1st Duke of Albany, Regent of Scotland
Born c.1345 Died 1420
Robert Stewart was a son of King Robert II by his mistress, Elizabeth Mure, and was legitimatized when his parents were married about 1349. In 1361 he married Margaret, Countess of Menteith, and after his widowed sister-in-law, Isabel, Countess of Fife, had recognized him as her heir, he was known as the Earl of Fife and Menteith. Taking an active part in the government of the kingdom, the earl was made high chamberlain of Scotland in 1382, and gained military reputation by leading several plundering expeditions into England.
In 1389 after his elder brother John, Earl of Carrick, had been incapacitated by an accident, and when his father the king was old and infirm, he was chosen governor of Scotland by the estates; and he retained the control of affairs after his brother John became king as Robert III in 1390. In April 1398 he was created Duke of Albany, but in the following year his nephew David, Duke of Rothesay, the heir to the crown, succeeded him as governor, although the duke himself was a prominent member of the advising council. Uncle and nephew soon differed, and in March 1402 the latter died in prison at Falkland. It is not certain that Albany was responsible for the imprisonment and death of Rothesay, whom the parliament declared to have died from natural causes; but the scanty evidence points in the direction of his guilt.
Restored to the office of governor, the duke was chosen regent of the kingdom after the death of Robert III in 1406, as the new king, James I, was a prisoner in London; and he took vigorous steps to prosecute the war with England, which had been renewed a few years before. He was unable, or as some say unwilling, to effect the release of his royal nephew, and was soon faced by a formidable revolt led by Donald Macdonald, 2nd Lord of the Isles, who claimed the earldom of Ross and was in alliance with Henry IV of England; but the defeat of Donald at Harlaw near Aberdeen in July 1411 freed him from this danger. Continuing alternately to fight and to negotiate with England, the duke died at Stirling Castle in September 1420, and was buried in Dunfermline Abbey.
Albany, who was the ablest prince of his house, left by his first wife one son, Murdac (or Murdoch) Stewart, who succeeded him as duke of Albany and regent, but at whose execution in 1425 the dukedom became extinct.
See Andrew of Wyntoun, The Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland, edited by D. Laing (Edinburgh, 1872-1879); John of Fordun, Scotichronicon, continued by Walter Bower, edited by T. Hearne (Oxford, 1722); and P. F. Tytler, History of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1850). See also Sir W. Scott's Fair Maid of Perth.
Extracted from the entry for ALBANY, DUKES OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.