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Archive for the tag “House of Stewart”

The Rise of the Clans

Neil Oliver‘s

latest history series has been shown through December on Monday evenings (BBC1 Scotland) and twenty-four hours later on BBC4.

The first part, of three, showed how the power vacuum caused by the sudden deaths of Alexander III and his granddaughter was resolved through the clan system and John Balliol’s abdication so that alliances were formed behind the remaining claimants Robert Bruce and John “Red” Comyn, culminating in a brawl in the Dumfries Greyfriars, during which Comyn was fatally stabbed. Robert I’s reign, including his strategic triumph as he unexpectedly arranged a pitched battle at Bannockburn is also explored.

The second part explores how, after the reign of David II, Robert I’s son, Clan Stewart evolved from a branch of the (Norman) Fitzalans, who are now Dukes of Norfolk through their Howard marriage, to supply every Scottish monarch from 1371 and every English monarch from 1603, now through the Bohemian marriage of James VI and I’s daughter. The reigns of the first three Stewarts were narrated, the weaknesses of Robert II and Robert III, the absence and the authoritarian – Lancastrian? – royal style of James I together with the conflict between Robert III‘s sons were used to show how James’ assassination and the ensuing executions, organised by his widow Joan “Beaufort”, resolved this before the end of 1437. Gradually, from James I’s time, the Stewarts succeeded in gaining power from the MacDonalds, who held the Lordship of the Isles.

Finally, we focus on Mary, simultaneously the last Stewart and the first Stuart, through her marriage to Henry, Lord Darnley (of the Lennox Stuarts), and his mysterious death at Kirk o’Fields, up to her dethronement and exile. The clan chieftains played a significant part in her initial downfall, as they plotted to reverse Knox’s organic Reformation that had taken place during her absence. At this time, her half-brother the Earl of Moray allied himself to the Earl of Morton, the leading Douglas. Then, after marrying the (Hepburn) Earl of Bothwell, Mary fled south – and her life ended at Fotheringhay where Richard III’s had begun.

As usual, this evocative series features realistic dramatisations in which Oliver appears almost as a witness in some scenes. The detail exceeds that of his A History of Scotland and, as usual, nobody featured in the episodes is beyond reproach.

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More Royal marital irregularity

Edward IV was not the only British late mediaeval king to play fast and loose with canon law. The other case dates from a century and a quarter before 8 June 1461 and had consequences for that king’s heirs; in particular his grandson:

Today in 1337, a first son, John, was born to Sir Robert Stewart, the Paisley-born High Steward of Scotland, and Elizabeth Mure at Scone. Sir Robert was heir presumptive to his uncle, David II, but David was eight years younger and widely expected to have children of his own. He was, indeed, to marry twice but failed to leave any heirs – although being imprisoned in the Tower for eleven years after the 1346 battle of Neville’s Cross didn’t help much, Sir Robert couldn’t have predicted this in 1336, when he undertook a marriage of sorts to Elizabeth Mure.

In the aftermath of Neville’s Cross, as Guardian of the Realm to his absent uncle, Sir Robert and Elizabeth sought to regularise their position under canon law through a dispensation and married properly in 1349. By this time, many of their four sons and six daughters had already been born and they were, arguably, legitimised by the marriage, which ended six years later when Elizabeth, now formally Lady Stewart, died. Sir Robert swiftly married Euphemia Ross, by whom he had two more sons and two daughters and is reckoned to have had eight illegitimate children as well. Jean Stewart, a daughter from his first marriage, married Sir John Lyon of Glamis, from whom the late Queen Mother was descended.

Shortly after this second marriage, David II was ransomed under the Treaty of Berwick, which was a Scottish town until Richard of Gloucester’s 1482 invasion. Joan “of the Tower”, his first wife and Edward III’s sister, died in 1362 and David married Margaret Drummond in 1364, whom he “divorced” in 1370 although this was reversed by the Pope. Although they had been on bad terms, David II died in 1371 and Sir Robert succeeded him as Robert II, to reign for nineteen years.

John, the eldest of his fourteen children, was created Earl of Carrick and was influential during his father’s reign and succeeded him as Robert III in 1390, to be crowned on his birthday. His reign was largely dominated by his brothers, Robert Duke of Albany and Alexander Earl of Buchan. His elder son, David Duke of Rothesay, died in 1402 in Albany’s custody at Falkland Palace. In 1406 he sent his younger son, James, to France only for English pirates to capture him.

Robert III died when he heard this and the new prisoner in the Tower succeeded as James I. He was held there for about seventeen years and returned with Joan “Beaufort”, Henry V’s apparent cousin, as his queen. Albany’s son and successor, Murdoch, two of his sons and his father-in-law were executed for delaying James’ release and the Lancastrian policy of religious persecution was adopted.

From 1436, a plan to depose or kill James was formulated and it involved Walter, Earl of Atholl and Caithness, a septuagenarian son of Robert II’s Ross marriage. It seems highly likely that he was motivated by a disbelief in the validity of the Mure marriage and thus the legitimacy of the offspring of it. The “Avignon” conspirators killed James I at the Blackfriars in Perth during February 1436/7 but his son was crowned and the House of Stewart survived. The surviving Robert_II_of_Scotland Robert_III,_King_of_Scotlandplotters, including Atholl, were tortured and executed.

So were John of Carrick, his siblings and descendants legitimate? It seems never to have been determined by the Church except through the 1347 dispensation. Carrick’s line has ruled Scotland ever since and England from 1603, except for the interregnum whilst Henry VII, a scion of bastardy himself, married his daughter Margaret to the senior Mure-Stewart: James IV.

That petition:
“The kings of France and Scotland, bishops William of St. Andrews, William of Glasgow, William of Aberdeen, Richard of Dunkeld, Martin of Argyle, Adam of Brechin, and Maurice of Dunblane. Signification that although Elizabeth Mor and Isabella Boutellier, noble damsels of the diocese of Glasgow, are related in the third and fourth degrees of kindred, Robert Steward of Scotland, lord of Stragrifis, in the diocese of Glasgow, the king’s nephew, carnally knew first Isabella, and afterwards, in ignorance of their kindred, Elizabeth, who was herself related to Robert in the fourth degree of kindred, living with her for some time and having many children of both sexes by her; the above king and bishops therefore pray the pope that for the sake of the said offspring, who are fair to behold (aspectibus gratiose), to grant a dispensation to Robert and Elizabeth to intermarry, and to declare their offspring legitimate.

To be granted by the diocesan, at whose discretion one or more chapelries are to be founded by Robert.

Avignon, 10 Kal. Dec. 1347

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