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The House of Stuart, also known as the House of Stewart, is an important European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century. Their direct ancestors (from Brittany) had held the title High Steward of Scotland since the 12th century, after arriving by route of Norman England. The dynasty inherited further territory by the 17th century which covered the entire British Islesmarker, including the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Ireland, also upholding a claim to the Kingdom of France.

In total, nine Stuart monarchs ruled just Scotland from 1371 until 1603. After this there was a Union of the Crowns under James VI & I who had become the senior genealogical claimant to all of the holdings of the extinct House of Tudor. Thus there were six Stuart monarchs who ruled both England and Scotland as well as Ireland (although the Stuart era was interrupted by an interregnum lasting from 1649-1660, as a result of the English Civil War). Additionally at the foundation of the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker after the Acts of Union, which politically united England and Scotland, the first monarch was Anne of Great Britain. However, she died without issue and all the holdings passed to the House of Hanover, under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701.

During the reign of the Stuarts, Scotland developed from a relatively poor and feudal country into a prosperous, fairly modern and centralized state. They ruled during a time in European history of transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Monarchs such as James IV were known for sponsoring exponents of the Northern Renaissance such as poet Robert Henryson. After gaining control of all of Great Britain the arts and sciences continued to develop; William Shakespeare's best known plays were authored during the Jacobean era, while institutions such as the Royal Society and Royal Mail were established during the reign of Charles II.



The name Stewart derives from the political position of office similar to a governor, known as a steward. It was originally adopted as the family surname by Walter Stewart, 3rd High Steward of Scotland, who was the third member of the family to hold the position. Prior to this, their family name was defined through immediate ancestors and changed from generation to generation; for example the first two High Stewards were known as FitzAlan and FitzWalter respectively. During the 16th century the name underwent a development and the French spelling Stuart was adopted. It was Mary Queen of Scots who adopted the change, to ensure the correct pronunciation of the Scots name Stewart while she was living in France.


High Steward arms.
The ancestral origins of the Stewart family are quite obscure — what is known for certain is that they can trace their ancestry back to Alan FitzFlaad, a Breton who came over to the island of Great Britainmarker not long after the Norman conquest. Alan had been the hereditary steward of the Bishop of Dol in the Duchy of Brittany; Alan had a good relationship with the ruling House of Normandy monarch Henry I of England who awarded him with lands in Shropshiremarker. The FitzAlan family quickly established themselves as a prominent Anglo-Norman noble house, with some of its members serving as High Sheriff of Shropshire. It was the great-grandson of Alan named Walter FitzAlan who became the first hereditary High Steward of Scotland, while his brother William's family would go on to become Earls of Arundel.

When the civil war in the Kingdom of England broke out known as The Anarchy, between legitimist claimant Matilda, Lady of the English and her cousin who had usurped her; king Stephen, Walter had sided with Matilda. Another supporter of Matilda was her uncle David I of Scotland from the House of Dunkeld. After Matilda was pushed out of England into the County of Anjou, essentially failing in her legitimist attempt for the throne, many of her supporters in England fled also. It was then that Walter had followed David up to the Kingdom of Scotland, where he was granted lands at Renfrewshire and the title life peerage of the Lord High Steward. The next monarch of Scotland, Malcolm IV made the High Steward title a hereditary arrangement. While High Stewards the family were based at Dundonaldmarker, Ayrshire between the 12th and 13th centuries.


The sixth High Steward of Scotland, Walter Stewart (1293-1326), married Marjorie, daughter of Robert the Bruce, and also played an important part in the Battle of Bannockburnmarker gaining further favour. Their son Robert was heir to the House of Bruce, the Lordship of Cunningham and the Brucean lands of Bourtreehillmarker; he eventually inherited the Scottish throne when his uncle David II died childless in 1371.

In 1503, James IV attempted to secure peace with England by marrying King Henry VII's daughter, Margaret Tudor. The birth of their son, later James V, brought the House of Stewart into the line of descent of the House of Tudor, and the English throne. Margaret Tudor later married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, and their daughter, Margaret Douglas, was the mother of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. In 1565, Darnley married his half-cousin Mary, the daughter of James V. Darnley's father was Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, a member of the Stewart of Darnley branch of the House. Lennox was a descendant of Alexander Stewart, 4th High Steward of Scotland, also descended from James II, being Mary's heir presumptive. Therefore Darnley was also related to Mary on his father's side and at the time of their marriage. Because of this connection, Mary's heirs remained part of the House of Stewart. Because of the long French residence at Aubignymarker, held by Darnley's branch in the Auld Alliance, the surname was altered to Stuart.

Both Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley had strong claims on the English throne, through their mutual grandmother, Margaret Tudor. This eventually led to the accession of the couple's only child James as King of Scotland, England, and Ireland in 1603. However, this was a Personal Union, as the three Kingdoms shared a monarch, but had separate governments, churches, and institutions. Indeed the personal union did not prevent an armed conflict, known as the Bishops’ Wars, breaking out between England and Scotland in 1639. This was to become part of the cycle of political and military conflict that marked the reign of Charles I of England, Scotland & Ireland, culminating in a series of conflicts know as the English Civil War (which, despite its name, impacted on all three Kingdoms). The trial and execution of Charles I by the English Parliament in 1649 began 11 years of republican government knows as the English Interregnum. Scotland initially recognised the late King's son, also called Charles, as their monarch, before being compelled to enter a republican system. During this period, the principle members of the House of Stuart lived in exile in mainland Europe. The younger Charles returned to Britain to assume his three thrones in 1660 as "Charles II of England, Scotland & Ireland", but would date his reign from his father's death 11 years before.

In feudal and dynastic terms, the Scottish reliance on French support was revived during the reign of Charles II, whose own mother was French. His sister Henrietta married into the French Royal family. Charles II left no legitimate children, but his numerous illigitemate descendants included the Dukes of Buccleuch, the Dukes of Grafton, the Dukes of Saint Albans and the Dukes of Richmond.

These French and Roman Catholic connections proved unpopular and resulted in the downfall of the Stuarts, whose mutual enemies identified with Protestantism and because he had offended the Anglican establishment by proposing tolerance not only for Catholics but for Protestant Dissenters. The Glorious Revolution caused the overthrow of James II in favor of his son-in-law and his daughter, William and Mary. James continued to claim the thrones of England and Scotland to which he had been crowned, and encouraged revolts in his name, and his grandson Charles led an ultimately unsuccessful rising in 1745, becoming ironic symbols of conservative rebellion and Romanticism. Some blame the identification of the Roman Catholic Church with the Stuarts, with the extremely lengthy delay in passage of Catholic Emancipation until Jacobitism (as represented by direct Stuart heirs) was extinguished, however it was as likely to be caused by entrenched anti-Catholic prejudice among the Anglican establishment of England. Despite the Whig intentions of tolerance to be extended to Irish subjects, this was not the preference of Georgian Tories and their failure at compromise played a subsequent role in the present division of Irelandmarker.

The direct male line of the Royal branch of the House of Stuart is assumed to be extinct, after the deaths of Charles Edward Stuart, and his brother Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart (although the male line continues through the descendants of several illegitimate sons of Charles II). The current British Royal family descends from the House of Stuart in the Count Palatine cadet branch of the House of Stuart.

The current senior line descends through Charles I and his youngest daughter Henrietta Anne Stewart and survives to this day in the House of Wittelsbach.

The next most senior line is the cadet branch of the Count Palatine, which contains all the descendents of Elizabeth of Bohemia, the youngest daughter of James VI/I. Of this line, there are several junior branches, the houses of Simmern and of Hanover. It is from the sub branch of Hanover that Queen Elizabeth descends, as a descendent of the Electress Sophia of Hanover. Interestingly, as the house is not regulated by Salic law, her claim to the House of Stuart remains senior to the rest of the House of Hanover, as she is a descendent of the most senior male line, from Prince Edward of Kent, rather than his younger brother, Ernst Augustus of Hanover.

Thus, Queen Elizabeth may be said to be of the Count Palantine - Hanoverian - Saxe Coburg Gotha branch of the House of Stuart.

At least three cadet branches of the House of Stuart survive amongst the titled British aristocracy; the Clan Stuart of Appin, the Earls Castle Stewart, and the Earls of Galloway, all of who have claims which date prior to the accession of James VI/I.


Designation and details

List of monarchs

King of Scotland

Portrait Name From Until Relationship with predecessor
Robert II of Scotland 22 February 1371 19 April 1390 nephew of David II of Scotland who died without issue. Robert's mother Marjorie Bruce was daughter of Robert I of Scotland.
Robert III of Scotland 19 April 1390 4 April 1406 son of Robert II of Scotland.
James I of Scotland 4 April 1406 21 February 1437 son of Robert III of Scotland.
James II of Scotland 21 February 1437 3 August 1460 son of James I of Scotland.
James III of Scotland 3 August 1460 11 June 1488 son of James II of Scotland.
James IV of Scotland 11 June 1488 9 September 1513 son of James III of Scotland.
James V of Scotland 9 September 1513 14 December 1542 son of James IV of Scotland.
Mary I of Scotland
(Mary, Queen of Scots)
14 December 1542 24 July 1567 daughter of James V of Scotland.

King of Great Britain and Ireland

Portrait Name From Until Relationship with predecessor
James VI of Scotland & I of England 24 July 1567 27 March 1625 son of Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. King of Scotland alone, 1567—1603, until inheriting the titles King of England and Ireland, including claim to France from the extinct Tudors.
Charles I of England, Scotland & Ireland 27 March 1625 30 January 1649 son of James VI of Scotland & I of England & Ireland.
Charles II of England, Scotland & Ireland 30 January 1649 6 February 1685 son of Charles I of England, Scotland & Ireland. In exile from 1649 to 1660, during a republican period of government known as the Commonwealth of England.
James II of England and Ireland & VII of Scotland 6 February 1685 13 February 1689 brother of Charles II of England, Scotland & Ireland, who died with no legitimate issue. Son of Charles I. Overthrown at the Revolution of 1688.
Mary II of England, Scotland and Ireland 13 February 1689 28 December 1694 daughter of James II of England and Ireland & VII of Scotland, who was still alive and pretending to the throne. Co-monarch was William III & II who outlived his wife.
Anne of Great Britain and Ireland 8 March 1702 1 May 1707 sister of Mary II. daughter of James II of England and Ireland & VII of Scotland. Name of state changed to Great Britain with the political Acts of Union 1707, though family has used title since James I & VI. Died issueless, rights pass to House of Hanover.

Patrilineal descent

Patrilineal descent, descent from father to son, is the principle behind membership in royal houses, as it can be traced back through the generations - which means that the historically accurate royal house of the Stuart monarchs was the House of Stuart.

  1. Alan of Dol, b. 1020
  2. Flaald fitz Alan, Baron of St. Florent
  3. Alan FitzFlaald, d. after 1114
  4. Walter fitz Alan, 1106 - 1177
  5. Alan fitz Walter, 2nd High Steward of Scotland, d. 1204
  6. Walter Stewart, 3rd High Steward of Scotland, 1178 - 1241
  7. Alexander Stewart, 4th High Steward of Scotland, 1214 - 1283
  8. Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl, 1246 - 1298
  9. Sir Alan Stewart of Dreghorn, 1280 - 1333
  10. Sir Alexander Stewart, d. 1374
  11. Sir Alexander Stewart, d. 1404
  12. Sir John Stewart, 1st Lord Aubigny, 1370 - 1429
  13. Sir Alan Stewart of Darnley, 1407 - 1439
  14. John Stewart, 1st Earl of Lennox, 1430 - 1495
  15. Matthew Stewart, 2nd Earl of Lennox, 1472 - 1513
  16. John Stewart, 3rd Earl of Lennox, 1490 - 1526
  17. Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, 1516 - 1571
  18. Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, 1545 - 1567
  19. James I of England, 1566 - 1625
  20. Charles I of England, 1600 - 1649
  21. James II of England, 1633 - 1701
  22. Mary II of England, 1662 - 1694 and Anne of Great Britain, 1665 - 1714

See also



Further reading

  • Addington, Arthur C. The Royal House of Stuart: The Descendants of King James VI of Scotland (James I of England). 3v. Charles Skilton, 1969-76.
  • Cassavetti, Eileen. The Lion & the Lilies: The Stuarts and France. Macdonald & Jane’s, 1977.


  1. Retrieved on 13 November 2008.
  2. Bartlett, England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225, 544.
  3. Lieber, Encyclopædia Americana, 30.
  4. King, The Anarchy of King Stephen's Reign, 249.
  5. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  6. Descent from before Walter fitz Alan is from [1] and may be unreliable.

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