Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stewart, Alexander (1343?-1405?)

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STEWART, ALEXANDER, Earl of Buchan and Lord of Badenoch, called the ‘Wolf of Badenoch’ (1343?–1405?), born probably before 1344, was the fourth son of King Robert II of Scotland, by his mistress Elizabeth Mure, whom he subsequently married in 1347. He received from his father a grant of the lands of Badenoch on 30 March 1371, with the famous castle of Lochindorb, but he exercised lordship over Badenoch and Strathspey at an earlier date, for in August 1370 he promised Alexander Burr, bishop of Moray, that he would protect the bishop's lands and tenants within the territories named (Registrum Moraviense, p. 171). In 1372 he was king's lieutenant and justiciary north of the Forth. As such he held court at the standing stones of the Rathe of Kingussie and afterwards in his castle of Ruthven in Badenoch on 10 and 11 Oct. 1380, when a serious debate took place between him and the bishop of Moray, who denied the lieutenant's jurisdiction and appealed direct to the crown. The matter ended in favour of the bishop, and the process, with the lieutenant's decree against him, was solemnly burned in presence of the assemblage. This was followed a year later by a declaration from Stewart renouncing jurisdiction over the church lands in the district (ib. pp. 183–9). About 1382 the lord of Badenoch married Euphemia, countess of Ross, daughter of William, earl of Ross, and widow of Sir Walter Lesley, and by this marriage he became, or was created, Earl of Buchan, acquiring also the lordship of Ross and other large possessions (Registrum Magni Sigilli, i. 165 et seq.) He however deserted his wife for another woman, perhaps the mother of his children, and in November 1389 the censure of the church was pronounced upon him by the bishops of Moray and Ross. Resentment for this and other causes of quarrel between him and the bishop of Moray probably led the earl to incite his men, in May 1390, to burn the town of Forres and certain church buildings there; while in the month following he himself in person led a lawless band against Elgin, destroying by fire the hospital there, the houses of the clergy, and the noble and beautiful cathedral, and earning for himself his popular designation, the ‘Wolf of Badenoch.’ For this offence he was excommunicated, but was afterwards absolved by the bishop of St. Andrews in the presence of Robert III at Perth (Registrum Moraviense, pp. 353, 381).

After this the earl appears to have taken little part in public affairs, and it is usually stated that he died on 24 July 1394. But this is an error first published by Duncan Stewart (History of the Stewarts) in 1739, and repeated by later writers, though there is sufficient evidence to the contrary. Thus, on 3 May 1398, he was ordered by his brother, Robert III, to deliver up the castle of Spynie to William, bishop of Moray (Registrum Moraviense, p. 208); and in 1402 the king wrote to him as crown bailie over the earldom of Athole (Memorials of the Family of Wemyss, &c., ed. Fraser, ii. 44). Other evidence, and specially that of the exchequer rolls of Scotland (iii. 600, 634), points to the date of the earl's death as the end of 1404 or beginning of 1405, probably February 1405. The earl had no issue by his wife, but he had several natural children, Alexander (who became Earl of Mar) [q. v.], Duncan, Sir Andrew of Sandhauch, Walter and James; also a daughter Margaret, who married Robert, earl of Sutherland. The earl's tomb is still to be seen in the church of Dunkeld, though much defaced, having, it is said, been destroyed by the Cameronian regiment stationed in Dunkeld in 1689. His earldom of Buchan fell into the hands of the crown, and was conferred in 1406 on his nephew, John Stewart (1381?–1424) [q. v.]

[The popular view of the ‘Wolf of Badenoch’ is portrayed in the novel of that name, by Sir Thomas Dick-Lauder; see also authorities quoted under Stewart, Alexander, Earl of Mar.]

J. A-n.