The Fess Chequy:

the origin and development of the Stewart fess (1)

Arms of Stewart
WHAT IS GENERALLY RECOGNISED as the best heraldry site on the Web, that of the Scottish Heraldry Society, has an active forum which is moderated and thereby maintains a high level of academic content. It is of huge value to beginners, for their simple questions are answered with kindness and authority. One recently asked concerned the origin and development of one of Scotland’s most famous and ancient charges, the fess chequy Azure and Argent of the Stewarts ~ and this then prompted us, despite having written about Stewart cadets three years ago, to set out in the Baronage pages its probable origin and some of its lines of development.
Arms of Vermandois The arms of the Stewarts are popularly believed to illustrate the checkered counting cloth of the stewards, but it has been proposed by Beryl Platts that the early Stewards, a Breton family who at that time in Britain bore as surname fitz Walter or fitz Alan as appropriate, adopted the fess chequy from the Hesdin family of the first Steward’s mother, Avelina. Arnulf de Hesdin, her father, was a vassal of the Counts of Vermandois whose arms were chequy Or and Azure, (left) and in these very early days of heraldry it was not unusual to adopt arms to demonstrate such alliances.
The Stewarts were not the only family to adopt the chequy theme. The first Lindsays in Scotland had borne an eagle displayed, but ca 1297 this was changed to Gules a fess chequy Argent and Azure (perhaps also to show descent from Vermandois). This was later quartered with the arms of Abernethy of that Ilk. The other great Lindsay house, Lindsay of the Byres, differenced the arms with three mullets in chief (copied from the arms of Mure of Abercorn, a maternal line).
Arms of Lindsay Arms of Lindsay of Crawford Arms of Lindsay of the Byres
Lindsay of the Byres
Lindsay of Crawford
The early cadets of the Stewarts differenced their arms quite violently. Walter, third son to the 3rd High Steward, took the name of Menteith (sometimes Monteith) after succeeding to the Earldom of Menteith in right of his wife, and differenced the Stewart arms by changing the fess to a bend and the Azure squares of the check to Sable. Robert, claimed by Alexander Nisbet to be a grandson of Alan Fitz Walter, 2nd High Steward, took the name of Boyd from his blond hair (buidhe) and differenced the Stewart arms with a change of tinctures. The Boyd cadet lines differenced in conventional ways such as (below right) did Boyd of Trochrig.
Arms of Menteith Arms of Boyd Arms of Boyd of Trochrig
Boyd of Trochrig
John, 2nd son of Alexander, 4th High Steward, married the heiress daughter of Sir Alexander Bonkyl of that Ilk and placed her buckles on a bend for difference. Several families descended from that union, such as Stewart of Rosyth and Stewart of Lennox, bear buckles to signify it.
Arms of Stewart of Bonkyl Arms of Stewart of Rosyth Arms of Stewart of Lennox
Stewart of Bonkyl
Stewart of Rosyth
Stewart of Lennox
The majority of the less senior cadet lines differenced with the addition of charges, of which here are six examples.
Arms of Stewart of Bighton
Arms of Stewart of Blackhall Arms of Stewart of Castlemilk
Stewart of Castlemilk
Stewart of Blackhall
Stewart of Bighton
Arms of Stewart of Rosling
Arms of Stewart of Craigins Arms of Stewart of Scotston
Stewart of Craigins
Stewart of Rosling
Stewart of Scotston
The first known to bear the Stewart arms within the double tressure flory-counterflory Gules was Sir John Stewart, Sheriff of Bute, a bastard of King Robert II. The same coat surmounted of a bend engrailed Gules was borne by an earlier and only distantly connected family descended from a younger son of Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl. By modern principles there is no justification for the Sheriff to have borne this coat, but today it is still borne in their first quarter by his descendants the Marquesses of Bute.
Arms of Stewart of Burray
Arms of Stewart of Bute Arms of Stewart of Garlies
Stewart of Bute
Stewart of Garlies
Stewart of Burray
Of course, the most famous coat associated with the Stewart family is that of the King of Scots, whose crown was worn by Stewarts from Robert II on. However, only the Regent Moray (son of James V) bore the royal coat as a cadet, and this he did within a bordure compony to signify his bastardy. Other lines, of which we have shown Rosyth and Burray above, use a bordure for difference, and we add here one more example, Ascog.
Arms of Stewart of Ascog
Arms of King of Scots Arms of Stewart of Moray
King of Scots
Stewart of Moray
Stewart of Ascog
This article is continued on Page Two with a look at some quartered Stewart arms.
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