His two legitimate sons, James Stewart and Robert Stewart, were born about a year apart and died about a month apart, just after Robert was born, about mid-year in 1541 and just about a year before King James himself died, leaving Mary Queen at the age of six days.Share
King James no doubt had never expected succession to come down to an infant girl, for although he had only three legitimate heirs, he fathered at least nine children out of wedlock, three of those before he was twenty. Seven of those children were sons.
It is these illegitimate children I write about today.
As with so many Scottish kings, James was crowned while still an infant, at the age of one, just after the death of his father, James IV, in 1513. The tale is told that young James V was encouraged in his debauchery by one of his regents, but to be fair, illegitimate children had long been a royal prerogative, in England and Scotland. Young James came by it honestly. His own father had seven children out of wedlock by four different mistresses.
But James, who became king in his own right at age 16, was able to best his father. And although the identities of some of the mothers of his children are lost to history, some of his mistresses were the daughters of Scottish nobles. Their children were treated accordingly. This meant that several of them played prominent roles in Scottish history and proved problematic to their half sister, Queen Mary.
Five of the illegitimate sons of King James V were named “Priors” as children. This meant they held the five richest livings in the Scottish Church—Holyrood, Kelso, Melrose, Coldingham, and St Andrews. (This did not happen, of course, without the approval of the Pope. James apparently wrote asking his permission for three of his illegitimate sons to receive ecclesiastical positions before 1532, when the boys were still babes.)
I’ve listed the children below. Don’t worry if you get confused. Three are named James, their father’s name; two are named Robert. (Read more.)