Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany

Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany

Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany (c. 1454 – 7 August 1485) was the second son of King James II of Scotland, and his Queen consort Mary of Gueldres, daughter of Arnold, Duke of Gelderland.

Created Duke of Albany before 1458, he also received the earldom of March, and lordships of Annandale and the Isle of Man. In 1460 he travelled to the continent, and to Gueldres, the land of his maternal family. On his return in 1464 he was captured by the English. ["Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" ["ODNB"] , R. J. Tanner, "Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany"] He was soon released, and as he grew to manhood began to take part in the government and defence of Scotland, being appointed in quick succession Lord High Admiral of Scotland and Warden of the Marches. Some of his actions on the marches aroused suspicion, suggesting sharp practice and a policy of border violence and truce breaking against England that contravened James III's 1474 marriage alliance. ["ODNB" loc. cit] In 1479 the seat of his earldom of March was seized, although accounts of his imprisonment in Edinburgh castle at this time appear to be mis dated. ["ODNB" loc. cit] Albany fled by sea to Paris where in September 1479 was welcomed by King Louis XI, and received royal favour by his marriage to Anne de la Tour. Louis, however, would not assist him to attack his brother the king, and crossing to England he made a treaty with King Edward IV at Fotheringhay in June 1482. ["ODNB" loc. cit]

By the Treaty of Fotheringhay he promised to hold Scotland under English suzerainty in return for Edward's assistance and to deliver the southern shires into English possession. With Richard, Duke of Gloucester, afterwards King Richard III, he marched at the head of one of the largest English armies to be assembled after the Wars of Independence - 20,000 men - to Berwick, which was seized (the last time it would change hands between England and Scotland) and then (with a smaller force) to Edinburgh. ["ODNB" loc. cit] Meanwhile James III was seized at Lauder Bridge as he marched to face the invasion, and was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle. It has been suggested that there was a conspiracy between Albany and a group of magnates who had been excluded from power in the 1470s, including the king's Stewart half-uncles, the earls of Atholl, Buchan and the bishop-elect of Moray, although evidence is limited. ["ODNB" loc. cit] Gloucester, meanwhile, seems to have been satisfied with the seizure of Berwick, and left Edinburgh on 11 August. At that point the 'Lauder Lords' in Edinburgh Castle emerged and began to work with Albany to create a new government whereby by early October Albany had become lieutenant-general of the realm, and taken the earldom of Mar, along with the restoration of his former lands and offices. ["ODNB" loc. cit] Yet the adoption of the earldom of Mar seems to have angered George Gordon, earl of Huntly, one of the most powerful magnated in the country and who had designs on the earldom himself, who came to the parliament of December 1482 where Albany hoped to have the lieutenant-generalship confirmed. The king meanwhile managed to persuade a number of the 'Lauder Lords' to return to loyalty to him, most notably Lord Darnley, keeper of Edinburgh Castle, Atholl and the Bishop of Dunkeld. As a result the parliament passed a range of mutually contradictory acts, and Albany fled to Dunbar between Christmas and the new year. On 2 January 1483 Albany made a second, abortive, attempt to seize the king, and on 19 March, Albany was able to force the king into a humiliating indenture, after Edward IV promised the duke further aid on 11 February. ["ODNB" loc. cit] It was the death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483 that finally destroyed Albany's position of strength in the kingdom, and shortly afterwards he fled south, letting an English garrison into Dunbar Castle as he went. ["ODNB" loc. cit]

In July 1484 Albany once again invaded Scotland, this time with a small force with the long-exiled James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas. The Battle of Lochmaben ensued, where the invasion was defeated, Douglas was captured, while Albany fled south again. The invasion had no support from Richard III, and failed to find any Scottish support in the former estates of Albany and Douglas ["ODNB" loc. cit] The author of Albany's most recent biography claims that there may have been a further attempt to return to Scotland in 1485. The persistent story of Albany's escape from Edinburgh castle, usually misdated to 1479 or 1482/3 by chroniclers, instead is claimed to have occurred in 1485. Certainly Albany's closest ally and fellow exile James Liddale of Halkerston is found imprisoned awaiting execution at this time, suggesting he had returned to Scotland with Albany, and a chronicle account that claims Albany killed the 'laird of Manerston' (a minor but trusted royal official) may be confirmed by Manerston's death before 14 October 1485. Albany fled for the last time, again to France, where he was killed shortly afterwards in a joust in Paris, allegedly by a splinter entering his eye. He was buried in the Celestine church. ["ODNB" loc. cit]

Family and children

Albany's first wife was Catherine, daughter of William Sinclair, 3rd Earl of Orkney, who bore him three sons and a daughter. This marriage was dissolved in 1478, and as its issue was regarded as illegitimate the title of duke of Albany descended to John (1484-1536, see below), his only son by his second wife, Anne de la Tour d'Auvergne, daughter of Bertrand VI, count of Auvergne and of Boulogne, whom he married in 1480. Alexander and Anne also had a daughter, Maud Stewart, who died young. A son of his first marriage, another Alexander Stewart (before 1477 - 9 December 1537), became bishop of Moray and left lots of illegitimate issue. There was also another son, Andrew Stewart, from the first marriage.The surviving daughter of Alexander, called Margaret Catherine Stewart, was reportedly a bastard and not born of either of his wives. She married Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavil (who died 30.4.1520).

Further reading

1. Norman Macdougall, James III: A Political Study (Edinburgh, 1982).

2. Roland Tanner, The Late Medieval Scottish Parliament: Politics and the Three Estates 1424-1488 (East Linton, 2000).



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