The story of our family...for my sons

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

John Stewart

John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl (born c. 1440 – 19 September 1512), also known as Sir John Stewart of Balveny, was a Scottish nobleman and ambassador to England (in 1484). He was the oldest child of Joan Beaufort, widowed Queen of James I of Scotland, and her second husband Sir James Stewart, the Black Knight of Lorn.

When that king in 1450 finally overthrew the last Earl of Douglas, he found a fair Lady on his hands. This lady, known from her beauty as the Fair Maid of Galloway, was the heiress to all the great Douglas estates, and, as a child, had been married in succession by William, Earl of Douglas, whom James stabbed in Stirling Castle, and his brother, Earl James, who was overthrown at Arkinholme. While Earl James fled into exile in England, from which he was only to return to die a monk at Lindores, the king procured a divorce for his fair young wife, and married her to his own half-brother, John, son of Queen Joan and the Black Knight of Lorn. He conferred upon the pair the Douglas lordship of Balveny, and they became presently Earl and Countess of Atholl.

He was created Earl of Atholl in around 1457, the first Earl of the eighth creation of the title. He is believed to have had a hand in suppressing the rebellion of the Earl of Ross, the last of the Lords of the Isles. He was buried in Dunkeld Cathedral in Perthshire.

Another Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl, was the son of Alexander, High Steward of Scotland, and the ancestor of this West Highland clan. One of his descendants obtained the Lordship of Lorn through marriage to the heiress of Lorn. Sir John Stewart of Lorn was murdered at Dunstaffnage Castle about 1463, and his son Dougal became 1st chief of Appin. He unsuccessfully tried to recover the Lordship of Lorn.

The clan fought at the Battles of Flodden and Pinkie. At Pinkie the clan was led by Donald Stewart of Invernahyle, known as "Donald nam Ord". In 1645, they supported Montrose at the Battle of Inverlochy and in the same year also fought at Auldearn and Kilsyth. The chief of Appin was outlawed and his lands forfeited, but they were returned to him after the Restoration. The clan joined Viscount Dundee´s campaign in 1688/89 and supported the Jacobites in both Risings. After the Battle of Culloden, the banner of the Appin regiment was one of the few saved from destruction.

In 1765, the estate was sold by the 9th chief, who was succeeded in the chiefship by his cousin Duncan, 6th chief of Ardsheil, who became 10th chief of Appin in 1769. In 1782, he obtained the restoration of his confiscated paternal estate of Lorn.


  1. Hi Mason! I'm looking for further information on John Stewart 1st Earl of Atholl, as he is an ancestor to my husband. I'm curious - where did you find this portrait? I've not been able to locate any paintings or other visual identification of him.

    1. You will find this portrait attributed to James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, 1612 - 1650 on numerous websites.