Stewart, William (1481?-1550?) (DNB00)

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STEWART, WILLIAM (1481?–1550?), Scots chronicler and verse-writer, born about 1481, was great-grandson of one of the illegitimate sons of Alexander Stewart, earl of Buchan [q. v.], and was thus descended from Robert II, king of Scotland. He was educated like his namesake, William Stewart (1479–1545) [q. v.] (afterwards bishop of Aberdeen), at St. Andrews, where apparently he was a determinant in 1499, and first of the licentiates in 1501. He was destined for the church, and possibly some of the minor preferments assigned to the future bishop were really held by the chronicler. Before 1526 he became a frequenter of the court, and the treasurer's accounts in that and the succeeding years contain entries of various payments and presents to him from James V; in 1527 he held a pension of 20l. which was doubled before 1530. The last entry referring to him occurs in 1541, and he was dead before 1560.

Sir David Lyndsay, writing in 1530, mentions Stewart among the poets of James V's court, and John Rolland [q. v.], in his prologue to the ‘Seven Sages’ (1560), classes him with John Bellenden [q. v.] and Bishop Andrew Durie (d. 1558) among his ‘masters.’ The collections of George Bannatyne (1545–1608?) [q. v.] and Sir Richard Maitland, lord Lethington [q. v.], contain several poems ascribed to Stewart, but only one, beginning ‘This hinder nicht, neir by the hour of nyne,’ is inscribed with his name. But he had probably written much verse, which has been lost, before 1528, when he was commissioned by James V to prepare a metrical version of the history of Hector Boece [q. v.] This work had been published in Latin at Paris in 1527, and James requested Bellenden to translate it into Scots prose and Stewart into Scots verse. Bellenden's version appeared in 1536, but Stewart's, which was begun in 1531, remained in manuscript until 1858, when it was published in three volumes in the Rolls Series. It was edited by William Barclay Turnbull [q. v.] from a unique manuscript which, after being in the possession of Hew Craufurd of Cloverhill, Bishop Moore, and George I, was presented by the last-named to Cambridge University library (Kk. ii. 16). Stewart's style is rugged and ungrammatical, but his translation contains some graphic descriptions. He shows an acquaintance with the works of John Mair or Major, Froissart, and Fordun, and he made some notable additions to Boece's original—for example in the account of the siege of Perth by the Danes in 1041, in which he introduces Macbeth and Banquo (Turnbull, pref. pp. xvi–xxiii). Stewart's account is fuller than that of Boece. Holinshed, who is usually supposed to have been Shakespeare's authority, is far more meagre than either of his predecessors (Notes and Queries, 8th ser. xi. 321–2).

[Turnbull's Preface to his edition in Rolls Ser.; Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vols. xv–xvi.; Sir David Lyndsay's Works, ed. Chalmers, i. 286; Rolland's Seven Sages, 1560.]

A. F. P.