Stewart, John (1381?-1424) (DNB00)

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STEWART, JOHN, Earl of Buchan (1381?–1424), born about 1381, was the eldest son of the second marriage of Robert Stewart, first duke of Albany [q. v.] The first notice of him is in a grant made before 1399 to him and his younger brothers, Andrew and Robert, of the lands of Coull and O'Neil in Aberdeenshire (Exchequer Rolls, vol. iv. p. clxxxi), and in later years, it is said, his valour obtained for him the popular epithet of ‘brave John O'Coul.’ He held only the rank of ‘squire’ in 1406, but on 20 Sept. of that year (Duncan Stewart, History of the Stewarts, p. 114) he received from his father, then governor of Scotland, the earldom of Buchan, which had fallen to the crown by the death of his uncle, Alexander Stewart (1343?–1405?) [q. v.] In 1407 he was appointed chamberlain of Scotland, an office which he held till his death, and in 1415 he succeeded his niece, Euphemia Lesley, in the earldom of Ross.

The events which gained fame for the earl began in 1418, when an embassy arrived from France earnestly pleading for Scottish aid to assist the dauphin (afterwards Charles VII) against the English. In answer the earl led a force of six thousand Scots by sea to Rochelle in Spanish and other ships provided, and arrived at the French court in October 1419. He and the other Scottish leaders were well received, but no special occasion arose for distinguishing themselves, and the earl appears to have returned to Scotland on a mission for more money and more men. He was again in France in the early part of 1421, when the Scots and their allies under his command completely defeated the English at Beaugé. The English leader, the Duke of Clarence, was slain, and his death has been ascribed to Buchan's own hand, but this is doubtful; in a letter announcing the victory to the dauphin the earl only states that the duke had been killed [see Thomas, Duke of Clarence, d. 1421]. This success won for the earl the office of constable of France, and he also received the remarkable gift of the person of an astrologer, who is said to have predicted the deaths of Charles VI and Henry V. The earl marched into Normandy, took Avranches and laid siege to Alençon, while he also gained other places for the dauphin. About this time overtures were made to him by his native prince, James I, then in France with the English king, but he and the other Scots refused to lay down their arms.

The earl was not present at the battle of Crevant, where the Scots were defeated, as he had returned to Scotland for reinforcements. He induced Archibald Douglas, fourth earl of Douglas [q. v.], his father-in-law, to engage in the French service, and a force of ten thousand well-equipped Scots landed in France in the beginning of 1424. Their warlike career, however, was brief, as on 17 Aug. of that year the Scots and French under the two earls were defeated with great slaughter by the English near the town of Verneuil [see John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford]. Buchan commanded the centre, chiefly composed of Scots, and when at a critical moment they were deprived of their supports, they fought so bravely and stubbornly, refusing all quarter, that nearly nine thousand were left dead on the field. Among these was Buchan, who fell covered with wounds, and was buried at Tours on 24 Aug. in the same tomb with the Earl of Douglas.

The earl married, about 1413, Elizabeth, daughter of Archibald, fourth earl of Douglas, by whom he had a daughter Margaret, who became the wife of George, lord Seton. Elizabeth Douglas afterwards became the wife successively of Thomas Stewart, master of Mar, and William Sinclair, third earl of Orkney [q. v.]

A portrait is given in Pinkerton's ‘Iconographia Scotica,’ 1797. The original is said to be at Chambord in France. Another bearing his name is shown at Amondell, Linlithgowshire, the seat of the present Earl of Buchan. Their authenticity, however, cannot be positively asserted.

[Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol. iv.; The Scots Guards in France, 2 vols., by William Forbes-Leith, S. J.; Fordun's Scotichronicon, ed. Goodall, ii. 459–64; Michel's Les Écossais en France, vol. i.]

J. A-n.