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Significant Scots
James Stewart 5th High Steward
by Kelly d. Whittaker


The legacies of the Stewart’s are well documented in Scottish history. Walter FitzAllan was the First High Steward of Scotland assigned by King David.  The Stewart family went on to inherit the thrown of Scotland by the marriage of Walter Stewart the son of James 5th High Steward, to Marjory Bruce the daughter of Robert the Bruce and Isabella of Mar.

The Stewart’s have been over-looked for their loyalty to the people of Scotland.   Today’s history teaches that the Stewart’s were only barons that were greedy and married into the Royal Lines in order to obtain their power.

James the 5th High Steward was a fantastic example of his patronage to his beloved country, Scotland.  He was one of the seven guardians of Scotland that had the right to appoint a King.  The fight was on between John Balliol and Robert Bruce the Competitor for the thrown.  Robert was the closest in line for the thrown because he was a grandson of Alexander where Balliol was a great grandson.

The Guardians of Scotland knew Robert by all rights should be crowned King.  King Edward chose John Balliol due to the alliance established between him and Balliol.   Sir William Wallace fought under the banner of Balliol.  Balliol was forced to abdicate his thrown due to the great pressure the Scots were putting on him as a traitor.   He did abdicate and was killed.  Wallace continued to fight for the Balliol claim.

Silently, many men were flocking to Robert Bruce’s defense.  One of these men was James 5th High Steward.  James had all the genealogies sent to attorneys in Europe to be examined by impartial parties.  The attorneys concluded based on an example from the Bible that Robert Bruce the Competitor should inherit the Thrown of Scotland.  When James had received the letters from the attorneys, he took a firm stand.  His judgement was the same as the attorneys.

James swore allegiance to Robert the Competitor on September 20, 1286. Turbulence surrounded Scotland for the next 30 years.  Edward became obsessed with Scotland.   After his wife died, Edward became a tyrant and barbarian.  He poured out great cruelty upon the Scots.  For thirteen years Scotland had suffered greatly so the leaders of Scotland agreed to surrender to Edward on July 9th, 1297.  Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, grandson of the Competitor and James Stewart refused to surrender or produce hostages.

The battle at Stirling Bridge was a win for the Scots.  They had slaughtered the English when they tried to cross to get to Berwick. The Earl of Surrey came upon the English’s defeat and retreated back to Falkirk.  James Stewart and Lennox along with their troops remained in the woods watching Surrey.  On September 11, 1297 after watching Surrey’s group for three days, Stewart and Lennox attacked them.  The two Scotsmen and their troops beat Surrey and seized the laden wagons of booty.

James Stewart participated in the first full-scale raid in Roxburgh in July of 1299.   Once the Scots arrived at Roxburgh, the fortress was so heavily guarded that the Scots knew they would loose many men if they attempted to siege it.  Stewart and the other leaders told their men to retreat.  This caused the Scots to become very discouraged and ill tempered.

The Constable of Roxburgh placed a spy in the camp of the Scots.  The spy’s accounting is still in existence and kept in the Public Record Office in London.

At the council, Sir David Graham demanded the land and goods of Sir William Wallace because he was leaving the Kingdom without the leave or approval of the Guardians.   And Sir Malcolm, Sir William’s brother, answered that neither his lands nor his goods should be given away, for they were protected by the peace in which Wallace had left the Kingdom. At this the two knights gave the lie to each other and drew their daggers.  And since Sir David Graham was of Sir John Comyn’s following, it was reported to the Earl of Buchan and John Comyn that a fight had broken out without their knowing it: and John Comyn leapt at the Earl of Carrick and seized him by the throat and the Earl of Buchan turned on the Bishop of St. Andrews, declaring that treason and lese majeste were being plotted.  Eventually the Stewart and others came between them and quieted them.  At that moment a letter was brought from beyond the Firth of Forth, telling how Sir Alexander Comyn and Lachlan Macruarie were burning and devastating the district they were in, attacking the people of the Scottish nation.  So it was ordained then that the Bishop of St. Andrews should have all the castles in his hands as principle captain and the Earl of Carrick and John Comyn be with him joint-guardians of the Kingdom.  And that same Wednesday, after the letter had been read, they all left Peebles.

James Stewart had earlier stepped in the middle of King Edward and the Competitor to prevent a great blood shed upon the Kingdom of Scotland. This was at the Treaty of Birgham.  James attended the first secession of parliament in eighteen years in 1309.   Many other Scotsmen were present at this meeting.  James Stewart remained loyal to The Bruce even until his death, which was shortly after parliament in 1309.

King Robert the Bruce loved James Stewart and proved this by allowing his daughter to marry James’ son Walter.  Bruce mourned the loss of his dear quiet friend.   Stewart is not well known in the legacy of the Bruce because he was a quiet, tactful caring man.  Stewart was opposite of The Bruce and Wallace but that is what kept the balance of the Scots to win against the greatest oppression they had ever suffered, the cruel barbaric yet intelligent King Edward of England.

James the 5th High Steward


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