Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stewart, James (d.1592)
STEWART or STUART, JAMES, Earl of Moray of a new line (d. 1592), was the elder son of James Stewart (d. 20 July 1590), abbot of St. Colme, who was on 24 Nov. 1581 created Lord Doune, by Lady Margaret Campbell, eldest daughter of Archibald, fourth earl of Argyll. From James VI he received in 1580 a gift of the ward and marriage of the two daughters of the regent Moray, and a few days thereafter married Elizabeth, the elder one, and assumed, jure uxoris, the title of the Earl of Moray. His personal beauty and accomplishments gained him the name of 'the bonny earl.' On 1 Aug. 1588 he was appointed a commissioner for executing the act against the Spanish armada (Reg. P. C. Scotl. iv. 307), and on 5 March 1589-90 a commissioner for executing the acts against the Jesuits (ib. p. 466). In 1590, along with the Earl of Atholl, he assisted the laird of Grant when his house was besieged by Huntly (Moysie, Memoirs, p. 85); and Huntly having on 23 Jan. 1590-1 presented a supplication against his having taken part with the malefactors in the north (Reg. P. C. Scotl. iv. 569), both earls were on 15 March commanded to proceed to Edinburgh and sign bands to keep the peace (ib. p. 597). Afterwards Huntly obtained a special commission to pursue the Earl of Bothwell and his associates. To prevent Bothwell obtaining shelter from the Earl of Moray, who was his cousin-german, Moray was induced by Lord Ochiltree, specially deputed by the king, to come south on condition of receiving the king's pardon (Moysie, Memoirs, p. 88; Spotiswood, History, ii. 419). According to Spotiswood, after this had been agreed on, a rumour arose that Moray had been seen in Holyrood Palace along with Bothwell, and Huntly therefore received from the king a warrant to apprehend him (ib.) But even if this were so, such a proceeding was unjustifiable after Moray had been enticed south on a promise of pardon; and it was strangely unwise, if not worse, to entrust his apprehension to Huntly, who was the. hereditary enemy of his house. Besides, there was no need to apprehend him before the king had questioned him on the new charge. The inference seems therefore almost inevitable that the king was influenced by private motives, and these probably were, as was rumoured and as is set forth in the traditionary ballad, that he was jealous of Moray's favour with the queen. Moray, in expectation of a summons to the court, had arrived at Donibristle, a house of his mother on the Fifeshire coast, when on 7 Feb. 1591-2 it was suddenly beset by the followers of Huntly, who called upon him to surrender. To suppose that Moray would quietly put himself into the hands of his enemy was to credit him either with abject cowardice or incredible simplicity. He declined to do so, and Huntly, without scruple, set fire to the house. After every one in the house had rushed out, Moray stayed for a time within, and, suddenly dashing out, he broke through the cordon surrounding the house, and, outpacing his enemies, made for the rocks on the seashore. The burning of the top of his headpiece, however, betrayed him, and he was followed to his place of concealment and slain—a quite unnecessary precaution, since there is no evidence that he even sought to make further resistance. The corpses of the earl and of Dunbar, sheriff of Moray, who had also been slain by Huntly's followers, were brought over by the earl's mother to Leith, to be placed in the tomb of the regent Moray in St. Giles's church; but for some months they remained in their coffins unburied, their friends refusing to bury them until 'the slaughter was punished' (ib. p. 420). Captain Gordon, one of Huntly's followers, who being wounded was unable to escape to the north, was brought to Edinburgh and executed; but this did not assuage the indignation of the people, and the king deemed it prudent to retire from Edinburgh to Glasgow, until Huntly entered himself in ward in Blackness. This Huntly did on 12 March, but on the 20th he was released on giving surety that on six days' notice he would appear and stand his trial whenever called on to do so. The murder of Moray is the theme of a short traditional ballad or song, the simple pathos of which is evidence that the tragedy powerfully affected popular feeling.
By his wife, Elizabeth Stewart, who died three months before him, he had two sons and three daughters : James, second earl of Moray; Sir Francis Stewart, knight of the Bath, who was well known in London literary society, and is said to have frequented the literary meetings at the Mermaid tavern; Margaret, married first to Charles Howard, earl of Nottingham, lord high admiral of England, and secondly to William, viscount Monson; May, married to John, eighth lord Abernethy of Saltoun; and Grizel, to Robert Innes of Innes.[Reg. P. C. Scotl. iv.; Moysie's Memoirs and History of James the Sext in the Bannatyne Club; Histories by Spotiswood and Calderwood; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 258-9.]