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The Royal House of Stuart
From its Origin to the Accession of the House of Hanover by Samuel Cowan, J.P. (in two volumes (1908)


In submitting a narrative of the Royal House of Stuart, from its origin to the accession of the House of Hanover, the author fully recognises the great importance of the subject as an integral part of Scottish history. The House of Stuart in its detached form every student of history knows, but the precursors of the Stuart sovereigns—the High Stewards of Scotland —form a branch of the subject that hitherto has been very imperfectly known, and probably will always be so from the want of authentic information to create a consecutive narrative.

So far as we have material we have made a brief narrative of the High Stewards, and so far as it affects Scottish history a narrative of surpassing interest it is. The origin of the Stuarts will always be a controversial question until more light is thrown on the subject by scientific research. The reader will remember that “ Steward of the King’s Household ”—an appointment which probably applies to the two first Stewards only —was a distinct office from that of “ High Steward of Scotland,” the first nominee to the latter office being Walter, the founder of Paisley Abbey, who became High Steward in 1152, and discharged the duties for twenty-five years during the reigns of Malcolm IV. and William the Lion.

In these early feudal times the administration of the kingdom was of slow development, but it is important to observe that Walter, the first High Steward of Scotland, was also Chancellor of the kingdom, and doubtless was in his day the first officer of the realm. The High Stewards were also military officers, as we find Walter, the sixth High Steward, commanding a regiment at Bannockburn, and doing gallant service for xi

King Robert Bruce on that great occasion. Some early writers believe he did as much to gain this victory as did Bruce himself. His bravery on that occasion was rewarded by his getting the King’s daughter to wife, with a large dowry in land : and the issue of this marriage was Robert II., who became the first Stuart sovereign.

It is noticeable that after the first Stuart sovereign only one Stuart King chose a wife from his own people. That sovereign was Robert III., who fell in love with the daughter of John, Lord Drummond of Stobhall. The portrait of this lady is the frontispiece of this volume. It is said by more writers than one that the House of Drummond was notable for its handsome daughters, who in their day were distinguished for their natural beauty and for their many accomplishments.

In considering the administration of the Stuarts we are met on the threshold of the subject with the significant fact that all the sovereigns between Robert III. and Charles I. (the six Jameses), were crowned when they were children. This involved a regency under each of the Jameses, and a large proportion of the crime, lawlessness and rebellion, and attempts to subvert the Crown, which threatened the national life for 250 years after Robert III., is due mainly to the incapability and misgovernment of the Regents, notwithstanding their responsibility to the Scottish Parliament, which always retained the supreme authority. The administration of the first five Jameses after they assumed the reins of government was creditable to them, and if we except James III., they contributed largely to the abolition of crime, anarchy and rebellion, and created laws which greatly influenced the development of a more healthy civilisation. The accession of James VI. set back the dial on account of his feeble administration, and no improvement on that monarch’s rule took place until the accession of William of Orange, when the kingdom was once more restored to its normal condition as it was in the days of James V.

All but two of the Stuart sovereigns belonged to the Catholic faith, but there is nothing to indicate that this was in any way prejudicial to the interests or the prosperity of the realm, or to its trade and commerce, until the advent of Charles II. and James VII. These two brothers, the last of the Stuart kings, disgraced their high office by their persecution of those who differed from them in religion, and the last-named ruler was in consequence driven from the throne after a brief reign of three and a half years.

We do not wonder that the Scottish Parliament made it a condition that after that period no Catholic could sit on the throne of Scotland. It is very noticeable that the son of James VII., the Chevalier St. George, would have succeeded Queen Anne but for this prohibitory statute. All the eloquence of Queen Anne, however, would not induce him to change his religion and accept the crown, and so the House of Hanover was called in, and the House of Stuart became extinct.

The Chevalier was a most creditable member of the House of Stuart, as his subsequent career showed, and his whole life indicated that had he ascended the throne he would have been no discredit to his ancestors. Had he even been victorious at Sheriffmuir he would not necessarily have got the throne because of the determined opposition of the Scottish people at that period to the Catholic faith, and their fresh remembrance of the tyrannical rule of his father.

The scheme of the following work is as follows :—

I. Condition and general administration of the kingdom at the Norman Conquest and the Stuart origin.

2. The supposed ancestors or progenitors of the High Stewards.

3. General outline of the High Stewards and their official duties.

4. Administration of the Stuart sovereigns, from Robert II. to the accession of George of Hanover.

The Stuart dynasty is now matter of history, and whatever we may think of the early rulers of the House of Hanover, we now live in an age of enlightenment and freedom under the rule of a wise and judicious monarchy, enjoying to an unlimited extent civil and religious liberty.

The charters and portraits which accompany this work will be found of great value. We have to acknowledge with thanks the following portraits, among others, received for insertion in this work:—

The frontispiece of Vol. I., Queen Annabella Drummond, from Sir James Drummond of Hawthornden.

The frontispiece of Vol. II., the Orkney portrait of Queen Mary, from His Grace the Duke of Sutherland.

Portrait of Robert III., from the Marquis of Lothian.

Portrait of James IV., from Captain Stirling of Keir.

Portraits of James V. and Mary of Guise, from His Grace the Duke of Devonshire.

Portrait of William of Orange, from His Grace the Duke of Portland.

In the literary department of the work, we have received assistance from the Rev. Professor Kennedy, Edinburgh, Dr. Maitland Thomson, Rev. John Anderson of the Register House, Edinburgh, who gave valuable assistance in the revision of the proofs, and Mr. A. M. Cowan of Perth.

S. C.
Edinburgh, January, 1908.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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