Stewart, John (d.1495) (DNB00)

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STEWART or STUART, Sir JOHN, Lord Darnley and first (or ninth) Earl of Lennox (d. 1495) of the Stewart line, was eldest son of Sir Alan Stewart, second son of Sir John Stuart of Darnley, first seigneur of Aubigny [q. v.] Sir Alan was treacherously slain by Sir Thomas Boyd at Linlithgow in 1439. His mother was Catherine Seton, probably a daughter of Sir William Seton, killed at Verneuil in 1424. On 16 May 1450 he granted to his brother, Alexander Stewart, a charter of the lands of Dreghorn, Ayrshire (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1424–1513, No. 350), and on 17 July 1460 he had a charter of the lands of Tarbolton, Ayrshire, to be held in a free barony (Douglas, ii. 94). On the death in 1460 of Isabel, duchess of Albany [see Stewart, Murdac, second Duke of Albany], and daughter of Duncan, earl of Lennox (d. 1425), Sir John Stewart, by virtue of his descent from Duncan's daughter, Elizabeth Lennox, wife of Sir John Stewart, seigneur of Aubigny, laid claim to a share in the earldom of Lennox (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 389). To prove his claim he relied on a charter, dated 8 Nov. 1392, of which there exists a notarial transcript, dated 21 Jan. 1460, granted by King Robert III ‘to Duncan, earl of Lennox, of the whole earldom of Lennox and lordship thereof’ to be held by him ‘and the lawful heirs male of his body, whom failing, by Murdac Stewart and Isabella, daughter of the said earl, and lawful heirs of their bodies, whom failing, by the nearest and lawful heirs of the said Duncan, whomsoever, of the king and his heirs, for rendering the services due and worthy’ (ib.) By authority of this charter Sir John Stewart laid claim to one half of the earldom of Lennox, equal parts of the other half being claimed by two sisters, daughters of another daughter of Earl Duncan: Agnes Menteith, married to Sir John Haldane of Gleneagles, and Elizabeth Menteith to John Napier of Merchiston. As the lord chancellor—Andrew Stewart, lord Avandale [q. v.], grandson of Isabella, Earl Duncan's eldest daughter and suo jure Countess of Lennox [see under Stewart, Murdac, second Duke of Albany], and desirous himself of succeeding to the earldom—took no action in Sir John Stewart's behalf, Stewart, on 12 Oct. 1463, presented a petition to parliament, praying that his majesty would direct breves to be issued from chancery for serving him heir to the lands of half the earldom of Lennox, for which he bound himself to maintain at his own expense for one year a hundred spears and fifty bows, and to find caution that his occupation of one half of the earldom should not prejudice any claim his majesty might have thereto when he attained his majority (ib.). No proceedings, however, were adopted to place Stewart in possession of his share in the earldom, the position assumed by the lord chancellor being probably that the king had a claim on it by virtue of the last clause of the charter of 1392. Meanwhile Stewart had been created a lord of parliament, with the title of Lord Darnley, some time between 17 July 1460, when he is mentioned as Sir John Stewart, and 24 July 1461, when, as Lord Darnley, he obtained certain grants of land from James III (ib.) On 4 Feb. 1465 he had a charter appointing him governor of Rothesay, in the Isle of Bute, until the king reached the age of fifteen (ib. p. 388), and in 1466 he was served heir to his grandfather Alan, who fell at Orleans in 1429, of various lands in the barony of Avandale.

On 10 May 1471 Andrew Stewart, lord Avandale, succeeded in obtaining a life-rent grant of the whole earldom of Lennox (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1424–1513, No. 1018), and his permanent possession of it was further guaranteed by letters of legitimation on 28 Aug. 1472; nevertheless Lord Darnley immediately began to make strenuous efforts not merely to obtain recognition of his right to his share in the earldom, but to make good a claim to the title. To obtain his purpose he endeavoured to induce the other claimants to forego their claims, and in September 1472 he obtained from Elizabeth, wife of John, lord Napier, letters of renunciation of her share (i.e. a fourth part) of the earldom (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 388). Darnley also entered into an agreement with Sir John Haldane to submit to the arbitration of the bishops of Aberdeen and Orkney, and of the earls of Avandale and Argyll, regarding the satisfaction to be made by Darnley to Haldane and his spouse for giving over to him the claim they had to the earldom of Lennox (ib. p. 389); but no arrangement was come to. Haldane was sent on an embassy to Denmark in 1473, and Darnley on 27 July of the same year (after guaranteeing to Avandale undisturbed possession of the life rent) obtained an instrument of sasin in his favour, as heir of his great-grandfather Duncan, earl of Lennox, of the principal messuage and half of the lands of the earldom of Lennox and superiority of the same (ib. p. 390).

On being infefted in the principal messuage Darnley assumed the title of Earl of Lennox; but Sir John Haldane, on his return to Scotland in 1475, contested his claims to the principal messuage and title. On 12 Jan. 1475–6 letters were given by the king under the privy seal revoking and annulling the breves and service to John, lord Darnley, as heir to Duncan, earl of Lennox, as being unjustly deduced against Sir John Haldane. Darnley had claimed descent from the elder daughter of Earl Duncan (Retour of Service, ib.), and it is probable that herein consisted the injustice of his claim, for he endeavoured to set aside the claims of Sir John Haldane to the principal messuage by, in July 1476, contesting the legitimacy of Agnes Menteith, Haldane's wife (Fraser, Lennox, i. 302). No decision, however, seems to have been given on this latter point, or at least no decision against Haldane, and matters rested in statu quo, Avandale continuing to enjoy the life rent, Darnley ceasing to use the title of Earl of Lennox, and the claims of him and other coheirs remaining in abeyance.

On 8 May 1477 Darnley was reappointed keeper of Rothesay (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 390). Having everything to hope from a change of government, he joined the conspiracy against James III in 1482, when Cochrane, the king's favourite, was hanged over the bridge of Lauder. He remained with James during his confinement in Edinburgh Castle, and on 18 Oct. obtained a signature from him, affirming that the king owed his life to the constant watch of Darnley and others over him day and night, and on that account declaring them innocent of the king's detention in Edinburgh Castle, and absolving them of all blame (ib. p. 391); but the document must be taken to represent rather the opinions of Darnley than the king. On 17 July 1484 Darnley was appointed keeper of Bute for seven years (ib.), and on 20 Oct. 1488—both James III and Lord Avandale having meanwhile passed away—he was appointed, as Earl of Lennox, keeper of the castle of Dumbarton (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1424–1513, No. 1794), and he also sat as Earl of Lennox in parliament. But his succession was not the consequence either of a new creation or of a legal decision in his favour as against Sir John Haldane; it was merely a case of appropriation sanctioned by those who had usurped the government. Nevertheless this did not content him, and, disappointed by being overlooked in the distribution of the more important offices, he suddenly determined to rouse the country against those in authority, and in behalf of the young king, James IV, who, he asserted, was detained in captivity against his will by the murderers of his father. Several of the discontented nobles joined him, and Lord Forbes paraded the country with the king's bloody shirt displayed as a beacon; but the nation as a whole was apathetic, and the rising was soon at an end. After the strongholds of Duchal and Crookston, which were held for Lennox, had been carried by assault, the forces of the king marched to the aid of Argyll, who was besieging Dumbarton, held by Lord Lyle and Matthew Stewart, eldest son of Lennox. Meanwhile Lennox himself, who had gone to the highlands to raise reinforcements, was marching to its relief, when a highland deserter brought word to the king's camp, and advised that he should be surprised by a night attack. The advice was adopted with success, Lennox being taken unawares, and sustaining a complete defeat at Tallymoss, on the south side of the Forth. As his followers either were slain or taken prisoners, or had dispersed to their homes, the defenders of Dumbarton, despairing of succour, soon afterwards surrendered, and Lennox succeeded in making his peace, the act of forfeiture against him being rescinded on 5 Feb. 1489–90 (Acta Parl. Scot. ii. 213). Lennox being now in favour with the king, the two rival claimants made a virtue of necessity and came to terms with him. On 18 May 1490 Elizabeth Menteith, wife of John Napier, with consent of her son, resigned for ever all right she had to the superiority of Lennox, on condition of being left in possession of a fourth part of the estate (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 390), and a similar agreement was come to with Sir John Haldane on 3 July 1493 (ib.) Lennox died some time before 1 Aug. 1495.

By his wife Margaret, eldest daughter of Alexander Montgomerie Knight, lord of Ardrossan, he had five sons and four daughters: Matthew (see below); Robert, seigneur of Aubigny (see below); William, seigneur d'Oizon (d. 1502); Alexander; John of Hermeston, sometimes stated to have been rector of Kirkconner in Galloway, but who succeeded his brother as seigneur d'Oizon, and died without issue in 1512; Elizabeth, married to Archibald, second earl of Argyll; Marion, to Robert Crighton of Kinnoul; Janet to Norman, lord Ross; and Elizabeth, to John Colquhoun of Luss.

The earl's eldest son, Matthew Stewart, second or tenth Earl of Lennox (d. 1513), joined his father in 1488 in the conspiracy against James IV; after the death of his father received from James IV a grant of the sheriffdom of Dumbarton which was united to the earldom of Lennox and made hereditary in the family; and, with the Earl of Argyll, commanded the right wing of the Scots army at Flodden, where he and the greater part of his followers were slain on 9 Sept. 1513. By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of James, first lord Hamilton [q. v.], and niece of James III, he was father of John Stewart, third (or eleventh) earl of Lennox.

The earl's second son, Robert Stuart or Stewart, Seigneur of Aubigny (1470?–1543), was born about 1470, took service under Bernard Stewart, seigneur of Aubigny [q. v.], and was enrolled in 1498 as lieutenant of the Scots men-at-arms to his brother William; served with great distinction in the Italian wars, 1500–13; was chosen a marshal of France in 1515, and the same year defeated General Prospero Colonna at Villa Franca; fought at Marignano; was appointed one of the judges to act for France at the tournament of the Cloth of Gold in July 1522; was taken prisoner at Pavia, and died without issue in 1543.

[Lennox Muniments in Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep.; Sir William Fraser's Lennox (privately printed); Napier's Partition of the Lennox, and the same author's Lennox of Auld; Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1424–1513; Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vols. vii–x.; Histories by Buchanan, Leslie, and Lindsay; Lady Elizabeth Cust's Stuarts of Aubigny (privately printed, 1891); Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 94–6.]

T. F. H.