Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney

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About Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney

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.



  • Sir Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney, Lord of Shetland1,2,3,4
  • M, #37641, b. circa 1533, d. 4 February 1593
  • Father James V Stewart, King of Scotland3,4 b. 10 Apr 1512, d. 14 Dec 1542
  • Mother Euphemia Elphinstone3,4 b. 11 May 1509
  • Sir Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney, Lord of Shetland was born circa 1533; Age 5 in 1538.3,4 He married Jean Kennedy, daughter of Gilbert Kennedy, 3rd Earl Cassillis and Margaret Kennedy, circa 14 December 1561; They had 6 sons (Henry; Thomas; Patrick, 2nd Earl of Orkney, Lord of Shetland; John, Lord Kinclaven, Earl of Carrick-in-Orkney; Sir James of Eday & Tullos, & Sir Robert of Middleton) & 3 daughters (Mary, wife of Patrick, 6th Lord Gray; Jean/Jane, wife of Patrick Leslie, 1st Lord Lindores, & of Sir Robert, 1st Lord Melville of Raith; & Elizabeth, wife of James Sinclair of Murchil (Master of Caithness)). 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.3,4 Sir Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney, Lord of Shetland died on 4 February 1593.3,4
  • Family Jean Kennedy d. Sep 1598
  • Children
    • Henry Stewart, Master of Orkney d. bt 9 Jun 1585 - 1590
    • Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney, Lord of Zetland d. 6 Feb 1615
    • Mary Stewart5
    • Elizabeth Stewart6
  • Citations
  • [S11471] Unknown author, The Scots Peerage, by Sir James Balfour Paul, 1904, Vol. III, p. 531, Vol. I, p. 24.
  • [S11585] The Scots Peerage, Vol. VI, edited by Sir James Balfour Paul, p. 573-575.
  • [S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. III, p. 600.
  • [S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. I, p. 679.
  • [S11566] The Scots Peerage, Vol. IV, edited by Sir James Balfour Paul, p. 285-286.
  • [S11564] The Scots Peerage, Vol. II, edited by Sir James Balfour Paul, p. 340.
  • From:


  • Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney1
  • M, #108334, b. 1533, d. 4 February 1592/93
  • Last Edited=5 Oct 2013
  • 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
    • Elizabeth Stewart+3
  • Children of Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney and Lady Janet Kennedy
    • John Stewart, 1st and last Earl of Carrick+4 d. fr 22 Jun 1643 - 3 Mar 1645/46
    • Henry Stewart, Master of Orkney d. a 1589
    • Sir James Stewart+
    • Robert Stewart
    • Lady Mary Stewart+5
    • Katherine Stewart+3
    • Lady Jean Stewart+6 b. c 1563
    • Patrick Stewart, 2nd Earl of Orkney b. a 1568, d. 6 Feb 1615
  • Citations
  • [S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 242. Hereinafter cited as Britain's Royal Families.
  • [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.
  • [S37] BP2003 See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • [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.
  • [S37] BP2003. [S37]
  • From:


  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54
  • Stewart, Robert (d.1592) by Thomas Finlayson Henderson
  • STEWART, Lord ROBERT, afterwards Earl of Orkney (d. 1592), was a natural son of James V of Scotland by Euphemia, daughter of Alexander Elphinstone, first lord Elphinstone. He was a half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots, of James Stewart, the regent Moray, and Lord John Stewart (1531–1563) [q. v.] In 1539 he had from the king a grant of the abbacy of Holyrood. His name first appears as a member of the privy council, 20 March 1551–2 (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 119). He early joined the lords of the congregation against the queen regent, and Knox states that in 1559 he was present during the surprise attack of the French on the Canongate, and on their withdrawal was one of the first to follow in pursuit of them (Works, i. 458). He subscribed the treaty of Berwick between the lords of the congregation and Queen Elizabeth on 10 May 1560 (ib. ii. 53), and he is included by Knox among those attending the parliament of July–August of this year, who ‘had renounced Papistry and openly professed Jesus Christ’ (ib. p. 88). No doubt, like his half-brother Lord John, he was in his political conduct mainly guided by Lord James (afterwards Earl of Moray), whose force of character secured him the loyal devotion of both. Thus on the arrival of Queen Mary in Scotland both Lord Robert and Lord John placed themselves at the disposal of Lord James in regard to the queen's celebration of her first mass, and after the ceremony protected the priest and conveyed him to his chamber (ib. p. 271). In 1561 he also with Lord John kept watch at Holyrood Palace when, during the absence of Lord James on the borders, a rumour arose of a projected night attack (ib. p. 293).
  • On 3 Nov. 1566 Lord Robert received from the queen a pension of 990l. and several chalders of different kinds of grain out of the temporalities of Holyrood for the maintenance of his legitimate and natural children; and the grant was confirmed on 19 April 1567 by act of parliament. The grant, as well as the confirmation, may have been intended as a bribe in connection with the murder of Darnley. Though he took no active part in the murder, he would appear to have had a more or less intimate knowledge of the plot. After Darnley's arrival at Kirk o' Field he was reported to have warned him that mischief against him was intended. Darnley, it is further stated, informed the queen of what Lord Robert had told him; but Lord Robert denying that ‘he had spoken any such thing,’ they put their hands to their weapons, and the Earl of Moray had to be called in to separate them (Calderwood, History, ii. 343). In 1569 Lord Robert exchanged the temporalities of Holyrood House for the temporal estates of the see of Orkney with Adam Bothwell, bishop of Orkney; but in 1570 the bishop of Orkney explained that Lord Robert had ‘violently intruded himself on his whole living with bloodshed and hurt of his servants;’ that ‘after he had craved justice, his and his servants’ lives were ‘sought in the very eye of justice in Edinburgh;’ and that he was ‘then constrained, of mere necessity, to take the abbacy of Holyrood by advice of sundry godly men’ (ib. p. 531). On 18 July 1574 a letter passed the great seal in favour of Lord Robert, confirming the letter of pensions to his three legitimate and two natural sons out of the abbacy of Holyrood, reserving 860l. to the ministers and readers (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1546–80, No. 2283). Having, however, been accused in the following year of treason in offering the Isles of Orkney to the king of Denmark, he was in August imprisoned by the orders of the regent Morton in the castle of Orkney (Hist. of James the Sext, p. 157); and although he made large offers to obtain his freedom, he was retained in prison until Morton's resignation of the regency (ib. p. 182). On being set free he became one of the chief conspirers of Morton's ruin (Melville, Memoirs, p. 266); and he was one of those who, on 18 Jan. 1580–1, conveyed Morton to imprisonment in Dumbarton Castle (Moysie, Memoirs, p. 29; Calderwood, iii. 484). On 21 Oct. 1581 he was created by the king Earl of Orkney, when his lands of Orkney and Zetland were erected into an earldom (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1580–1593, No. 263); and on 18 Dec. he had a grant of the island of Caned in Orkney (ib. No. 307). He died in 1592. By his wife, Lady Janet Kennedy, eldest daughter of Gilbert, third earl of Cassilis, he had five sons and four daughters: Henry, who died before his father; Patrick, second earl of Orkney [q. v.]; John, earl of Carrick; Sir James, gentleman of the bedchamber to James VI; Sir Robert; Mary, married to Patrick, seventh lord Gray; Jean, married first to Patrick Leslie, commendator of Lindores, by whom she was mother of David Leslie, first lord Newark [q. v.], the general; and secondly to Robert, lord Melville of Raith; Elizabeth, married to Sir John Sinclair of Murchil, brother of George, fifth earl of Caithness; and Barbara.
  • [Reg. P. C. Scotl. vols. i–v.; Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1546–80 and 1580–93; Knox's Works; Calderwood's Hist. of Scotland; Moysie's Memoirs, and Hist. of James the Sext (Bannatyne Club); Douglas's Scottish Peerage, ed. Wood, ii. 341.]
  • From:,_Robert_(d.1592)_(DNB00)


  • Robert Stewart
  • Birth: 1533 Midlothian, Scotland
  • Death: Feb. 4, 1593 Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland
  • 1st Earl of Orkney, Lord of ZetlandShetland
  • Born 1533 Edinburgh, Edinburghshire, Midlothian, Scotland.
  • Family links:
  • Parents:
  • James King of Scots (1512 - 1542)
  • Euphemia Elphinstone (1509 - ____)
  • Spouse:
  • Janet Kennedy Stewart (1537 - 1598)
  • Children:
    • Jean Stewart Leslie (1570 - 1642)*
  • Siblings:
  • Adam Stewart (1530 - 1575)**
  • 1st Lord Darnley John Stewart (1531 - 1563)**
  • James Stewart (1531 - 1570)**
  • Robert Stewart (1533 - 1593)
  • Jean Stewart Campbell (1537 - 1588)**
  • James Stewart (1540 - 1541)**
  • Arthur Stewart (1541 - 1541)**
  • Mary Stuart (1542 - 1587)**
  • *Calculated relationship
  • **Half-sibling
  • Burial: Saint Magnus Cathedral Churchyard, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland
  • Find A Grave Memorial# 84549118
  • From:


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


  • The Scots peerage : founded on Wood's ed. of Sir Robert Douglas's Peerage of Scotland; containing an historical and genealogical account of the nobility of that kingdom.  by Paul, James Balfour, Sir, 1846-1931. Published 1904.  Volume 6.  "The Earls of Orkney" page 572 - 573, page 574 - 575




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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, Scotland
Age 40
Eday, Orkney, Scotland