STEWARTS AND THE STEWART SOCIETY
By The Editor
excerpted from "The Stewarts: An Historical and General Magazine"
EDINBURGH, The Stewart Society, Vol. VIII, No. 1, 1947
(I only have a portion of this particular magazine, since I seem
to be missing pgs 5 through 66.
It need scarcely be said that, though several branches were settled in the Highlands,
the Stewarts are not a clan in the ordinary sense, the origin of the family being
essentially lowland, like that of their kinsmen, the Bruces, Douglasses and Hamiltons.
No one locality or personality can appeal to each and every Stewart, and the ties which
bind a clansman to his chief generally do not exist. The stream has branced into so many
independent channels since it left the fountainhead, that the name is almost the
only thing which strikes us today as our common possession. We identify ourselves with this
branch or that, trace its wanderings, and dwell on the conditions which have directed its
course, but we are apt to forget that the torrents which poured resistless from Appin and
Athole are of kindred nature, and had the same source as the streams which flowed, perhaps
more still, but not less deep and strong, through Galloway or Moray.
It has of late begun to be recognized that the well of history was for long contaminated and poisoned by dynastic and religous jealousies, and that the character and actions of the Stewarts were vilified and misrepresented thereby. Those days are past, and historians have recently shown a truer persepective. These circumstances contributed to the institution of the Society, since it needs but little reflection to realize that only a relatively short time ago any movement in honour of the name of Stewart would have been looked up with suspicion and misgiving. Now, however, Stewarts can band themselves together without fear of misconstruction in order to preserve their great traditions and to show their regard for a name which has left its impress on the history of the world. For without the inexplicable personal fasination of the Stewarts, the long tragedy of their lives and reigns, and the poetry and romance to which it all gave birth, the world would unquestionably be poorer today. What other family in history evoked such loyalty, such sacrifice, and such devotion as the Royal House of Scotland, or has had its memory so imperishably enshrined in the hearts and the songs of their people. It is not too much to say that the history of the Stewarts belongs not to themselves alone, but to Scotland and to Scotsmen throughout the world. And Scotsmen may well honour them, for they fought well for Scotland.
The religious bitterness of two centuries ago fastened on the shortcomings of the two last Stewart Kings to hold the whole race up to obloquy: but even the pleasure-loving Charles II, is now recognized to have been a statesman and diplomatist par excellence; while the so-called bigot, James VII,a nd II., was the Admiral to whom we owe the definite formation of the British Navy, and the first clear conception of the necessity of a navy for Britain and the British Empire. Behind these two monarchs, however, stretches a long line of soldiers, statesmen, educationalists and philanthropists. From their earliest apperance in Scottish history the Stewarts figure as the staunchest defenders of the national liberties. They share in the campaigns of Wallace and Bruce, and who shall say what added share of partiotism came to the heroic Bruce and Douglas themselves from their Stewart blood? The great-grandmother of King Robert I, was the daughter of one High Stewart, and the mother of "the Good Sir James of Douglas" was the daughter of another High Stewart and sister of that Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl who fell at Falkirk in 1298, all whose four surviving sons shared the like patriot's death at Halidon Hill in 1333.
Nor should it ever be forgotten that all that Bruce won was lost in the minority of his son, that within a few years of Bruce's death Scotland was again overrun by the English, and that the prime instrument in the recovery and final establishment of his country's freedom was Bruce's grandson, Robert, seventh Hereditary Great Stewart of Scotland, who ultimately ascended the throne as Robert II., the first of the Royal House of Stewart. Fighting at Halidon Hill when only seventeen, he was appointed Regent of Scotland at twenty-one, and the sword thus early drawn was never sheathed till the invader had been expelled, and Scotland's independence reasserted and finally acknowledged.
When they came to the throne, the Stewarts found oppression, violence and misery rampant, and from a scene of warring discord they tried to evolve an ordered kingdom. They championed the cause of the people against the tyranny of the nobles even though their own lives paid the forfeit and their own fortunes suffered shipwreck in the long minorities which ensued on their early deaths. They fostered literature, architecture and the fine arts, and spent wealth and substance in such religious and charitable benefactions as Paisley Abbey - the noblest instance of the religious generosity of a single private family which the world has ever seen.
The Society's objects are patriotic, genealogical, historical and philanthropic, and it need hardly be said that it knows no politics and has no dynastic aims or ideas. Inaugurated in 1899, it has achieved a success not unworthy of the historic name it bears. It lent material help in preserving the graves and memorials to the Clans at Culloden, and in the acquisition of the Glenfinnan Monument by the National Trust, and has erected a series of memorials in Appin to preserve the history of the race in that district. A monument in memory of General David Stewart of Garth, the historian of the Highlands and the Highland Regiments, was erected at Fortingal, while the Society also acquired and presented to the Scottish Naval and Military Museum in Edinburgh Castle the banner under which the Stewarts of Appin fought at Culloden and the colours of "Barrell's Blues", one of the English regiments opposed to them that day.
In addition, the Society has published this Magazine, of which about thirty numbers have already appeared, and to which the income has been mainly devoted, and which has been the means of preserving much information which would otherwise have been lost or remained inaccessible. It is not too much to say that the Magazine has been the main link between a membership scattered throughout the world.
The outbreak of war in 1939 forced us to stop publication and put a temporary closure on the other activities of the Society. Now we can start again. The Society has proved itself in the past to be animated by ideals and objectives not unworty of the race whose history and traditions it was founded to preserve. Let us see to it that it goes on from strength to strength, for it is worthy of support by all who cherish an honest pride in the name which they have the honour to bear.