1st Lord of Blantyre was Walter Stewart who was born before 1565.
He was the son of Sir John Stewart of Minto (Provost of Glasgow and commandant of the castle of that town). He was the only son to the Sir John’s 2nd marriage to Maragret Stewart. He was educated, along with his cousins King James the Sixth of Scotland/James 1st of England, under the eye of the celebrated George Buchanan.
In 1580, Walter Stuart was nominated a ‘minion,’ or gentleman of the king’s bedchamber, on which occasion he was the designed commendator of Blantyre. He married Nichola Somerville, daughter of Sir James Somerville of Cambusnethan and Katherine Murray, on 31 December 1581. He held the office of Gentleman of the Bedchamber to King James VI/I in 1580. He received a grant of the Priory of Blantyre from King James VI.
He held the office of Lord Privy Seal [Scotland] on 14 November 1582. He was invested as a Privy Counsellor (P.C.) [Scotland] on 14 November 1582. When the esteemed Buchanan died in September of that year, Walter Stewart succeeded him as Lord Privy Seal. He was then appointed to the office of Assessor to the Treasurer on 26th April 1583 and was tutor to the Duke of Lennox. The King was notorious for appointing his favourites rather than men of ability to positions of power, and when Chancellor Maitland, the King’s closest advisor, who had been protected by him during many scandals, was forced to resign in 1592, Walter Stewart was promoted to take his place and became, along with the Earls of Mar and Morton, one of the King’s chief advisers.
Strangely, when he took on the highest office in the country next to that of the King himself, Walter Stewart, as Commendator of Blantyre Priory was termed “Prior of Blantyre”. It was he who then attended to the administration of the Priory on behalf of the King.
He held the office of Extraordinary Lord of Session between 1593 and 1599 and appointed Treasurer on 6th March 1595. He was still a Commissioner of the Treasury and Exchequer [Scotland] in January 1595/96, (“Octavians”). According to Spottiswood [History, page 348.], he was instrumental in procuring the pardon of Archibald Douglas, titular parson of Glasgow, for having intruded himself into the parsonage.
On 28th May 1593, he was appointed an extraordinary lord of session, in the room of Sir Thomas Lyon of Auldbar, and on 12th January 1596, he was constituted one of the eight commissioners of the treasury and exchequer, called from their number Octavians, to whom King James intrusted the management of his affairs. In the distribution of offices, which this body made amongst themselves, he received the office of high treasurer, which was formally conferred upon him by letters patent, under the great seal, dated 5th March 1596, with a preamble very honourable to him. [Crawford, page 395.] On this occasion he resigned the custody of the privy seal to Lindsay of Balcarres.
He held the office of High Treasurer [Scotland] on 6 March 1596. In the expedition against Kintyre and Isla, resolved upon by King James the Sixth in 1596, under the leadership of Sir William Stewart of Houston, commendator of Pittenweem, Lord Blantyre, as high treasurer, took an active part. Early in October he was in the west, superintending the progress made in the preparations for it, and from a letter addressed by him to the secretary of State, it appears that the sum of seven thousand merks were still waiting to enable the expedition to sail. [Balcarres papers, quoted in Gregory’s History of the Highlands and Isles, page 268.]
In 1598, Walter Stewart of Minto was granted rights to land in Blantyre. Having purchased the barony of Blantyre, on 18th January 1598, he had a charter of it, as well as of Wrightslands and Cardonald in Renfrewshire, when he was designated ‘Walter Lord Blantyre, our treasurer.’ He chose to live at Blantyre Priory but called it the Craig of Blantyre.
On 17th May 1599, he incurred the displeasure of the king by a decision in a cause between Mr Robert Bruce and the ministers of Angus, and besides being deprived and stripped of his offices of treasurer and extraordinary lord of session, was harshly and additionally committed prisoner to the castle of Edinburgh. He was completely out of favour with the king. According to Crawford he was soon released and restored to favour. This was likely prompted by an Act passed on 11 March 1600, which acknowledged people who had been loyal to the King for much of their lives.
In 1604, he was nominated one of the commissioners of Scottish nobles who signed the aborted treaty of Union between Scotland and England, which came into effect a Century later. On 10th January 1606, he was one of the lords of secret council who assisted, as assessors, at the famous trial of John Welch and the other five ministers at Linlithgow, for treason, in declining the jurisdiction of the privy council, and holding a general assembly, after being charged not to do so, when they were found guilty and banished from the kingdom.
On 10th July 1606 he was created a peer of Scotland, under the new title of Lord Blantyre (Scotland). The proclamation read as follows, “Walter Stewart, Prayour of Blantyre ves maid knight of Cardonald and thairafter barone, baronet and lord of our Sovereign Lord’s Parliament and ordained in all tyme thereafter to be called “Lord of Blantyre.”
He held many high posts and was involved in all the important legislation passed by parliament and other historical events during his peerage. It is said that his wife left the Priory with her children to live in Cardonald because of ‘ghostly images and noises”, so leaving Lord Blantyre to live there alone.
On the trial of George Sprot, notary in Eyemouth, 12th August 1608, for concealment of Earl Gowrie’s conspiracy, he formed one of the assessors, and on 13th January 1610, he was restored to his former post as an extraordinary lord of session. He held the office of Extraordinary Lord of Session between January 1609/10 and 1617.
The good old Prior of Blantyre as he was known, died on 8th March 1617. He had a daughter, Anne, married to John, eighth Lord Abernethy of Salton, and three sons, William, who succeeded him; James; and Walter.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016