The Clan Stewart is the clan of the royal Stewarts who ruled Scotland from 1371 to 1603. The progenitor of the clan was a seneschal (a hereditary steward) of the Bishop of Dol in Brittany called Alan FitzFlaad. He came to England soon after the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the FitzAlan family quickly established themselves as a powerful Anglo-Norman nobles.
Alan’s great grandson Walter FitzAlan helped David I become King of Scotland in 1124, and was made the first hereditary High Steward of Scotland with large estates in Renfrewshire and East Lothian. It was this hereditary role as stewards that led to the family taking the surname Stewart.
The Stewarts became the kings of Scotland in 1371 when the sixth High Steward of Scotland, Walter Stewart (1293–1326), married Robert the Bruce’s daughter, Marjorie. When Bruce’s son David II died childless in 1371, it was his nephew, the son of Walter and Marjorie, who inherited the Scottish throne as Robert II and the royal line of male Stewarts remained unbroken until the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary after a tumultuous reign, went into exile in England and was eventually executed for treason by Elizabeth I of England. However In 1603, Mary’s son James VI of Scotland became James I of England and Ireland in the Union of the Crowns when Elizabeth died childless. In 1688, following James II flight’s into exile and the Glorious Revolution which put Willian and Mary on the throne, two Stuart queens ruled: Mary and Anne however the crown passed to the House of Hanover on the death of Queen Anne in 1714. This wasn’t the end of the Stuart claim to the throne. Since James II left for exile his supporters had continued to fight for his return, they were known as Jacobites from the latin for James ‘Jacobus’. Over the years there were several Jacobite Risings starting in 1689 and culminating in the 1745 Rising when Bonnie Prince Charlie tried and failed to take back the throne for the Stuarts.
The Corinthian monument on Calton Hill in Edinburgh was erected in memory of Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) a leader in the field of philosophy and also one of Sir Walter Scott's teachers. Charles Edward Stuart or Bonnie Prince Charlie led the 1745 Jacobite uprising and you can visit many sites associated with him on the Jacobite trail (link to website), Jackie Stewart, the ‘Flying Scot’, won three Formula One Drivers’ Championships – you can see his car in the National Museum of Scotland. You can see the impressive tomb of the notorious wolf of Badenoch, Alexander Stewart, the earl of Buchan in Dunkeld Cathedral.
Unforgettable Stewart sights to visit
The Stewarts have built and lived in some of Scotland’s most luxurious and formidable strongholds, including Stirling Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Falkland Palace, Castle Stuart, Castle Stalker, Traquair House, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Craigmillar Castle, Mount Stuart and the Earl’s Palace in Kirkwall and fought on most of the battlefields of Scotland – including haunting Culloden. If you visit even a few of these you will have an unforgettable adventure through the history of Scotland and the Stewarts.
This is a fantastic place to start your ancestral tour. Edinburgh Castle is a must-see. The Palace of Holyrood is where the current monarch stays when she is in town; her Stewart forebears would have known it well and don’t forget Edinburgh’s other castle, Craigmillar. If you have time take a trip to East Lothian and visit the battlefield of Prestonpans where Bonnie Prince Charlie led his Jacobites to victory at the start of the 1745 Rising. While in the capital you could also spend a couple of enlightening hours at the Stewart Society. Make an appointment before you go and you can access their large collection of books and resources to help you continue your family research.
Stirling Castle was a favoured retreat of the Stewart monarchs and the childhood home of Mary, Queen of Scots. You can see how James IV, V and VI all left their marks on the architecture of the castle. It’s only a short hop from Stirling city centre to the poignant site of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314). Robert the Bruce had been declared King of Scots in 1306 and began a long and arduous campaign to secure his title, effectively doing so with this famous victory.
This wonderfully atmospheric 13th century building stands on an island on the only lake in Scotland, Lake Menteith (all other bodies of water are called ‘lochs’!). It was briefly the home of Mary Queen of Scots. Take a boat out to the Priory and spend a couple of quiet hours seeking out the grave slabs and effigies of Stewart earls and knights here.
Castle Stalker, Appin
This is everything you could want from a Scottish castle: a forbidding tower on a craggy island amid a beautiful sea loch with mountains all around and history dripping from every stone. It was built by Duncan Stewart of Appin in the late 1400s to house the Appin Stewarts, who were descendants of the Lord of Lorne.
Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute is the ancestral home of the Marquesses of Bute. This red sandstone Victorian Gothic masterpiece, influenced by the 3rd Marquess’s passion for astrology, astronomy, botany and science, is one of Scotland’s most stunning and unusual stately homes.
In the Scottish Borders, you’ll find Traquair House, the oldest continuously inhabited house in th area. Here you’ll see the famous Bear Gates shut in 1745, and are never to be opened again until a Stuart monarch sits on the throne.
As you journey to this fine Highland city, make sure you keep an eye out for the fabled monster Nessie in Loch Ness! There's plenty to see and do here - start with an enlightening visit to the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. All Stewarts should pay their respects at the atmospheric battleground of Culloden, on the outskirts of Inverness. Here, in April 1746, the hopes of restoring a Stuart monarchy in Britain came to a final, bloody end when Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite Rising was crushed by government forces. Charles Stewart of Ardsheal led Appin men to break the Redcoat ranks, but most were killed or taken prisoner.
You can return home knowing that you have walked in the footsteps of some very noble and ancient ancestors.