Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney

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About Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney

Robert Stewart, Knt., 1st Earl of Orkney and Lord of Zetland (Shetland) (1533–4 February 1593) was a recognized illegitimate son of James V, King of Scotland, and his mistress Eupheme Elphinstone.[1]

In 1539 he was made Abbot of Holyrood Abbey, and Commendator of Charlieu Abbey in France by 1557.[2] He was knighted as Sir Robert Stewart of Strathdon on 15 May 1565, as part of marriage celebrations of his half-sister, Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.[3] In 1581 he was named, by James VI, the 1st Earl in a second creation of the Earldom of Orkney. The new earldom replaced a short-lived Dukedom of Orkney, which had been awarded in 1567 by Mary, Queen of Scots, to her notorious third husband James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. This dukedom was forfeit later that same year after Mary was forced to abdicate and Bothwell was charged with treason. Prior to this dukedom there had existed an Earldom of Orkney that was surrendered in 1470 by William Sinclair, 3rd Earl of Orkney.

Mary wrote a will at Sheffield in 1577 ineffectually declaring his title to Orkney null and void,[4] after Robert was imprisoned in 1575 for obtaining a letter from the King of Denmark declaring him sovereign of Orkney. His crimes included colluding with Shetland pirates. The Earl was imprisoned at Linlithgow Palace.[5] He was released in 1579.

He was created Earl of Orkney, 28th October 1581.

On 14 December 1561 Robert Stewart married Jean Kennedy, daughter of Gilbert Kennedy, 3rd Earl of Cassilis, and Margaret Kennedy. On the death of Robert Stewart in 1593 the earldom passed to his son Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney. He also had a son named James Stewart. Robert built the Palace of Birsay on Orkney.


'A concise history of Port Beaufort & White Sands (also known as Witsand) including Family Trees White Sands & Port Beaufort' by John McGregor

From Darryl Lundy's Peerage page on Robert Stewart:

Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney [1]

  • M, #108334,
  • b. 1533,
  • d. 4 February 1592/93
  • Last Edited=20 Jan 2011
  • Consanguinity Index=0.0%

Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney was born illegitimately in 1533.[1] He was the son of James V Stewart, King of Scotland and Euphemia Elphinstone.[1]

He married Lady Janet Kennedy, daughter of Gilbert Kennedy, 3rd Earl of Cassillis and Margaret Kennedy, on 14 December 1561 at Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland.

He died on 4 February 1592/93.


  • He gained the title of 1st Earl of Orkney.[1]
  • He held the office of Prior of Holyrood.[1]
  • He held the office of Commendator of Holyrood.[2]

Child of Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney

  • 1. Elizabeth Stewart+[3]

Children of Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney and Lady Janet Kennedy

  • 1. John Stewart, 1st and last Earl of Carrick+[4] d. fr 22 Jun 1643 - 3 Mar 1645/46
  • 2. Henry Stewart, Master of Orkney d. a 1589
  • 3. Sir James Stewart+
  • 4. Robert Stewart
  • 5. Lady Mary Stewart+[5]
  • 6. Lady Jean Stewart+[6] b. c 1563
  • 7. Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney b. a 1568, d. 6 Feb 1615


  • 1. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 242. Hereinafter cited as Britain's Royal Family.
  • 2. [S323] Sir James Balfour Paul, The Scots Peerage: founded on Wood's edition of Sir Robert Douglas's The Peerage of Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland: David Douglas, 1904), volume I, page 23. Hereinafter cited as The Scots Peerage.
  • 3. [S37] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003). Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition.
  • 4. [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, page 59. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  • 5. [S37] Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition, volume 2, page 1642.
  • 6. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume VIII, psge 2.

He also had a number of illegitimate children: Robert; James; James of Graemsay; William of Egilshay; George of Eynhallow; Edward of Brugh, South Ronaldsay; David of How; Christian, wife of John Mouat of Heogaland; Grizel, wife of Hugh Sinclair of Brough; & Mary, wife of Lawrence Sinclair of Gott.3 Sir Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney, Lord of Shetland died on 4 February 1593.3

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Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney's Timeline

March 1533
Cultmilandie, Shetland Islands, Scotland
Age 26
December 14, 1561
Age 28
Age 29
Orkney islands, Scotland
Age 30
Mercat Cross, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Age 31
Age 31
Orkney, Scotland
November 3, 1566
Age 33
Orkney, Orkney, United Kingdom
September 18, 1568
Age 35
Orkney, Orkney, United Kingdom
Age 40
Eday, Orkney, United Kingdom