John Stewart, Duke of Albany

John Stewart, Duke of Albany

John Stewart, Duke of Albany (1481 or 1484 – 2 July 1536 in Mirfleur, France) was Regent of the Kingdom of Scotland, Duke of Albany in peerage of Scotland and count-consort of Auvergne and Lauraguais in France.


John was a son of Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany, son of King James II of Scotland. He was the only son of his father's second marriage, to Anne de la Tour d'Auvergne, daughter of Bertrand VI of Auvergne. The ambitious though unsuccessful Alexander had fled Scotland to France in 1479, and married Anne. He then returned to Scotland after reconciliation with his brother the king, but in 1483 fled to France a second time, being placed in Scotland under a sentence of death for treason. John was born in France, although it is unclear whether this was during his father's first or second stay there, and grew up there with his French mother.

Alexander was killed in Paris accidentally in a tournament in 1485 when John was still an infant. He had earlier been married with Catherine Sinclair, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Orkney, but that marriage had been dissolved in 1478, however having produced half-brothers to John. Question of their illegitimacy caused uncertainty in succession, but the infant John was eventually recognized as duke after his father's death. He thus inherited Duchy of Albany and Earldom of March.

On 15 February 1487 his mother the Dowager Duchess Anne married, second time, Louis de Seyssel, comte de La Chambre, who became John's stepfather.

Heir Presumptive

Albany was his whole life the next heir of the Kingdom of Scotland after male members of the king's immediate family, due to stipulations of the Semi-Salic succession order enacted by Robert II of Scotland which favored male agnates over all females of the Royal House of Stewart. The sons of the immediate royal family proved to be short-lived except Albany's first cousins James, Duke of Ross, James IV of Scotland and the latter's son the future James V of Scotland (who died in 1542, only five years after Albany).

Thus Albany was from 1504 onwards either the heir presumptive or the second-in-line to the throne of Kingdom of Scotland. After 1504, despite which minor was heir in front of him, Albany was always the closest heir who was not underage. During the minority of King James V of Scotland, Albany acted as regent intermittently between 1514 and 1524.

On 8 July 1505 the young Albany married his first cousin Anne, Countess of Auvergne and Lauraguais (eldest daughter and heiress of Albany's maternal uncle John III, Count of Auvergne who had died in 1501). Thus John started to enjoy the position and rights of Count of Auvergne and Lauraguais in France, until Anne's death in 1524. A manuscript detailing her estate with pictures of her castles still exists (see references).

Albany's mother Anne, Countess of La Chambre, died on 13 October 1512. (The stepfather, Louis de La Chambre, lived until 1517.)

Regency of Scotland

Albany was called to assume the regency (or guardianship) in 1514 when the infant king's mother, Dowager Queen Margaret married again to the Scottish noble, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, who led his own faction in Scotland and was opposed by other factions. Albany utilized the Scottish nobility’s innate distrust of Margaret. After two years' uneasy situation, in 1516 Margaret had to flee to England (Albany besieged the queen at Stirling and got possession of the royal children) and Albany thus succeeded in making himself the sole regent. The fragmentary and quarrelous politics of Scotland overthrew and also restored Albany's powers several times.

The earl of Angus made his peace with Albany later in 1516. Between 1517 to 1520 Albany sojourned in France, and did not exercise the regency on spot, but through his lieutenants. Queen Margaret sought to regain the regency, but in vain. Young king James was kept a virtual prisoner by Albany, and queen Margaret was allowed to see her son only once between 1516 and end of Albany's regency. Margaret started to try get a divorce from Angus, also through Albany secretly. Albany returned to Scotland in 1521 and Margaret now sided with him against her husband. Thus Albany was able to keep upper hand in regard to ambitious Angus. The regent took the government into his own hands. Albany put Angus under charges of high treason in December 1521, and later sent him practically a prisoner to France.

The 12-year-old James V's minority was proclaimed to end in 1524, as Queen Dowager Margaret and her supporters (such as Albany's first cousin, James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran) wanted to grab power. Albany was ousted completely by this. In 1524 Angus returned to Scotland, and took Edinburgh in February 1525. The subsequently summoned parliament sealed, in turn also the Queen's defeat by making Angus a "Lord of the Articles", included in the "Council of Regency", and bearer of the king's crown on the opening of the session, and with Archbishop Beaton held the chief power.

Albany had (with Jean Abernethy) an illegitimate daughter, Eleanor Stewart, who married Jean de L'Hopital, comte de Choisy (d. 1578). From their son Jacques de L'Hospital, 1st Marquess of Choisy, descends issue, for example the Dukes of Castries and the MacMahon Dukes of Magenta.

After his overthrow from Scottish regency, Albany lived mainly in France. John's French wife, Duchess Anne died in St.Saturnin in June 1524. This was just after their only daughter, Anne Stewart (Anne de Stuart d'Auvergne) died in her teens and without any children of her own. Duchess Anne left her inheritance (Auvergne) to her infant niece, donna Catherine de' Medici (b. 1519), daughter of John's first cousin and Anne's younger sister the late Madeleine of Auvergne. Catherine, or rather her guardians in France, thus received the county of Auvergne.

Military service in France and the Four Years' War

During the Italian Wars (1521-1525), between France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, Albany was placed in command of a third of Francis I's Army and sent to attack the Papal forces and to launch an attack on Naples, then held by the Spanish. Due to inept leadership the remaining two thirds of the army met with Imperial forces at Pavia in 1525 and were routed with Francis and countless other French Nobles taken hostage. Albany's section of the army suffered numerous ambushes and desertions, and he returned to a cowed France without having reached Naples.

Later years

In 1533, Catherine, one of his closest surviving relatives, who held him as an uncle and sort of guardian, came from Italy to marry Henry, Duke of Orleans, second son of king Francis I. In 1536, young Henry became Dauphin of France and Catherine was destined to become queen.

Sir Jean de Stuart, a grandson of John's first cousin, Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Lennox came to France in 1530s, married a lady and received the lordship of Aubigny.

When Albany, the penultimate unquestionably legitimate agnate of the Royal House of Stewart, died in 1536, the position of next heir of Scotland went for the first time to a descendant from the female line, who at the time was James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran (c. 1516-75), son of another grandson of king James II.



* [ Original manuscript c1505 with pictures of Auvergne castles belonging to Anne de la tour Princesse d'Ecossse. ]

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