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Walter fitz Alan, 1st High Steward of Scotland

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Walter fitz Alan (sometimes erroneously named as Walter of Stewart) was born in Oswestry, Shropshire [1] sometime before 1114 and died ca. 1177. In his time he rose from being only the third son of an Anglo-Norman noble to become the 1st High Steward (or Seneschal) of Scotland. In doing so he became the founding ancestor of the Stuart (or Steward) dynasty that in time became the Scottish, and later the British, Royal House of Stuart.


Walter's father, Alan fitz Flaald or Flathald, (Born c. 1075) was the 4th hereditary Seneschal or Steward or Dapifer of Dol-de-Bretagne, about 30 miles north of Rennes in Brittany. The family had gained lands in England shortly after the Norman Conquest. The Doomsday Book in 1086, records Alan as having lands in Shropshire, England - near to the border with Wales. Alan held the Shreivalty of Shropshire and the Lordship of Oswestry (then called Oswaldestry)[2] during the rein of Henry I of England.[3] Alan was married to Avelina de Hesding (Born c. 1078) circa 1099. They had three children: the eldest, Jordan, became the 5th Seneschal of Dol. The second son, William, became the Govener or Sheriff of Shropshire and founded the Haughamond Priory. The third son was Walter fitz Alan.[4]


In the year 1133, Walter fitz Alan married Eschina de Londonius, the widow of Robert de Croc. The marriage begat three children: Two sons, Alan fitz Walter (Born 1144) and Simon fitz Walter, plus one daughter — Margaret fitz Walter.

English service

When The Anarchy took hold in England with civil war between the Empress Matilda and Stephen; Walter served in the court of Matilda. He was befriended by Matilda's Uncle, David I of Scotland. At the Battle of the Standard at Northallerton in 1138, Walter fitz Alan fought for Scotland under the command of David I's son, Prince Henry.

Move to Scotland

Walter moved to Scotland and took up service under David I who appointed Walter to the Stewardship (Seneschal) of Scotland. The lands in Argyle, Kintyre and Galloway were under Norwegian control and posed a continual threat to David's rule. To counter this, David created several large provincial Lordships in the South West of Scotland: Renfrewshire and large parts of Ayrshire were granted to Walter fitz Alan; Hugh de Morevile received lands in Cunningham; and Robert de Brus (ancestor of Robert I of Scotland) was given land and title in Annandale. In doing so, David I made a strong barrier to counter aggression from the west.[5]

In 1157, Malcolm IV confirmed the title of Steward and made the office hereditary. Malcolm IV also confirmed and further extended the lands granted to Walter in Renfrewshire and Ayrshire which were to include the lands around: Renfrew, Passeleth (Paisley), Polloc (Pollock), Talahec, Kerkert (Cathcart), The Drem, The Muntrene, Eglesham, Lochinavche and Innerwick. In return, Walter was to provide Malcolm IV with the service of five Knights.[6]

Walter in turn granted lands within his control to his own follower. Over 100 names of various vassals, tenants and dependants can be traced as new arrivals, mainly from Shropshire, between the years 1160 and 1241.[5] These included such names as the Wallace. (The ancestors of William Wallace.)[1]

Near to Walter's great hall at Blackhall, Paisley, was a shrine dedicated to Saint Mirin, who had been instrumental in introducing Christianity to Renfewshire. In the year 1163, Walter brought a group of Monks from a Cluniac order in Shropshire and founded a priory at Paisley. This small priory grew and by 1219 became Paisley Abbey.

In 1164 the threat of invasion from the West was realised. Somerled, King of the Hebrides (Gaelic "ri Innse Gall") landed in Renfrewshire with an army. Walter fitz Alan meet and did battle with Somerled in what is known as the Battle of Renfrew. Somerled and his son Gillecallum were both killed creating a Scottish victory. The site of the Battle is today marked by the Cairn at the junction of Renfrew Road and Glencairn Road in Gallowhill, Paisley.

On his death, Walter fitz Alan was buried at the Abbey he founded at Paisley. The title 'High Stewart' became the surname of his descendants. Robert Stuart, a direct male descendant of Walter, became Robert II of Scotland; thus beginning the Stuart Royal dynasty that would eventually go on to rule over all of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales to form the United Kingdom.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Murison, A. F. (2003). William Wallace: Guardian of Scotland. Courier Dover Publications, Page 41. ISBN 0486431827. 
  2. French, George Russell (1841). The ancestry of her majesty queen Victoria, and of his royal highness prince Albert., Page 223. 
  3. Bartlett, Robert (2002). England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225. Oxford University Press, Page 81. ISBN 0199251010. 
  4. (1909) A History of Paisley, 600-1908, page 5. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Carpenter, David (2003). The struggle for mastery: Britain, 1066-1284. Oxford University Press US, Page 181. ISBN 0195220005. 
  6. Innes, Cosmo (1860). Scotland in the Middle Ages; Sketches of Early Scotch History and Social Progress.. Edmonston and Douglas. 

preceded by
ca.1150 – ca.1177
succeeded by
Alan fitz Walter