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John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, KG, PC (/bjt/; 25 May 1713 – 10 March 1792) was a British nobleman who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1762 to 1763 under George III. He was arguably the last important favourite in British politics. He was the first Prime Minister from Scotland following the Acts of Union in 1707 and the first Tory to have held the office. He was also elected as the first President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland when it was founded in 1780.

The Earl of Bute

3rd Earl of Bute by Sir Joshua Reynolds.jpg
Prime Minister of Great Britain
In office
26 May 1762 – 8 April 1763
MonarchGeorge III
Preceded byThe Duke of Newcastle
Succeeded byGeorge Grenville
Leader of the House of Lords
In office
26 May 1762 – 8 April 1763
MonarchGeorge III
Prime Ministerhimself
Preceded byThe Duke of Newcastle
Succeeded byunknown
Secretary of State for the Northern Department
In office
25 March 1761 – 27 May 1762
MonarchGeorge III
Prime MinisterThe Duke of Newcastle
Preceded byThe Earl of Holdernesse
Succeeded byGeorge Grenville
Personal details
John Stuart

(1713-05-25)25 May 1713
Died10 March 1792(1792-03-10) (aged 78)
Resting placeSt Mary's Chapel, Rothesay, Isle of Bute
NationalityScottish and British
Political partyTory
Children11, including
ParentsJames Stuart, 2nd Earl of Bute
Lady Anne Campbell
Alma materLeiden University



Early life and rise to prominenceEdit

He was born on Parliament Close, close to St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh on 25 May 1713, the son of James Stuart, 2nd Earl of Bute, and his wife, Lady Anne Campbell. He was educated at Eton College.[1]

A close relative of the Clan Campbell (his mother was a daughter of the 1st Duke of Argyll), Bute succeeded to the Earldom of Bute (named after the Isle of Bute) upon the death of his father, James Stuart, 2nd Earl of Bute, in 1723. He was brought up thereafter by his maternal uncles, the 2nd Duke of Argyll and Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll, 1st and only Earl of Ilay, Viscount and Earl of Hay. Bute studied at Eton College (1720–1728) and the University of Leiden, Netherlands (1728–1732), where he graduated with a degree in civil and public law. On 24 August 1736, he married Mary Wortley Montagu (daughter of Sir Edward and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu), bringing the large Wortley estates to his family. In 1737, due to the influence of his uncles, he was elected a Scottish representative peer, but he was not very active in the Lords and was not reelected in 1741. For the next several years he retired to his estates in Scotland to manage his affairs and indulge his interest in botany.

Bute (1770)

During the Jacobite rising of 1745, Bute moved to Westminster, London, and two years later met Prince Frederick, the Prince of Wales there, soon becoming a close associate of the Prince. Upon the Prince's death in 1751, the education of his son, Prince George, the new Prince of Wales, became a priority and in 1755 Bute was appointed as his tutor. Bute arranged for the Prince and his brother Prince Edward to follow a course of lectures on natural philosophy by the itinerant lecturer Stephen Demainbray. This led to an increased interest in natural philosophy on the part of the young prince and was one in a series of events that led to the establishment of the George III Collection of natural philosophical instruments. Furthermore, following the death of the Prince Frederick, Bute became close to his widow, Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, the Dowager Princess of Wales. It was rumoured that the couple were having an affair, and indeed soon after John Horne Tooke (an associate of the Prince of Wales) published a scandalous pamphlet alluding to a liaison between Bute and the Princess. Rumours of this affair were almost certainly untrue, as Bute was by all indications happily married, and he held sincere religious beliefs against adultery. In 1780 Bute was elected as the first President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.


Because of the influence he had over his pupil, Bute expected to rise quickly to political power following George's accession to the throne in 1760, but his plans were premature. It would first be necessary to remove both the incumbent Prime Minister (the Duke of Newcastle) and arguably the even more powerful Secretary of State for the Southern Department (William Pitt the Elder).[2] The Government of the day, buoyed by recent successes in the Seven Years' War, was popular, however, and did well at the general election which, as was customary at the time, took place on the accession of the new monarch.[3]

Supported by the king, Bute manoeuvred himself into power by first allying himself with Newcastle against Pitt over the latter's desire to declare war on Spain which, when defeated, precipitated Pitt's resignation and then forcing Newcastle's resignation when the Prime Minister found himself in a small minority within the Government over the level of funding and direction of the war.[4] Re-elected as a Scottish representative peer in 1760, Bute was indeed appointed the de facto Prime Minister, thus ending a long period of Whig dominance.

Bute's premiership was notable for the negotiation of the Treaty of Paris (1763) which concluded the Seven Years' War. In so doing, Bute had to soften his previous stance in relation to concessions given to France, in that he agreed that the important fisheries in Newfoundland be returned to France without Britain's possession of Guadeloupe in return.[5]

After peace was concluded, Bute and the King decided that Britain's military expenditure should not exceed its pre-war levels but they thought a large presence was necessary in America to deal with the French and Spanish threat. They therefore charged the colonists for the increased military levels, thus catalysing the resistance to taxes which led to the American Revolution.[6]

King George began to see through Bute, and turned against him after being criticised for an official speech which the press recognised as Bute's own work. Bute also proposed a controversial Cider tax which produced enormous hostility in cider-producing areas.[citation needed]

The journalist John Wilkes published a newspaper called The North Briton, in which both Bute and the Dowager Princess of Wales were savagely satirised. Bute resigned as prime minister shortly afterwards, although he remained in the House of Lords as a Scottish representative peer until 1780. He remained friendly with the Dowager Princess of Wales, but her attempts to reconcile him with George III proved futile.[citation needed]


For the remainder of his life, Bute remained at his estate in Hampshire, where he built himself a mansion called High Cliff near Christchurch.[7] From there he continued his pursuit of botany and became a major literary and artistic patron. Among his beneficiaries were Samuel Johnson, Tobias Smollett, Robert Adam, William Robertson and John Hill. He also gave considerably to the Scottish universities. His botanical work culminated in the publication of Botanical Tables Containing the Families of British Plants in 1785. Even after his retirement, Bute was accused by many Americans in the years leading up to the American Revolutionary War as having an undue corrupting influence over the British government.[8] He died at his home in South Audley Street, Grosvenor Square, Westminster, from complications of a fall suffered while staying at Highcliffe, and was buried at Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.[7]

The flowering plant genus Stuartia is named after him. According to historian John Naish, the 18th-century expression "Jack Boot" meaning a stupid person originated as disparagement of Stuart's performance as Prime Minister.[9]

Luton HooEdit

Luton Hoo mansion

The Earl held the Manor of Luton and had Luton Hoo designed and built by the neoclassical architect Robert Adam. Work commenced in 1767. The original plan had been for a grand and magnificent new house. However, this plan was never fully executed and much of the work was a remodelling of the older house. Building work was interrupted by a fire in 1771, but by 1774 the house, though incomplete, was inhabited. Dr. Samuel Johnson visiting the house in 1781 is quoted as saying, "This is one of the places I do not regret coming to the house magnificence is not sacrificed to convenience, nor convenience to magnificence".


He died on 10 March 1792 at his London address, South Audley Street off Grosvenor Square.[10]


In 1736 he married Mary Wortley Montagu. They had at least ten children:

  1. Lady Mary Stuart (c. 1741 – 5 April 1824), married James Lowther, later created Earl of Lonsdale, on 7 September 1761
  2. John Stuart, Lord Mount Stuart (30 June 1744 – 16 November 1814), politician who succeeded as 4th Earl of Bute and was later created Marquess of Bute
  3. Lady Anne Stuart (born c. 1745), married Hugh Percy, Lord Warkworth, later the 2nd Duke of Northumberland, on 2 July 1764
  4. The Hon. James Archibald Stuart (19 September 1747 – 1 March 1818), politician and author
  5. Lady Jane Stuart (c. 1748 – 28 February 1828), married George Macartney, later created Earl Macartney, on 1 February 1768
  6. The Hon. Frederick Stuart (1751–1802), politician[11]
  7. The Hon. Charles Stuart (January 1753 – 25 May 1801), soldier and politician
  8. The Hon. William Stuart (March 1755 – 6 March 1822), Anglican prelate who served as Archbishop of Armagh
  9. Lady Caroline Stuart (before 1763 – 20 January 1813), married The Hon John Dawson, later the 1st Earl of Portarlington, on 1 January 1778
  10. Lady Louisa Stuart (12 August 1757 – 4 August 1851), writer, who died unmarried[12]

Styles of addressEdit

John Stuart was variously styled:

  • 1713–1723: Lord Mount Stuart
  • 1723–1738: The Rt Hon The Earl of Bute
  • 1738–1760: The Rt Hon The Earl of Bute KT
  • 1760–1762: The Rt Hon The Earl of Bute KT PC
  • 1762–1792: The Rt Hon The Earl of Bute KG PC



  1. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  2. ^ Browning, Reed (1975). The Duke of Newcastle. London: Yale University Press Ltd. p. 271. ISBN 978-0300017465.
  3. ^ Browning 1975, pp. 272-274.
  4. ^ Browning 1975, pp. 275-88.
  5. ^ Schweizer, Karl (1988). Lord Bute – Essays in Reinterpretation. Great Britain: Leicester University Press. pp. 27–29. ISBN 978-0718512613.
  6. ^ Schweizer 1988, pp. 17-35.
  7. ^ a b Schweizer (2009).
  8. ^ Bailyn, Bernard (1992). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-44302-0.
  9. ^ Naish, John (1996). The Interwoven Lives of George Vancouver, Archibald Menzies, Joseph Whidbey and Peter Puget: The Vancouver Voyage of 1791–1795. The Edward Mellen Press, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7734-8857-1.
  10. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  11. ^ Schweizer, Karl Wolfgang (October 2009) [2004]. "Stuart, John, third earl of Bute (1713–1792)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26716. |access-date= requires |url= (help) (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  12. ^ Miller, Karl (January 2006) [2004]. "Stuart, Lady Louisa (1757–1851)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/42015. |access-date= requires |url= (help) (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  13. ^ IPNI.  Stuart.


External linksEdit