James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray (1501 creation)

James Stewart, Earl of Moray (c. 1500–1544) was the illegitimate son of James IV of Scotland and his mistress Janet Kennedy. He was created Earl of Moray in 1501, and was young enough to avoid fighting at the disastrous Battle of Flodden in 1513. He went on to have a varied relationship with his half-brother James V, and was imprisoned for a time.[1] In February 1531, James V gave him a commission to negotiate with rebels in Scottish Isles and offer them pardons for future obedience.[2]

He should not be confused with the two later and better-known 16th century Earls of Moray who were also called James Stewart: his nephew James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, who was Regent during the minority of James VI, and this nephew's son-in-law James Stewart, 2nd Earl of Moray, who was The Bonny Earl of Murray of the famous ballad.

The 16th-century historian John Lesley, Bishop of Ross praised Moray for his diplomatic skills, in 1543 the Earl arranged the accidental destruction of valuable Venetian glass at a banquet in 1543 to impress Peter Francisco Contarini, Patriarch of Venice, producing another set of glasses after the first was cleared away.[3]

According to Lesley, in 1526 Moray protected the young heir of Lachlan Mackintosh of Dunnachtan or Dunachton, his nephew, from his half-brothers Hector and William, who came to Dyke by Darnaway and burnt the countryside and killed several people, and took the castle of Pettie belonging to Ogilvy of Durne or Durness. Moray got a commission from James V to raise an army and attack the Mackintosh brothers. Hector Mackintosh was brought back to Forres and beheaded, William Mackintosh was pardoned but murdered soon after in St Andrews. The young Mackintosh heir was brought up by Moray and the Laird of Findlater.[4]

He had homes in Edinburgh, Balnageith near Forres, Elgin and Darnaway Castle. He wrote a will in June 1540, when he was planning to travel to France for the sake of his health.[5]


James Stewart married Lady Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of Colin Campbell, 3rd Earl of Argyll and Lady Jean Gordon, in August 1529. They had one daughter, Lady Mary Stewart, who was married to John Stewart, Master of Buchan, from whom she obtained a divorce on 12 September 1560. She died childless. Elizabeth Campbell, Countess of Moray, later married John Gordon, 11th Earl of Sutherland, but died around 1548.

James had an illegitimate son, also called James Stewart, with Marion Stewart, as well as a daughter, Elizabeth Stewart.[6]


  • Lee, Sidney, ed. (1898). "Stewart, James (1499?-1544)" . Dictionary of National Biography. 54. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 295–296.
  1. Bingham, Caroline James V King of Scots
  2. HMC: 6th Report & Appendix, (1877), pp.670
  3. Cody ed., John Leslie’s Historie of Scotland translated by Father Dalrymple, vol.2 (Edinburgh, 1895), p. 276: Thomson ed., (Bannatyne Club, Edinburgh, 1830), p. 179: De Origine Moribus et Rebus Gestis Scotorom (Rome, 1678), p. 449.
  4. Thomas Thomson, The History of Scotland: From the Death of King James I, by John Lesley (Edinburgh, 1830), pp. 136-9.
  5. HMC: 6th Report & Appendix, (1877), pp. 670-1.
  6. Historical Manuscripts Commission: 6th Report & Appendix, (1877), pp. 670-1.
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