1st November 2017: The Stewart Dynasty

On Wednesday 1st November 2017 Wye Historical Society welcomed Stewart Ross, who spoke on "The Stewart Dynasty". Mr Ross began by pointing out that 'Stewart' is the Scottish spelling of the name; Stuart is a French iteration. This talk focused on where the Stewarts came from, how they acquired the crown and what happened to them. In 1746 in Roscoff, Brittany, the 25-year-old Bonnie Prince Charlie, the last Stewart to feature prominently in world affairs, arrived in France to meet his patron Louis XV. However France is also where this family began, in the town of Dol de Bretagne seven-hundred years earlier. The first member of the family of note was Flaald who was dapifer (food bearer) to the Duke of Brittany's family. By 1080 the family had gained a reputation as trustworthy and loyal. Flaald II inherited a title and estates and moved from Dol to England, and by 1116 the family were substantial English landowners. A third son of the Lord of Oswestry, Walter, was invited to Scotland and given land by King David (son of Malcolm who slew Macbeth). David knew the English court and he used the feudal system to fill his court with those who would give him loyalty. The family then became 'High Stewards of Scotland'. Many other important Scottish families came over from France and Flanders under David, including the Bruce family; Walter brought Richard of Wales into the court, his name becoming Wallace.

So how did the Stewarts get the throne? They were a solid and reliable family and had lots of heirs. Succeeding generations of crusaders and Justiciars of the North led to them being crucial to the crown. For example, in 1266 Alexander of Dundonald commanded the Scottish forces against the Norwegians and gained back the Western Isles. In 1315 the King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, married his daughter Marjorie to (another) Walter Stewart. Walter became guardian of the realm twice; once when David II was too young to rule and later when the king was captured after the Battle of Neville Cross. David had no children so the crown passed to Marjorie's child who became Robert II. Thus began a long line of Stewart kings; but their reigns were not peaceful. James I was murdered by the Graham family; the child king James II was killed by his own cannon; James III was murdered by his own son and James IV was killed at Flodden. James VI (James I of England) was the first Stewart king to die peacefully for two hundred years. After the Civil War the Stewarts were restored but Charles II failed to produce an heir so the crown passed to his brother James. He was replaced by his daughter Mary and her Dutch protestant husband William in 1688 and then by his other daughter Anne. Her brother James, 'The Old Pretender', was exiled in France; he had two sons, Charles (Bonnie) and Henry. When Charles returned to France after the failure of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion he was the most famous man in Europe, but when his brother Henry became a cardinal Charles could never become king and there were no more heirs. In 1750 Louis XV made peace with England and Charles returned to England unnoticed. He died an alcoholic in 1788. Henry was thrown out of France in the Revolution and died in 1807.

Ellie Morris