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Robert Stewart

(1st Earl of Orkney)

1533 - 1593

A tyrannical oppressor of the Orkney and Shetland Isles. Illegitimate son of King James V (1512-42), and thus step-brother of Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87), who was benevolent towards Stewart and tolerant of his excesses. Stewart was granted the lands and income from the post-Reformation Holyrood Abbey by his father. Mary also gave him lands in Orkney and Shetland. He later pressured Bishop Adam Bothwell (c.1530-93) to extend his lands in Orkney in exchange for Stewart's interests in Holyrood. Stewart was imprisoned for treason by James Douglas, Regent of Scotland and Earl of Morton (c.1516-81), but gained his revenge by bringing about Douglas' downfall. Despite protestations from the islanders who suffered his oppression, Stewart endeared himself to James VI (1566 - 1625) who created him Earl of Orkney (1581).

He left a fine palace at Birsay on Orkney. Stewart's son, Patrick, was even more troublesome and cruel to the islanders, but was eventually hanged for treason in 1615.

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