A branch of the larger Stewart clan, the Stuarts of Bute can trace their origins back to France and the town of Dol in Brittany.
Arriving in Scotland during the 12th century with King David I, the Stewarts would soon rise to prominence in Scotland, eventually claiming the throne for themselves after the death of David II in 1371.
With a Stewart monarch in place, the benefits to the rest of the family would be immediate, with Robert Stewart, the first Stewart King, bestowing the lands of Bute, Arran and Cumbrae upon his son, John. These lands would remain under the control of this branch of the family and, after changing their name to ‘Stuart’ during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots, they would assume their own identity, styling themselves as ‘Stuarts of Bute’ after the lands that were under their control.
The clan would use their seat at Rothesay to garrison the King’s troops during the civil war of the mid 17th century as their chief, Sir James Stuart of Bute, repaid the King for creating him a Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1627. James would then be appointed royal lieutenant for the West of Scotland and given control of Dumbarton Castle until the impending victory of Oliver Cromwell forced him to flee to Ireland. His grandson, Sir James Stuart of Bute, would take control of the lands and would support the accession of Mary and William of Orange to the throne in 1689, before sitting on the council of commissioners charged with negotiating the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England. Stuart was vehemently opposed to the union and, upon learning that it would pass through the Scottish Parliament, he withdrew from politics completely. Despite this setback, James would also gain a new title, the Earl of Bute, and the family would eventually return to national affairs when the Earl of Bute was given the titles of Commissioner for Trade and Police in Scotland, Lord Lieutenant of Bute and Lord of the Bedchamber. Bute would command the Bute and Argyll militia during the Jacobite Rising of 1715 and successfully kept the area peaceful as the rest of the nation erupted into war.
Later in the history of the family, the 3rd Earl of Bute, John Stuart, would become a tutor to the future King George III and would be rewarded for his efforts with the position of First Lord of the Treasury and a place on the Privy Council. During his time in these roles, he would conclude a treaty with France, bringing the 7 Years’ War to an end, but the terms of the treaty would be viewed extremely negatively by the press, leading to him retiring from public life. His son, the future Earl of Bute, would be promoted to the rank of Marquess and from then on, the family would consistently increase their wealth and expand their estates. The bulk of this expansion would come under the guidance of the second marquess, who would become a noted industrialist and was largely responsible for the construction of the modern city of Cardiff, as he developed its docklands to make the city the greatest coal port on the world.
In more recent times, the family have once again found themselves connected to their estates in Bute as the 6th Marquess, John Crichton-Stuart, would dedicate much of his life to the revival of his Scottish heritage and the conservation of his Bute estates. His son, the racing driver, Johnny Dumfries, would continue this legacy, even holding a short-lived racing event, the Mount Stuart Classic, on the grounds of his family residence. He would also open the grounds of this estate to the public before his untimely death in March 2021.