The Stewarts - An Ayrshire Dynasty

The original name of the Stewart family was Fitz-Alan. Alain was Grandson of Alain, Dapifer (Steward) to the Archbishop of Dol (Brittany) and was invited to England by Henry the 1st, he held an Estate in Shropshire and died in 1114. His son Walter returned to Scotland along with David the 1st in 1141. He was granted Estates in Renfrew and Kyle and was made Seneschal (Steward) of Scotland. This office was made hereditary in 1158 and it would eventually lead to the family being refered to as the Stewards or Stewarts. Walter Fitz-Alan also founded Paisley Abbey in 1163.

Following the Scottish victory at the Battle of Bannockburn, Marjorie Bruce, sister of Robert I, was released from English captivity and was given in marriage to Walter Stewart whose father had been James the Stewart, a close supporter of the Scottish King who had died in 1309. Their son it was decided, by a parliament which had gathered in Ayr in 1315, was to become the next King if Bruce (or his brother Edward) failed to produce an heir. Marjorie gave birth to a son, Robert, a year later in 1316. Robert was awarded the Lordship of Cunninghame to add to his family's seat of Kyle.

Edward Bruce died at Dundalk in 1318 during a disastrous Irish campaign which had seen him, for a short time at least, pronounced High King of Ireland. Robert the Bruce did however father a son in 1324, David, who was to become David II when his father died a few years later in 1329. 

David's reign was a tormented one. A few months after his formal coronation, in 1332, his reign was challenged. With English support, Edward Balliol, the son of John, landed back in Scotland and had himself declared King. Crushing defeats followed for the Scots, first at Dupplin Moor, then at Halidon Hill, where several of the country's leading Earls died. David was forced into exile in France until 1341 and upon his return to Scotland was captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross. Balliol had to give up his claim though and David finally got to rule his kingdom upon his release in 1357. He died in 1371 leaving Robert Stewart, now 55, as heir to the throne. 

The Stewarts were to become the next (and last) dynasty to rule Scotland and did so until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. The Stewarts had held Kyle Stewart since the twelfth century and had been given Cunninghame in 1316. They now also inherited the Bruce lands of Carrick and Kyle Regis (King's Kyle). These lands combined to form the new region of Ayrshire. 

Robert (II) had prior experience of the responsibilities he now inherited. Before becoming king as he had been the main power in Scotland while King David II had been held as a prisoner in England. He was wed to an Ayrshire woman, Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan, and they lived for most of Robert's reign at his favourite home of Dundonald Castle where he died age 74. Their descendants went on to be monarchs of not only Scotland, but also inherited the throne of England, and were the first family to rule over Great Britain.

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