisley, Marjory was thrown from her horse and killed, and the life of her infant was only saved by the Caesarean operation. The spot was long marked by a monolith known as Queen Bleary's Stone. The boy lived, however, and though he inherited his mother's weakness of the eyes, played a heroic part in Scottish history. From that old possession of his family, the island of Bute, which his ancestor had won from the Norsemen, he sallied forth to attack Dunoon and overthrow the entire conquest of Edward Baliol, and when he came to the throne as King Robert II in 1371 he had earned it by his sword almost as heroically as his grandfather Robert the Bruce himself.
It is a point which has not been sufficiently noted by Scottish historians that from the two marriages of Robert II a large proportion of the later troubles of the Stewart kings and of the kingdom of Scotland took rise. For centuries it was questioned whether his first union with Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan, had ever been legitimised. In consequence the descendants of his second wife, Euphemia Ross, again and again made claim to the throne. From this cause arose directly the murder of King James I in 1437 and the Douglas wars against James II in 1450. James I was slain by the descendants of King Robert's second wife, whom he had dispossessed of the royal earldom of Strathearn; and the ambition of the Earls of Douglas was directly stimulated by the fact that they had inherited the claims of the family of Euphemia Ross and of the earlier great house of Comyn.
Other of the troubles of Scotland arose from the family arrangements of King Robert II in another way. One of his daughters, Margaret, he married to John, Lord of the Isles, and as John was already married to his cousin Amy, he made him put her away, granted him a charter of her lands, and made the title and great possessions of the Lord of the Isles to descend to his own grandchildren, Margaret's sons. From this arrangement came endless trouble. Not, even yet has it been settled absolutely whether Glengarry or Clanranald, the descendants of John's first wife, or Macdonald of the Isles, the descendant of his second wife, is the rightful Chief of the Macdonalds, From the first also there was trouble among the sons' and grandsons of Robert II. His eldest son, King Robert III, whose real name was John, was practically displaced by his brother Robert, Duke of Albany, who first starved the king's eldest son to death at Falkland, and then secured the capture and imprisonment of the second son in England. And by way of reprisals, when he returned from his captivity, that second son, James I, sent to the block the Duke's son and grandsons who had succeeded to Albany's usurpation. Meanwhile the north of Scotland had been laid waste by the wars between the Duke of Albany and his sister s son, Donald of the Isles, for possession of the rich Earldom of Ross - wars which only came to an end with the terrific and bloody battle of Harlaw, fought near Aberdeen in 1411.
The leaders in that conflict were Donald of the Isles himself and his cousin Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar. The latter had obtained his earldom by slaying the husband of Isabel, Countess of Mar, and then marrying the lady. He was a natural son of the fierce "Wolf of Badenoch", Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, third son of King Robert II, who is remembered solely by his lawless deeds in the north, the burning of Forres and Elgin, and countless other oppressions. He had many illegitimate children, and many of the name of Stewart in Atholl and Banffshire are his descendants.
A notable Stewart family in the south, that of Bute, is directly descended from Robert II himself. On succeeding to the throne, that king appointed his natural son, Sir John Stewart of Dundonald, known as the Red Stewart, to be Constable of Rothesay Castle and Hcreditary Sheriff of Bute, thus handing to his son and that son's descendants in perpetuity the islands which had been captured by the sword of his ancestor Walter Fitz-Alan, the first of the Stewarts. After the execution of Murdoch, Duke of Albany, and two of his sons at the instance of James I in 1425, a third son who had escaped took vengeance by burning Dunbarton, and in it this same Red Stewart of Dundonald, uncle of the king. But Sir John Stewart's direct descendant is Marquess of Bute at the present hour.
Two of the sons of Murdoch, Duke of Albany, also left natural sons. Of them, Walter Stewart of Morphy, son of Sir Walter Stewart, beheaded at Stirling, became ancestor of the Earls of Castle-Stuart in Ireland, and also, by the marriage of a descendant to the daughter of the Regent Earl of Moray, half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots, became ancestor of the Earls of Moray of today. Another of Duke Murdoch's sons, Sir James Mohr Stewart, had a natural son, James "beg" Stewart of Baldorran, who became ancestor of the Stewarts of Ardvorlich on Lochearnside, whose family history is recounted by Sir Walter Scott in A Legend of Montrose.
Most romantic of all the memories of the Stewarts, however, is probably that connected with the settlement of the race in Lorn, Appin, and Atholl. On the death of Ewen, Lord of Lorn, of the days of Robert II, his estates passed to his daughters and co-heiresses. These daughters had married two brothers, John and Robert Stewart of Innermeath, descendants of the fourth son of Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl, already referred to. These two brothers made a bargain. Robert gave up his wife's share of Lorn in exchange for his brother's share of Innermeath. Sir John Stewart who thus relinquished his share of Innermeath and became Lord of all Lorn, had a second son Sir James, known as the Black Knight of Lorn. After the assassination of James I at the Charterhouse of Perth in 1437, this Black Knight married the widowed Queen Joan, and they had a son, John, who was of course half-brother to the king, James II. When that king in 1450 finally overthrew the last Earl of Douglas, he found a fair lady on his hands. This lady, known from her beauty as the Fair Maid of Galloway, was the heiress to all the great Douglas estates, and, as a child, had been married in succession by William, Earl of Douglas, whom James stabbed in Stirling Castle, and his brother, Earl James, who was overthrown at Arkinholme. While Earl James fled into exile in England, from which he was only to return to die a monk at Lindores, the king procured a divorce for his fair young wife, and married her to his own half-brother, John, son of Queen Joan and the Black Knight of Lorn. He conferred upon the pair the Douglas lordship of Balveny, and they became presently Earl and Countess of Atholl. The Earl played a distinguished part in three reigns. On the death of the fifth Stewart Earl of Atholl, in 1595, the title passed first to Stewart of Innermeath, and afterwards, on the Innermeath line becoming extinct, to John Murray, son of the eldest daughter of the fifth Earl, by his marriage with the second Earl of Tullibardine. The direct descendant of that union is Duke of Atholl at the present day.
Meanwhile through Robert, elder brother of the Black Knight of Lorn, the line of the Stewart Lords of Lorn was carried on. The line ended in two heiresses who married Campbells, when this family secured the Lordship of Lorn. A natural son of Stewart of Lorn, however, with the help of his mother's people, the Clan MacLaurin, succeeded in seizing and retaining the district of Appin, and founding the family of the Stewarts of Appin. In the days of James IV, Duncan Stewart of Appin built on an islet in Loch Linnhe the stronghold of Castle Stalker in which he entertained his "cousin" the King. During the Jacobite rising in 1745 under Prince Charles Edward the Appin Stewarts, led by Stewart of Ardsheal, played a conspicuous part. Sir Walter Scott in Waverley tells how Stewart of Invernahyle saved the life of Colonel Whiteford of Ballochmyle, and how, after the overthrow at Culloden, Colonel Whiteford returned the obligation by obtaining a pardon for Invernahyle by a special and chivalrous interview at Whitehall. In Appin itself a cave is shown behind a waterfall, in which Ardsheal hid for a time from the red soldiers, as well as the hollow in the top of a great boulder in which he was afterwards concealed. As a result the Appin estates were forfeited for a time, and while they were under the management of Campbell of Glenure the famous Appin murder took place which forms the pivot of R.L. Stevenson's famous story Kidnapped. The spot where Glenure was shot is marked by a cairn behind Kentalen, The supposed murderer was Alan Breck Stewart, who escaped to France, but as a victim James Stewart of the Glens was seized, tried by the CampbeHs at Inveraray, and hanged in chains on the little mount behind Ballachulish Hotel.
The Chief of the Appin Stewarts is now Robert Bruce Stewart, a lawyer in London.
From Alexander, younger brother of the Black Knight of Lorn, are descended the Stewarts of Grandtully below Aberfeldy in Perthshire. It was Sir James Stewart of Grandtully who, before he succeeded to the family title and estates, ran away with Lady Jane, sister of the first and last Duke of Douglas, and whose son by her was the claimant in the great Douglas Cause. The House of Lords declared Archibald Stewart to be really Lady Jane's son, and he accordingly came into possession of the great Douglas estates, and was created Lord Douglas by George III.
Of the main line of the Stewarts, as represented by the kings of that name, the history is too well known to need recounting here. Of two of its members, Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, the careers are among the most romantic and moving, in the world's annals. From first to last these Stewart kings were consistently unfortunate, yet their lives give a brilliance and glamour to history that is entirely lacking from the sedate annals of other dynasties. Their legitimate male line came to an end with Henry, Cardinal York, the younger brother of Prince Charles, who died in 1807, but three of the great ducal houses of the country, those of Buccleuch, Richmond and Gordon, and St.Albans, are directly descended from natural sons of King Charles II.
The spelling of the name Stuart, used by the royal family and the Marquess of Bute was probably introduced by Queen Mary on her return from France.
SEPTS OR THE ROYAL STEWARTS
SEPTS OF THE STEWARTS OF APPIN
SEPTS OF THE STEWARTS OF ATHOLL
SEPTS OF THE STUARTS OF BUTE
SEPTS OF THE STEWARTS OF GALLOWAY