STEWARD (STEWART), Walter (c.1586-aft. 1649), of Westminster.
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Family and Education
b. c.1586,1 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Walter Stewart, 1st Lord Blantyre of Blantyre, Lanarkshire (d.1617) and Nicola, da. of Sir James Somerville of Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire.2 educ. MA Camb. 1617; G. Inn 1620.3 m. w. unknown, 2da. d. aft.1649.4 sig. W[alter] Steuart.
Gent. of privy chamber by c.1615-at least 1641.5
Capt., RN 1635; r.-adm., escort of Spanish amb. 1636.8
There is some uncertainty over the identity of this Member on account of the commonness of his name in Scotland. Often confused with Sir Walter Stewart - who was apparently a member of the Stewart family of Minto - Steward has also been identified, probably incorrectly, as a medical doctor. The identification given here rests upon the Member’s known position in the king’s Household and the fact that his sister is identified in contemporary sources as Anne, Lady Saltoun, daughter of Lord Blantyre.9 Blantyre was educated by George Buchanan with his cousin, King James VI of Scotland, and became a member of the king’s bedchamber, the (Scottish) Privy Council and keeper of the (Scottish) privy seal. Stewart himself only joined the king’s bedchamber in around 1615, at around the same time as the new favourite, George Villiers, earl of Buckingham, with whom he seems to have been on good terms. Indeed, he acted as an intermediary when Sir John Holles* contacted the favourite in 1617.10
Steward was a denizen by letters patent. A bill to naturalize him, Sir Francis Stewart* and several other Scottish courtiers was laid before the 1621 Parliament, but though it passed both Houses it was lost - along with much other legislation - at the dissolution.11 This was to cause difficulties when Steward, probably through the agency of fellow courtier, the 4th earl of Worcester, was elected for Monmouth Boroughs in 1624. Steward himself was probably aware that his alien status would raise questions about his election, and declined to attend the House until he ‘knew their opinion whether he was eligible to serve’. His actions also served to draw attention to his naturalization bill, which was again introduced into Parliament. The committee for privileges considered the precedents of Levinus Munck† and Sir Horatio Palavicino who had allegedly sat despite not being naturalized, but concluded they were not relevant, as no-one had questioned their ability to sit at the time.12 Consequently, it was resolved that Steward should not be allowed to attend, although the matter was referred to the House for further debate on 10 Mar., when his naturalization bill received its first reading in the Lords.13 Steward’s tact in not attending the Commons before his case was considered appears to have garnered him some support: Edward Alford recommended that he be allowed to take his place after his naturalization bill had passed both Houses, and Sir Dudley Digges suggested that he be admitted but no aliens allowed afterwards. Sir Edward Coke, however, maintained that Steward was incapable of sitting on account of his denizen status at the time of the election. The final ruling was something of a compromise, for although it was resolved that Steward could not sit, the question of whether he would be capable after naturalization was not addressed, and a decision on whether a new writ of election should be issued was deferred.14 The matter was raised again in the Commons very late in the session, on 28 May, after Steward’s bill had passed both Houses. The Commons was asked to consider whether his election would be valid if he became naturalized, but the House, following Coke, ruled that he could not sit as he was incapable at the time of his return. Thus a writ for a new election was issued on 7 June.15 Steward’s bill subsequently received the Royal Assent after an uneventful passage through Parliament.16
No fresh election is known to have taken place at Monmouth, but in January 1625 another naturalized Scottish courtier, Sir Robert Kerr, was returned at a by-election for Aylesbury. This may have been intended to test the precedent established in the Steward case. The Parliament was automatically dissolved on James’s death, but the fact that Steward and Kerr were both returned to the 1625 Parliament suggests that the Court was keen to establish the validity of the return of naturalized Scots. Steward’s election was not challenged in 1625. A largely inactive Member, he was named to committees concerning concealed land (25 June) and excommunication (27 June).17
Steward’s relationship with Buckingham appears to have soured by 1624, when the latter (now a duke) wrote bluntly that he would block Steward’s attempts to become a groom of the bedchamber as ‘I thought him not fit for it’.18 Steward was involved in the 1627 privateering expedition led by the 2nd earl of Warwick (Sir Robert Rich*), in which he was considered an unwelcome and disruptive presence by the crew of one vessel.19 He retained his post in the Household under Charles and attached himself to lord treasurer Portland (Sir Richard Weston*), accompanying the latter’s son (Jerome Weston*) on a journey into Italy. However, he ran into financial difficulties, perhaps arising from his controversial purchase of the wardship of Richard Bennet in 1628, which was pushed through the Court of Wards on the king’s orders: this probably caused a violent argument between Steward and Sir Miles Fleetwood*, receiver of the Wards, in February 1632.20 Furthermore, his former associate Holles, now earl of Clare, demanded repayment of a debt from Steward in 1633, and threatened to ‘cancel all respects to him’. He also mentioned that Steward was considering fleeing to France to evade payment.21
Steward was employed in 1636 as captain of the Victory when this ship was used to transport the Spanish ambassador to England.22 This was a problematic commission, as Steward also carried a large amount of Spanish bullion bound for Flanders which the king wanted seized for old debts. However, Steward was ordered to proceed directly to Dunkirk, which aroused Charles’s displeasure.23 More damaging in the long term was the fact that a Genoese merchant, de Franchi, in Madrid had entrusted Steward with £4,000 for transportation to Dover. Steward was persuaded to hand this over to the ambassador after the latter claimed that it was forfeit to the Spanish Crown for having been shipped without licence. Although the ambassador had promised to take the responsibility for this action, the merchant successfully prosecuted Steward in the Admiralty and Court of Delegates.
During the early 1640s, Steward repeatedly petitioned the House of Lords for protection against de Franchi while he tried to have the judgements overturned.24 A linen-draper, Thomas Richards, and one William Hodges also pursued him in the Lords for debt. His final recorded petition to the Upper House of 20 Dec. 1647, stated that he had ‘been obliged to obscure himself’ to avoid his creditors. This presumably meant he was living abroad, probably with Queen Henrietta Maria in France, where it is likely he died.25 No will or administration has been traced. He left two daughters, namely Sophia, who married the courtier Henry Bulkeley†, and Frances Teresa, a great beauty and mistress of Charles II, who married Charles, duke of Richmond and served as the model for Britannia on British coinage.26
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Lloyd Bowen
- 1. Date of birth estimated from date of parents’ marriage and his position as 3rd son.
- 2. CP (Stewart of Blantyre); Scots Peerage (Stewart, Lord Blantyre).
- 3. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss. i. 158.
- 4. DNB sub Stuart, Frances Teresa.
- 5. SP15/40/28; LC3/1, unfol.
- 6. R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 350.
- 7. CSP Dom. 1634-5, p. 465.
- 8. Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson III ed. M. Oppenheim (Navy Recs. Soc. xliii), 223, 252-5; HMC 4th Rep. 94.
- 9. HMC 4th Rep. 94; E214/455. See also Diary of ... Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall ed. T. Thompson (Bannatyne Club, lxxvi), 113.
- 10. Letters of John Holles ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Soc. Rec. Ser. xxxi), 154, 159.
- 11. HLRO, main pprs. 18 Feb. 1621.
- 12. There is no record of Palavicino having sat in the Commons, however.
- 13. LJ, iii. 254b.
- 14. J. Glanville, Reps. (1775), pp. 120-3; ‘Pym 1624’, ff. 23v-4; Holles 1624, p. 28; ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 62v-63v; ‘Spring 1624’, pp. 98-9; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 41. Some diarists incorrectly believed that Steward was rendered wholly incapable of sitting on 10 March.
- 15. Glanville, 123; CJ, i. 798a; ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 240v-1; C231/4, p. 333.
- 16. HLRO, O.A. 21 Jas.I, c. 53.
- 17. Procs. 1625, pp. 246, 253.
- 18. Ct. of Jas. I ed. G. Goodman, ii. 361-2. See also Harl. 7000, f. 161.
- 19. ‘Warwick’s Voyage of 1627’ ed. N.P. Bard, in Naval Misc. ed. N.A.M. Rodger v (Navy Recs. Soc. cxxv), 50.
- 20. 43rd DKR, 114; R.E. Schreiber, Sir Robert Naunton, 102; C115/106/8391.
- 21. Letters of John Holles ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xxxvi), 450-2, 454, 460. For other indications that he had debt problems around 1633, see HMC 6th Rep. 87.
- 22. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 214, 218, ii. 249, 252; Letters of John Holles (Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xxxv), 363.
- 23. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, ii. 2, 22, 86; CSP Dom. 1636-7, pp. 54, 62, 70; CSP Ven. 1636-9, pp. 24-5, 59; Add. 64913, ff. 3, 23, 25.
- 24. CSP Ven. 1636-9, pp. 263-4, 383-4, 390, 407, 411, 413, 416; HMC 4th Rep. 94; HMC 6th Rep. 58, 62, 83, 86, 134; LJ, iv. 342b; vii. 356a-b, 440a-b; CCAM, 259; PC2/46, p. 369.
- 25. HMC 6th Rep. 87, 144, 146, 148, 151, 212, 216; LJ, viii. 608b, 637b, 646b; ix. 546b; Oxford DNB sub Stewart, Frances Teresa.
- 26. Scots Peerage (Stewart, Lord Blantyre).