Stewart, John (1440?-1512) (DNB00)

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STEWART, Sir JOHN, of Balveny, first Earl of Atholl of a new Stewart line (1440?–1512), eldest son of Sir James Stewart, the black knight of Lorne, by Jane or Johanna [q. v.], queen dowager of James I, was born about 1440. The father, according to Lesley, was in close alliance with the Douglases (History, Bannatyne ed., p. 14); and while he and Douglas, shortly after Stewart's marriage to the queen dowager, were plotting the overthrow of Sir Alexander Livingstone [q. v.], the governor, Livingstone suddenly seized Stewart and his brother Sir William. ‘The Auchinleck Chronicle’ (p. 34) states that he put ‘thaim in pittis and bollit them,’ whatever that may mean; but anyhow Stewart was subsequently liberated as Lesley affirms, for on 22 Nov. 1445 he and his son John had a safe-conduct for a year in England (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, 1357–1509, No. 1181), and in November 1447 he and his sons had a safe-conduct for four years abroad (ib. No. 1203). The son was created Earl of Atholl in or shortly before 1457 (Rot. Scot. ii. 383), and on 25 March 1460 the king conceded to him the lands of Balveny, Banffshire (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1424–1513, No. 750), and on 20 March 1473–4 the lands of easter and wester Duncaveloch, Perthshire (ib. No. 1159).

About 1462 Donald Balloch, the famous general of John Macdonald, fourth and last lord of the Isles and eleventh earl of Ross [q. v.], made a great raid in Atholl, and, having stormed the castle of Blair, dragged the Earl and Countess of Atholl from the chapel of St. Bridget, where they had taken refuge, and took them prisoners to Isla. After plundering the chapel he endeavoured to set fire to it, but the flames refused to do their work; and on his voyage home a terrible storm of thunder and lightning overtook him, during which several of his galleys loaded with booty foundered and were lost. This so preyed upon his mind that, besides doing penance before the altar of the desecrated chapel, he released the Earl and Countess of Atholl from prison (see especially Tytler, History of Scotland, ed. 1868, ii. 192). On 8 May 1468 Atholl had a safe-conduct for six months to pass into England (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, 1357–1509, No. 1375). In 1475 he was appointed, along with David Lindsay, fifth earl of Crawford [q. v.], to the command of a powerful combined land and naval force for the reduction of the Earl of Ross, who, however, surrendered himself to the king's mercy before he was attacked. In 1480 he assisted in the subjugation of Angus of the Isles, and on 12 March 1481–2 he received a new charter of the earldom of Atholl to him and his heirs male with remainder to the crown. The reason of this regrant is supposed to have been that the dower of Mary of Gueldres had been secured on it, and that its alienation by the crown during her lifetime was a questionable proceeding. Atholl, with Huntly, in 1480 commanded the first division of the army of James III against the prince (afterwards James IV) and the rebel lords; and on that account he was, on the accession of James IV, imprisoned for a time in the fortress of Dunbar. On 2 July 1502 the king confirmed to him his charter of the thanedom of Glentilt (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1424–1513, No. 2655), and on 5 June 1506 granted him and his wife Eleanor Sinclair the lands of Buchquhairn, Banffshire. He died on 19 Sept. 1512, and was buried in Dunkeld Cathedral.

By his first wife, Margaret, dowager countess of Douglas, only daughter of Archibald Douglas, fifth earl of Douglas [q. v.], called the Fair Maid of Galloway, he had two daughters. By his second wife, Eleonora Sinclair, daughter of Sir William, third earl of Orkney and first earl of Caithness [q. v.], he had two sons, of whom John, who succeeded as second earl, was killed at Flodden, 9 Sept. 1513; and nine daughters, of whom Anne was mother of Matthew Stewart, fourth (or twelfth) earl of Lennox [q. v.] By his wife Lady Mary, third daughter of Archibald Campbell, second earl of Argyll [q. v.], the second earl had a son John (third earl) and five daughters.

John Stewart, third Earl of Atholl (d. 1542), entertained James V and the French ambassador at a great hunting match in Atholl in 1529. For this purpose he built a curious palace of wood in the midst of a ‘green meadow,’ while the table was supplied with ‘all sich delicious and sumptuous meats as was to be had in Scotland, for fleschis, fischis, and all kinds of fine wine, and spyces, requisit for ane prince,’ at the daily expense, according to Pitscottie, of ‘ane thousand poundes’ (Scots). The third earl died in 1542, leaving by his first wife, Grizel, daughter of Sir John Rattray, two sons and five daughters, of whom John [q. v.], the eldest son, became fourth earl of Atholl, and by his second wife, Jean, youngest daughter of John, sixth lord Forbes, two daughters.

[Bishop Lesley's Hist. of Scotland, Auchinleck Chronicle; Lindsay of Pitscottie's Chronicle; Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, 1351–1509; Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1424–1513; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 140–1.]

T. F. H.