Stewart, Alexander (1375?-1435) (DNB00)

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STEWART, ALEXANDER, Earl of Mar (1375?–1435), born about 1375, was natural son of Alexander Stewart, earl of Buchan [q. v.], the ‘Wolf of Badenoch,’ who himself was natural son of Robert II [q. v.] of Scotland. He was brought up to his father's trade as a leader of freebooters, but in 1404, by one of the most daring acts of that lawless age, ‘he raised himself from a captain of robbers to be one of the greatest men in Scotland’ (Exchequer Rolls, 1406–1436, pref. p. lxxiii). This deed was the seizure and marriage of Isabel (1360?–1408), countess of Mar in her own right. She was only daughter and heir of Margaret, countess of Mar, in her own right, by her first husband, William Douglas, first earl of Douglas [q. v.] (her second husband was Sir John Swinton [q. v.]). By the death of her only brother James, second earl of Douglas, in 1388, Isabel had come into the Douglas estates, and in 1390 she succeeded to her mother's earldom of Mar. She had married Sir Malcolm Drummond, the brother of Robert III's wife, Annabella.

Alexander Stewart determined to obtain this lady's hand, fortune, and title. His first step was to instigate the murder of Drummond, which was accomplished in May 1403. In August of the following year, at the head of a body of marauders, he laid siege to the castle of Kildrummy, where the widowed countess resided, and on the 12th he compelled her to make a charter settling on him and his heirs, in default of her own issue, the earldom of Mar. This charter he resigned on 19 Sept. following, when the countess chose him ‘in free marriage’ for her husband, and settled on him and their issue the earldom of Mar, castle of Kildrummy, and other estates. The marriage took place on 14 Dec. 1404, and the arrangement subsequently received the necessary royal confirmation. From this date Stewart became known as the Earl of Mar. His wife died before 10 Feb. 1407–8, leaving no issue.

This change in his fortunes rendered Stewart in appearance at least a supporter of law and order, and in 1406 he was one of the ambassadors sent to England to treat for peace. On 6 April 1407 he received a safe-conduct until Michaelmas to go to England and tilt with Edmund Holland, fourth earl of Kent [see under Holland, Thomas, second Earl], and he is said to have distinguished himself in the encounter (Cal. Doc. relating to Scotland, 1221–1435, No. 730; Wyntoun, c. 27). In the following year he led a body of auxiliaries to help William of Bavaria, Count of Holland and Hainault, in restoring his brother John to the bishopric of Liège, from which he had been expelled by a revolt of the citizens. On the way Mar visited Paris, where by his courtesy he endeavoured to secure the favour of the French (Michel, Les Ecossais en France, i. 109–10). He took part in the storming of Liège on 23 Sept. (Juvenal des Ursins, Hist. de Charles VI, ed. Godefroy, p. 417; Wyntoun, ii. 421–40; Mémoires de Pierre de Fenin, pp. 8–14; Monstrelet, Chroniques, i. 351, ii. 17; Monk of St. Denis, ii. 684), and his exploits are recorded in a ballad printed in ‘Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire de France et de Bourgogne,’ 1729, i. 373. While in Flanders he married his second wife, Marie, daughter and heir of Willelm van Hoorn of Duffel in Brabant, and widow of Thierry de Lienden (d. 1408), and as a result of this visit he is said to have first introduced Hungarian horses into Scotland (Stewart, Metrical Version of Hector Boece, iii. 550). On 4 Oct. 1408 he received a safe-conduct to visit England, probably on his way back, in order to confer with the young king, James I (Cal. Doc. relating to Scotland, 1221–1435, No. 772). In 1409 he captured at sea a ship called the Thomas, belonging to Sir Richard Whittington [q. v.] and other merchants of London (ib. No. 789).

In 1410 Mar was summoned by the regent Albany to concert measures for resisting Donald Macdonald, second lord of the Isles [q. v.], who had invaded Ross to make good his title to that earldom. In 1411 he was placed in command of the royal forces, and on 24 July at Harlaw, in ‘one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles ever fought on Scottish soil,’ he defeated Donald. His services were amply rewarded; he received a pension of 200l. secured on the customs of Aberdeen, and other sums from those of Dundee, Montrose, and Edinburgh. In the following year he was employed in reconstructing the castle of Inverness, to act as a check on the turbulence of the highlands. In April 1416 he again received a safe-conduct to go to England, and in the same year he furnished ships for service against the islanders. In March 1424 he was appointed conservator of the seven years' truce with England, and was also made warden of the marches. On 16 Nov. 1420 he entered into a curious agreement with the regent Albany [see Stewart, Murdac], becoming his ‘man of speciall feale and reteneu,’ while Albany bestowed on him half the profits of the office of justiciary of the north, and empowered him to ‘infeft’ his natural son Thomas in the earldom of Mar. His life rent in the earldom of Mar was thus converted into a fee, defrauding the rightful heir, Robert, lord Erskine, a cousin of the Countess Isabella. This arrangement was confirmed by royal charter in May 1426.

Unlike most of Albany's adherents, Mar remained in favour with James I when in 1424 he left England to take upon himself the government of his kingdom. He died in 1435, when, his only son Thomas having predeceased him, the earldom of Mar reverted to the crown.

[Authorities cited; Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, 1221–1435; Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1379–1406 and 1406–36, ed. Burnett, esp. pref. pp. lxxii–vi; Reg. Magni Sigilli Scotiæ, 1424–1513, passim; Rotuli Scotiæ Record, passim; Rymer's Fœdera. viii. 437, 451, &c.; Harl. MS. 4694, f. 22; Wyntoun's Chron.; Bower's Book of Pluscardine; Stewart's Metrical Version of Hector Boece (Rolls Ser.), iii. 496, 548–51; Antiquities of Aberdeen and Banff (Spalding Club), iv. 181; Pinkerton's and Tytler's Histories of Scotland; Wylie's Hist. of England under Henry IV; Wood's Douglas, i. 201–3; Burke's Extinct Peerage, p. 514; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, v. 223.]

A. F. P.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.258
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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263 ii 33 Stewart, Alexander, Earl of Mar: for duke of Burgundy, read count of Holland and Hainault,