John Stewart, Duke of Albany

John Stewart (1481 or 1484 – 2 July 1536) was the regent of the Kingdom of Scotland, the duke of Albany in the peerage of Scotland and the count of Auvergne and Lauraguais in France.

John Stewart
Governor and Protector of Scotland,
Duke of Albany,
Count of Auvergne and Lauraguais
John d'Albany.jpg
Died2 July 1536
Castle of Mirefleurs, Auvergne, France
Noble familyStewart
Spouse(s)Anne de La Tour d'Auvergne
FatherAlexander Stewart, Duke of Albany
MotherAnne de la Tour d'Auvergne

Early lifeEdit

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 married Louis de Seyssel, "comte de La Chambre", who became John's stepfather.

Heir presumptiveEdit

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 King Robert II 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, King James IV and the latter's son the future King James V (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, 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 ScotlandEdit

Albany was called to assume the regency of Scotland in 1514 when the infant king's mother, Margaret Tudor married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. Angus led his own faction in Scotland and was opposed by other noble groups. Albany arrived at Dumbarton with a squadron of eight ships, including the James and Margaret, which James IV had lent to Louis XII of France, on 26 May 1515.[1] Albany utilized the Scottish nobility's innate distrust of Margaret. Albany besieged the queen at Stirling and got possession of the royal children, and Albany thus succeeded in making himself the sole regent. After two years of this uneasy situation, in 1516 Margaret had to flee to England. The fragmentary and quarrelous politics of Scotland overthrew and also restored Albany's powers several times.[2]

The earl of Angus made his peace with Albany later in 1516. Between 1517 and 1520 Albany sojourned in France, and did not exercise the regency on spot, but through his lieutenants including Antoine d'Arces, sieur de la Bastie. On 26 August 1517 Albany and Charles, Duke of Alençon signed the Treaty of Rouen, which renewed the "auld alliance" between France and Scotland, and promised a French royal bride for James V. The poet and diplomat Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld assisted in the negotiations.

On 16 January 1518, the duke's sister-in-law, Madeleine de la Tour who was his legal ward (pupille), married Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino at the Château d'Amboise. Lorenzo was a nephew of Pope Leo X. In April 1518 Albany attended the christening of the Dauphin Francis, Lorenzo held the child at the font as the Pope's representative. Leonardo da Vinci designed the decorations at Amboise for the ceremony. In July 1518 Albany and Lorenzo were at the Castle of Saint-Saturnin in Auvergne and made a contract dividing their wives' Auvergne heritage lands between them. In March 1519, Pope Leo X confirmed the ancient privileges of the Scottish crown noting that he acted on the supplication of Albany, his dilecti filli, "beloved nephew.".[3][note 1]

In the summer of 1520 Albany went to Rome. The Master of Papal ceremonies took offence when Albany arrived at the Vatican during Vespers and sat with the Cardinals on Ascension Day. He made Albany get up, and while waiting for the Pope, Albany sat on a Cardinal's foot-stool. Subsequently, the Cardinal of Ancona formally presented Albany's request for an audience with the Pope, as the guardian of James V. Pope Leo issued a new bull confirming his protection of Scotland and James V and affirming Albany's regency. Albany returned to Scotland in November 1521.[4] In November 1522, Albany took an army to besiege Wark Castle defended by Sir Sir William Lisle, but gave up after three days when the weather deteriorated.[5]

In Scotland 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. When Albany returned in November 1521 Margaret now sided with him against her husband. He came to Edinburgh Castle, where James V was kept, and in a public ceremony the keeper gave him the keys, which he passed to Margaret, who gave them back to Albany, symbolising that government of Scotland was in his hands.[6] Thus Albany was able to keep an upper hand in regard to the 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. Angus's representative, Gavin Douglas, complained about Albany's government to Henry VIII.[7]

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.

After being overthrown from the Scottish regency, Albany lived mainly in France.

Military service in France and the Four Years' WarEdit

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 assault 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 yearsEdit

In June 1527 a servant of the Duke of Albany, William Stewart, went to Scotland with gifts of horses and swords for the young James V. He hired a team of masons to amend and repair the fortification at Dunbar Castle.[8]

Albany went to Rome as a diplomat working for France and Scotland. The Spanish ambassador Miçer Mai mentions meeting him at the Papal Palace and then holding negotiations at the Imperial Embassy in August 1531.[9] Albany was delegated to negotiate with Pope Clement VII for a marriage between James V and Catherine de'Medici, the young Duchess of Urbino in 1530. This was perhaps a diplomatic manoeuvre to force Francis I of France to honour a clause in the 1517 Treaty of Rouen which promised the Scottish King a royal French bride.[10] In May 1531, Albany was instructed that this marriage was off, and it was planned that James V would be engaged to Christina of Denmark.[11]

Francis I of France met John Stewart at Riom in the Auvergne on 10 July 1533. They received Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Sir Anthony Browne, Keeper of the Jewels of Henry VIII of England, described the reception of the French king at nearby towns organised by Albany in his letter to Thomas Cromwell.[12] Charles, Duke of Vendôme also attended the meeting at Riom. In June, Francis had written to James V of Scotland from Lyon that he would offer him a bride from a noble French family, "as if she were his proper daughter."[13] Two years later, James V of Scotland commissioned Albany to contract his marriage to Charles of Vendôme's daughter, Mary of Bourbon.[14] James V subsequently travelled to France to meet Mary of Bourbon, but married the Princess Madeleine of Valois instead.

Albany and the Duchess of Vendôme were at Cambrai on 16 August 1535 with the Queen of France and met the Queen of Hungary. The daughters of the Francis I were there too.[15] 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.

Albany died at Mirefleur Castle in the Auvergne on 2 June 1536.[16]

John's French wife, Duchess Anne had died at Saint-Saturnin in June 1524. This was soon after their only daughter, Anne Stewart (Anne de Stuart d'Auvergne) had died in her teens and without any children of her own. Duchess Anne left her inheritance in Auvergne to her infant niece, Catherine de' Medici (b. 1519), daughter of John's first cousin and Anne's younger sister the late Madeleine of Auvergne, and Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino. Catherine, or rather her guardians in France, thus received the county of Auvergne.

When Albany died, the penultimate unquestionably legitimate agnate of the Royal House of Stewart, 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. In the ordinary parlance of Scotland at the time, Arran became "second person".

European craftsmen in ScotlandEdit

Albany brought a number of foreign craftsmen to work in Scotland in 1515. 'Johne Belloun,' Frenchmen or 'Master Johne Carvour' worked on new windows and doors for the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and repaired a number of spears and pikes. An Italian called 'Auld Julian' made 6000 bricks at Tranent to be used for building a furnace at the armoury in Edinburgh Castle, where the master gun-founder Robert Borthwick was joined by the Frenchmen, 'Johne Bukkat' and his apprentice 'Perys.' Two of the cannons they made, marked with the Duke's arms and listed as "quarter-falcons," were still in use at Edinburgh Castle in 1579.[17]

At Crawford Moor, 'Johne Drane', a Frenchman was a refiner, washer, and melter of gold.[18] In 1516, Albany appointed a French gunner, Jehannot de Lavall, as Master Keeper of the Royal Artillery. This position had last been given to Lord Sinclair.[19]

Praise for Albany's improvements in Scotland was published in the Sommaire de l'Origine Description et Merveilles d'Escosse (1538) by Jehan dit Le-Fresne Des-Montiers. Albany was linked to his buildings at Dunbar Castle which he rendered impregnable, and he was said to have improved agriculture in Scotland.[20] An article by the historian Bryony Coombs further explores the activities of the Duke of Albany and his architectural and artistic connections that informed the design of the artillery blockhouse at Dunbar Castle and situates the building in a European context.[21]


Albany had no legitimate children by his wife Anne.

By a Scotswoman, Jean Abernethy, Albany had an illegitimate daughter named Eleanor Stewart.[22] Eleanor was legitimized and married to Jean de L'Hopital, comte de Choisy in Fontainebleau on 22 October 1547, in the presence of Henry II of France.[23] Choisy later became the tutor of the Dauphin Francis (d. 1560).[24]

The descendents of their son Jacques de L'Hopital, 1st Marquess of Choisy, include the Dukes of Castries and the MacMahon Dukes of Magenta.[25]



  1. ^ Some sources date the marriage to May 1518, and the christening to April 1519, probably confusing old-style dates.



  1. ^ Stuart, Marie W., The Scot who was a Frenchman (1940), pp. 32-33.
  2. ^ Ken Emond, The Minority of James V: Scotland in Europe, 1513-1528 (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2019).
  3. ^ Stuart, Marie W., (1940), pp. 96-7.
  4. ^ Stuart, Marie W., (1940), 105-6
  5. ^ Ken Emond, The Minority of James V (Edinburgh, 2019), p. 175.
  6. ^ Ken Emond, The Minority of James V (Edinburgh, 2019), p. 140.
  7. ^ Ken Emond, The Minority of James V (Edinburgh, 2019), pp. 142-5.
  8. ^ State Papers Henry VIII, vol. 1 (London, 1830), p. 211.
  9. ^ Calendar of State Papers Spain, vol. 4 part 2 (London, 1882), no. 781.
  10. ^ Hay, Denys, ed., The Letters of James V (HMSO, 1954), pp. 173, 180-2, 189.
  11. ^ Calendar of State Papers Spain, supplement, vol. 4 part 2 (London, 1882) no. 1169.
  12. ^ Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 1533, vol. 6 (London, 1882), no. 811.
  13. ^ Teulet, Alexandre, ed., Relations politiques, vol. 1 (London, 1862), p. 78
  14. ^ Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, vol. 8 (London, 1885), nos. 1135-39.
  15. ^ Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, vol. 9 (London, 1886), no. 297.
  16. ^ Stuart, (1940), 284.
  17. ^ Thomson, Thomas, A Collection of Inventories (Edinburgh, 1815), pp. 251-2.
  18. ^ Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 5, (1903), pp.10-12, 18-20.
  19. ^ Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol. 1 (Edinburgh, 1908), p.427 no. 2756.
  20. ^ Jehan dit Le-Fresne Des-Montiers, Sommaire de l'origine description et merveilles d'Escosse (Paris 1538), fol. xv verso.
  21. ^ Bryony Coombs, 'John Stuart, Duke of Albany and his contribution to military science in Scotland and Italy 1514-36, from Dunbar to Rome', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, 148 (2018), pp. 231-236.
  22. ^ Stuart, (1940), 208.
  23. ^ James Balfour Paul. The Scots Peerage: Founded on Wood's Edition of Sir Robert Douglas's Peerage of Scotland; Containing an Historical and Genealogical Account of the Nobility of that Kingdom, Volume 1, D. Douglas, 1904. pg 154. Google eBook
  24. ^ Stuart, (1940), 208.
  25. ^ Ruvigny, Plantagenet Roll - is this a book? Does it have page numbers?


  • Stuart, Marie W., The Scot who was a Frenchman, the Life of John Stewart, Duke of Albany, William Hodge (1940)
  • Coombs, B. 'The Artistic Patronage of John Stuart, Duke of Albany, 1520-1530: Vic-le-Comte, the Last Sainte-Chapelle', The Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 147 (2017).
  • Coombs, B. 'The Artistic Patronage of John Stuart, Duke of Albany, 1518-19: The 'Discovery' of the Artist and Author, Bremond Domat', The Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 144 (2014).
  • Coombs, B. 'John Stuart, Duke of Albany and his contribution to military science in Scotland and Italy 1514–36, from Dunbar to Rome', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, 148 (2018).
  • Bonner, E 2004 'Stewart, John, second duke of Albany (c 1482–1536)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Manuscript c1505 with pictures of Auvergne castles belonging to Anne de la tour Princesse d'Ecossse. (Hague, KB, 74 G 11)
  • Luneau, Jean-François (1995). "Les Vitraux de la Sainte-Chapelle de Vic-le-Comte". Revue de l'Artv (in French). 107 (1): 17–26. doi:10.3406/rvart.1995.348185.
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Duke of Albany
2nd creation