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Stuart, house of

Stuart, house of. One of Europe's most resilient royal dynasties, the Stewart or Stuart family ruled Scotland in direct descent for over three centuries from 1371 to 1688, inheriting also the thrones of England and Ireland in 1603. The family was of Breton origin, holding the office of dapifer or steward to the archbishops of Dol in Brittany before settling in Scotland at the invitation of David I who gave Walter FitzAlan the honorific title of high or royal steward in 1158. The title was subsequently made heritable and the family was known by the surname Stewart until the mid-16th cent. when, under French influence, it was modified to Stuart. The family's place in the royal succession came through the marriage of Walter, 6th high steward, to Marjory, daughter of Robert I Bruce. In 1371, the death without issue of Robert I's only son, David II, led to the accession of Robert Stewart (1316–90), the sole heir of Walter and Marjory, as King Robert II. The royal dynasty he founded proved remarkably durable, surviving recurrent periods of minority rule in the 15th and 16th cents. (including the succession in 1542 of a female infant), and going on to preside over the multi-kingdom empire created in 1603 when the Stuart king of Scots, James VI, inherited also the Tudor thrones of England and Ireland. Having weathered assassination ( James I), rebellion ( James III), deposition ( Mar), and execution ( Charles I), the dynasty's luck finally ran out in 1688 when the 12th Stuart monarch, James VII and II, was ousted in the Glorious Revolution. Though his successors could legitimately claim (increasingly diluted) royal Stuart blood, the direct descent and indefeasible hereditary right of the exiled ‘pretenders’ provided the ideological basis of the abortive Jacobite rebellions of the 18th cent.

Roger A. Mason

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