Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stewart, Alexander (1454?-1485)
STEWART, ALEXANDER, Duke of Albany (1454?–1485), born about 1454, was the second son of James II of Scotland [q. v.] and Mary of Gueldres [q. v.] He was created by his father Earl of March and Lord of Annandale in 1455, and payments for his clothes and to his nurse appear in the exchequer rolls between that year and 1457. In the parliament of 1456 his marriage, as well as those of his two brothers, Prince James (afterwards James III), John Stewart, earl of Mar [q. v.], and his sister Mary, was already under consideration. Before 1458 he must have been created Duke of Albany, for in that year he is so styled in the entry of an allowance for horses when he was brought from Stirling to Edinburgh. He had also received a grant of the lordship of the Isle of Man. Such titles in childhood left little for the ambition of youth except the crown. Four years after his father's death at Roxburgh in 1464, he was sent by his mother, on the advice of Bishop James Kennedy [q. v.], to Guelderland, but, in spite of the recently concluded truce and a safe-conduct granted on 20 April 1463, was captured on the voyage by an English vessel [see Spens, Thomas de.]. The remonstrances of the Scottish government procured his release, and he appears to have lived in St. Andrews under the care of Bishop Kennedy until the bishop's death on 10 May 1465. Preparations were made for his reception at Berwick between 25 June 1465 and 25 June 1466, so he probably came thither about that time. When only a boy of thirteen, according to the usual date assigned to his birth, he is mentioned as holding a court at Dunbar, no doubt for his vassals in the earldom, where his state as a feudal baron is shown by his having his own justiciar and treasurer, granting fiefs, and collecting customs. For ten years we get only occasional glimpses of Albany, but they show him taking an active part in the defence and government of the kingdom. He was created high admiral of Scotland. As warden of the marches and Earl of March he held Dunbar, and as Lord of Annandale the castle of Lochmaben. While still under age he sat in the parliament of 1471. In 1472 he was appointed governor of Berwick and lieutenant of the kingdom. In April 1474, in expectation of an English raid headed by the Duke of Gloucester (afterwards Richard III) on the west and middle marches, Albany summoned a muster of the lieges at Lauder; but the raid was not made. Privateering had, however, commenced at sea, and Edward IV had to send his almoner, Dr. Alexander Legh [q. v.], as an envoy to Scotland to make reparation for the loss of a royal ship, the Yellow Carvel, which had been taken by the Duke of Gloucester's May Flower, and for another vessel of the laird of Luss taken by Lord Grey.
The last seven years of the life of Albany are crowded with romance and tragedy. The contrast in the character and ambition of the three brothers of the royal house (James III, Albany, and the Earl of Mar) burst into full light; the Scottish court became the scene of fratricidal strife and the country of revolution. Albany's offices and lands on the marches brought him into conflict with the two most powerful barons of the borders, Hepburn and Hume [see Hepburn, Patrick, third Lord Hailes and first Earl of Bothwell; Home or Hume,, Sir Alexander, first Lord Home]. Probably towards the end of 1479 the hostility latent in their character and fomented by their advisers broke out. Both sides attributed the rupture to magical arts. Albany fortified Dunbar against the royal forces, and both he and his brother, the Earl of Mar, were seized by the king's command. Mar, committed to Craigmillar, soon after died [see Stewart, John, Earl of Mar]. Albany was put in ward in the castle of Edinburgh. His escape was accompanied or magnified by incidents which seized the popular imagination. A French ship in the Forth succeeded in sending him two casks of malmsey which had stowed in them, wrapped in wax, a paper with secret instructions and a ‘tow’ or rope. Albany invited the captain of the castle to share the wine, and, when he had partaken of it too freely, aided by a chamber child or valet, slew him and three of his guard, whose bodies were cast into the fire. The chamber child let himself down with the rope over the castle wall. It proved too short, and he fell and broke his thigh. Albany, forewarned, used his sheets to lengthen it and, reaching the ground, carried the child on his back to a place of safety, and, himself escaping to Newhaven, near Leith, boarded the French ship, which carried him to France. He arrived in Paris in September 1479, and was received by order of Louis XI at the gate of St. Antoine by M. de Gancourt as royal lieutenant, and lodged at the king's expense at the Sign of the Coq, in the Rue St.-Martin, with a Scottish denizen, Monypenny, seigneur de Concressault, to attend him. His marriage with Anne, daughter of the Comte d'Auvergne et de Boulogne, was celebrated on 10 Feb. 1480. Before May 1482 he crossed to England in the Mickle Carvel, a vessel in the service of Edward IV, and from this time his life was spent in a treasonable alliance with that king and intrigues with his own countrymen to acquire his brother's crown at the price of the independence of Scotland.
On 10 June 1482 Albany made a treaty with Edward at Fotheringay to do homage and to transfer Berwick to the English king, and fourteen days after he was conducted to Edinburgh. Edward undertook to warrant Scotland to Albany against James, and to give his daughter Cecilia, though already contracted to the infant son of James, in marriage to Albany if he could clear himself ‘from all other women,’ a curious expression which perhaps indicates that his first marriage required full legal dissolution. The English army, sixty thousand strong, under Gloucester and Albany, was, in execution of the agreement, summoned to Alnwick early in July 1482. Albany assumed the humiliating title, which recalls John Baliol, of ‘king’ of Scotland by the gift of the king of England, and the nobles who favoured him, headed by Angus Bell-the-Cat [see Douglas, Archibald, fifth Earl of Angus], met at the kirk of Lauder, hanged Cochrane and other royal favourites over the bridge, and seized the person of the king. Gloucester and Albany now marched through the Merse and Lothian to Edinburgh, burning the villages on their way, and Berwick surrendered to Thomas, lord Stanley (afterwards first Earl of Derby) [q. v.] on 24 Aug.
Meantime a change had taken place at Edinburgh. The Scottish nobles who had possession of the king were willing to acknowledge Albany, but wanted to ignore Gloucester. In the beginning of August Albany and Gloucester, with the English army, lay at Lethington, near Haddington. James was in the castle of Edinburgh under the custody of his uncles, the Earls of Atholl and Buchan. The king's supporters, of whom the chief were Andrew Stewart, Lord Avandale, the chancellor [q. v.], the bishops of St. Andrews and Dunkeld, and the Earl of Argyll, still held the town. On 2 Aug. they agreed to obtain the restoration of Albany to his lands and offices if he would promise to be faithful to King James. Albany accepted the offer, and left Gloucester's camp for Edinburgh on the following day, but before he left took an oath in Gloucester's presence that he would perform all he had promised to King Edward at Fotheringay. A proclamation was at once issued in the name of James in Edinburgh appointing Albany lieutenant-general of the kingdom, and summoning the lieges to meet at Cranshaws, a hamlet and fortress of the Lammermuirs in Berwickshire, and raise the siege both of Edinburgh and Berwick. Gloucester, not unnaturally, remonstrated, and, after some diplomatic fencing, it was agreed between Gloucester and Albany, on 24 Aug., that there should be a truce till 8 Sept. 1483, and that Berwick should be rendered to the English, which was at once done. Gloucester waived, until he could communicate with his royal master, consideration of a third article that the debatable land should remain in statu quo. Meantime the provost and council of Edinburgh had, by Albany's desire, written on 4 Aug. to the English, offering either to stand by the proposal for the marriage of the prince of Scotland to Princess Cecilia, or to repay the instalments of her dowry, already paid in advance. Edward, with apparent hesitation, accepted the latter alternative, and this was announced by Garter king-of-arms, who came to Edinburgh on 27 Oct. James was released from Edinburgh Castle on 29 Sept., and in token of their amity the two brothers rode together from the castle to Holyrood, it was said on the same horse, and slept in the same bed. Albany was not only restored to his estates, but created Earl of Mar and Garioch; and the town of Edinburgh, in return for its services in aiding Albany in liberating James, received a charter, with an ample grant of privileges, on 14 Nov.
In the same month James obtained a safe-conduct from the English king to enable him to make a pilgrimage to Amiens. This was probably a suggestion of Albany's, which the king was prudent enough not to carry out; for had he left the kingdom Albany would have seized the crown. On 2 Dec. a parliament, over which Albany presided in the king's absence, met at Edinburgh, in which new officers of state appear who were all in Albany's interest. It requested the king to ask Albany to act as lieutenant-general of the kingdom, and ordered preparations for its defence, but urged that peace should, if possible, be made with England. About Christmas Albany seems to have attempted to seize the person of the king, but, failing through the king's return to the castle under the protection of some of his nobles, himself went to Dunbar. From Dunbar he sent Angus Gray and Sir James Liddel of Hetherston as his special envoys, on 12 Jan. 1483, to treat with Edward concerning what had been formerly agreed between them, and they, having met the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Grey, and Sir William Parr, Edward's commissioners, entered into a new treaty on 11 Feb. at Westminster, which enlarged the articles of Fotheringay. The Duke agreed, as soon as he obtained the Scottish crown, to become the liegeman of the king of England, to dissolve the alliance with France, and assist the king of England in its conquest; to cede Berwick; to aid the Earl of Douglas in recovering his Scottish estates, and to marry a daughter of Edward IV. Two days later a warrant for a safe-conduct to the Earl of Douglas was issued to the chancellor.
Albany, however, whose duplicity at this period exceeded even the limits of the diplomacy of that age, within little more than a month, on 19 March 1483, entered into an indenture at Dunbar with his brother, by which he resigned his office of lieutenant-general of the kingdom, retaining that of warden of the marches; declared false the rumour that there had been an attempt to poison him, and promised not to come within six miles of the king without leave. He received in return a remission of all charges of treasonable intrigue with England. The treasonable plot with England, the full details of which were unknown at the time in Scotland, or by any Scottish historian until last century, was shattered by the death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483, and on 22 June Gloucester, after slaying his nephews in the Tower, seized the English throne. Only five days after, on 27 June, Albany was indicted, and on 8 July condemned in absence for treason, and his life, lands, and offices forfeited. Soon afterwards he returned to England, having given over Dunbar to an English garrison. Next year, on 22 July, along with Douglas, he made a daring raid on Lochmaben with five hundred horse; but the country rose, Douglas was captured and sent to Lindores, where he became a monk. Albany escaped by the swiftness of his horse over the border, but before long returned to France, where he was killed in 1485 by misadventure by a splinter from a lance when a spectator at a tournament between the Duke of Orleans and a knight. He was buried in the choir of the church of the Celestines in Paris, near the tomb of Leo, king of Armenia; the dukes of Orleans and Lorraine and other princes attending his obsequies.
Albany was brave, but equally faithless in love and war. A traitor both to his brother and his country, he does not seem to have deserved the popularity which he had at one time in Scotland and till his death in France. No portrait of him is known, but Pitscottie has described his person in vivid colours: ‘For this Alexander was ane man of mid stature, braid scholderit, and weill proportionat in all his memberis, and in special in his face, that is to say, braid facit, raid nosit, great eyit, and verie awful countenance quhen he pleisit to schew himself unto his unfrendis.’ Albany married about 1475 his cousin in the fourth degree, Catharine Sinclair, daughter of William, third earl of Orkney and first earl of Caithness [q. v.], by Margaret Douglas; and three sons and a daughter appear to have been born of the marriage. The daughter Margaret is believed to have married Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavel, and to have been the mother of Patrick Hamilton [q. v.] the martyr. One son, Alexander, became bishop of Moray in 1527. This marriage was dissolved on the ground of propinquity by the official of Lothian on 9 March 1478, a dissolution confirmed by parliament on 13 Nov. 1516. This step was taken in order to set at rest doubts as to the legitimacy of Albany's son John, duke of Albany [q. v.], the only child of his second wife, Anne, third daughter of Bertrand, count de la Tour d'Auvergne. Albany married her in France in 1480, and she appears to have died in 1487. The confirmation by parliament raised the doubts of later historians, and its occasion was certainly not above suspicion. Chalmers (Caledonia, ii. 268 note p) argued with ingenuity that the certificate of the divorce under the hand of George Newton, clerk of the official in 1516, which was laid before parliament, was forged. But the chief ground of his doubt that John of Otterburn, the official by whom the decree was pronounced, was not official at its date has since been removed (Exchequer Rolls, vol. ix. p. lvii note 1). The facts that the bishop of Moray did not contest the sentence which declared his own illegitimacy, and that in 1488 a proposal was made by James III for the marriage of Albany to a sister of Edward IV, the Duchess of Burgundy, widow of Charles the Bold, outweigh the doubts of Chalmers, which have not been accepted by other historians. Edward declined the proposed marriage through his envoy, Dr. Legh, then in Scotland, not upon the ground of Albany's being already married, but because, ‘after the old usage of our realms, no estate or person honourable communeth of marriage within the year of their dool’ (Edward IV to Dr. Legh, Cotton MS. Vesp. cxvi. f. 121, printed in Pinkerton, i. 501).[Acts of Parliament of Scotland, ii., Exchequer Rolls, vols. viii–ix.; Rymer's Fœdera; the Histories of Leslie and Lindsay of Pitscottie; Michel's Les Écossais en France, les Français en Écosse; Pinkerton's and Tytler's Histories.]