John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl

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About John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl

John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl

John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl (c. 1440 – 19 September 1512), also known as Sir John Stewart of Balveny, was a Scottish nobleman and ambassador to England (in 1484). ref Duke of Atholl

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.

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 John Macdonald, 11th Earl of Ross, the last of the Lords of the Isles. According to legend, the Earl of Atholl had whisky, honey and oats added to Macdonald's water well, which so entranced or intoxicated him that Macdonald was easily captured. The mixture became a drink named Atholl Brose.

Stewart was buried in Dunkeld Cathedral in Perthshire.

John Stewart married twice and had several children. However, the exact number, names and the attribution of his children to their mothers is unclear.

He married firstly, in 1459-1460, Margaret Douglas, Fair Maid of Galloway, daughter of Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas. Margaret had been married already to the 8th Earl and possibly the 9th Earl of Douglas. She died between 1473 and 1475.

They had three daughters:

  1. Janet Stewart, married Alexander Gordon, 3rd Earl of Huntly.
  2. Elizabeth Stewart, married Andrew Gray, 2nd Lord Gray.
  3. Christian, married Neil Stewart of Garth.

He married secondly, before April 1475, Eleanor Sinclair (d. 21 March 1518), daughter of William Sinclair, 3rd Earl of Orkney.

They had two sons and nine daughters:

  1. John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Atholl, living 1520, and died before 1522, who married Janet Campbell (died about Candlemas 1545/6), daughter of Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Arygll.
  2. Andrew Stewart, Bishop of Caithness.
  3. Jean (or Janet) Stewart, married by contract dated 31 August 1507, James Arbuthnott of Arbuthnott. He had a crown charter of the feudal barony of Arbuthnott 29 January 1507. He left a testament dated 7 March 1521, and died before 13 March 1521.
  4. .Katherine Stewart, married Sir John Forbes, 6th Lord Forbes.
  5. Elizabeth/Elspeth Stewart, married Sir Robert Innes 2nd of Innermarky.
  6. Marjory Stewart, married Sir Colin Campbell, of Glenorchy.
  7. Margaret Stewart, married Sir William Murray, of Castleton who was killed at Battle of Flodden Duke of Atholl
  8. Elizabeth Stewart, married Alexander Robertson, of Strowan.
  9. Elizabeth (or Isabel) Stewart, married John Stewart, 3rd Earl of Lennox
  10. Jean Stewart, married Robert Gordon, Knt., of Pitlurg.
  11. Margaret Stewart, married Robert Robertson younger, of Strowan.

From: [,_1st_Earl_of_Atholl]


  • 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 (1904)
  • Pg.441
  • I. Sir John Stewart of Balvany, first Earl of Atholl of this line, born about 1440, styled 'frater carnalis' of King James II. He was created EARL OF ATHOLL in or before 1457, and is so designed in a truce with the English that year. Styled Earl of Atholl in a charter under the Great Seal, 25 March 1460, of the lordship of Balvany. Another charter was granted to him by King James III., on account of near kinship and affection, of the earldom of Atholl and the lands with remainder to the heirs-male of his body, whom failing to the King, with the reddendo of a red rose to be delivered at Blair, 18 March 1481-82. He was sent in the expedition against John, Lord of the Isles, in 1475, and being victorious, adopted the motto 'Furth fortune and fill the fetters.' In 1484 he was one of the conservators of the peace with England, and in 1488 commanded in the army of James III. On that King's death the Earl was imprisoned by King James IV., but was liberated before 1489, when he attended Parliament in Edinburgh. He died at the Laighwood, 15 September 1512, and was buried in Dunkeld Cathedral. He married, first, Margaret Douglas, the Fair Maid of Galloway, only daughter and ultimate heiress of Archibald, fifth Earl of Douglas, Duke of Touraine. She married, first, in 1444, William, eighth Earl of Douglas, and on his death his brother James, ninth Earl. After the latter's rebellion in 1455 she remained with him in England for a time, but about 1459 she is said to have repaired to
  • Pg.442
  • King James II. entreating mercy, saying that she was forced to these ungodly nuptials against her will. The marriage being dissolved she was married to Atholl, as her third husband, before March 1460. He married, secondly, before 19 April 1475, Eleanor Sinclair, stated to be a daughter of William (Sinclair), *Earl of Orkney and Caithness. He had issue by both wives : —
    • 1. John, second Earl.
    • 2. Andrew, Bishop-elect of Dunkeld in 1515, but he never obtained possession of the see. He was made Bishop of Caithness in 1518, and died 1542.
    • 3. Jean, married, before 1482, to Alexander, third Earl of Huntly.
    • 4. Katherine, married to John, sixth Lord Forbes.*
    • 5. Elisabeth, married, contract dated 19 January 1511-12, to John, third Earl of Lennox, by dispensation dated 29 January 1511-12, as they were related in the second and fourth degrees of consanguinity.
    • 6. Christian, married to Neil Stewart of Garth, died 30 May 1538 and was buried in the Cathechal of Dunkeld.
    • 7. Margaret, said to have been married to William Murray of Tullibardine, but more probably to his son, William Murray of Castletown, killed at Flodden 9 September 1513. {See Murray, Duke of Atholl.)
    • 8. Elizabeth, married to Andrew, Lord Gray. {See that title.)
    • 9. Jean, said to be married to Sir Robert Gordon of Pitlurg.
    • 10. Elizabeth, married to Alexander Robertson of Strowan.
    • 11. Margaret, married to Robert Robertson, younger of Strowan.
    • 12. Marjory, married to Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy, and died 26 July 1524.
    • 13. Elspeth, married to Robert Innes of Innermarky. ___________________________________
  • A genealogical history of the dormant, abeyant, forfeited, and extinct peerages of the British empire (1978)
  • Pg.509
  • SIR JAMES STEWART, the Black Knight of Lorn, 3rd son of Sir John Stewart, of Innermeath and Lorn, m., 1438, Lady Joanna Beaufort, Dowager of King James I. of Scotland, and by her had three sons,
    • JOHN, his heir.
    • James, Earl of Buchan.
    • Andrew, bishop of Moray,
  • The eldest,
  • SIR JOHN STEWART, of Balveny, created EARL OF ATHOL, in 1457, acted a conspicuous part in the political transactions of his time, and was mainly instrumental in suppressing the rebellion of the Earl of Ross, upon which occasion he assumed the motto, still borne by his descendants, "Furth fortune and fill the fetters." He m. 1st, Lady Margaret Douglas, relict of William, 8th Earl of Douglas, and only dau. of Archibald, 5th Earl of Douglas, and had by her two daus., Janet, m. to Alexander, 3rd Earl of Huntly ; and Elizabeth, wife of Andrew, Lord Gray. The earl m. 2ndly, Lady Eleanor Sinclair, dau. of William, Earl of Orkney and Caithness, and by her had issue.
    • I. JOHN, 2nd Earl of Athol.
    • II. Andrew, prebend of Craig, postulate of Donkeld, 1515, consecrated bishop of Caithness, 1518, d. 1542.
    • I. Jean, m. to Sir Robert Gordon, of Pitlurg.
    • II. Catherine, m. to John, Lord Forbes.
    • III. Elspeth, m. about 1510, to Robert Innes, of Innermarky.
    • IV. Marjory, m. to Sir Colin Campbell, of Glenurchy.
    • V. Margaret, m. to William Murray, of Tullibardine.
    • VI. Isabel, m to Alexander Robertson, of Strowan.
    • VII. Anne, m. to John, 3rd Earl of Lennox.
  • He d. 19 September, 1512, and was his son,
  • JOHN STEWART, 2nd Earl of Athol, who fell at Flodden the year after his succession. He m. Lady Mary Campbell, dau. of Archibald, Earl of Argyll, and left issue, .... etc. ____________________________________
  • The thanage of Fermartyn including the district commonly called Formartine : its proprietors, with genealogical deductions; its parishes, ministers, churches, churchyards, antiquities &c. (1894)
  • IV. John Gordon of Auchleuchry, Lungar, Kinmundie, &c.
  • In 1506, there is a deed of sasine in favour of John Gordon, son and heir of the late John Gordon of Lungar, on charter of William Gordon of Schivas, of the lands of Petnagoak, in the county of Aberdeen and barony of Schivas, dated 24 November, 1506. In 1531, there is a charter by King James V. confirming a charter of sale by Francis Gordon, portioner, Kindrocht and Sathlee to his brother, John Gordon of Lumgair, and eight years later, he got a feu charter from the Bishop of Moray, to him and the lawful heirs male of his body, of the lands of Pitlurge, Ovir Auchquhorties, Nether Auchquhorties, in the barony of Keith. These lands adjoined to Botarie. He made an excambion in 1541, with Sir Thomas Erskine of Brechin, receiving the lands of
  • Crevethin in Drumblade in exchange for Hilton, the harbour and fishings of the same; and in the same year also received a charter from John Forsyth de Dykis of the lands of Gilkenston.
  • He married Lady Jane Stuart, daughter of the first Earl of Athole of that family, by his second wife. Lady Eleanor St. Clair, daughter of William, Earl of Orkney and Caithness. The Earl of Athole was half-brother to King James II., being son of Queen Joan Beaufort, by her second husband. Sir James Stuart, the black knight of Lorne. Lady Jean predeceased her husband, having borne him two sons : — .... etc. ___________________________



1457 : Created 1st Earl of Atholl

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John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl's Timeline

October 12, 1440
Dufftown, Banff, Scotland
Traquair, Peeblesshire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Traquair, Peebleshire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Traquair, Peebleshire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Balveny, Fifeshire, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Buchan, Aberdeen-shire, Scotland (United Kingdom)