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Issue 90 - Roddy Martine's View

Scotland Magazine Issue 90
December 2016

 

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Roddy Martine's View

Roddy Martine enters the realms of reincarnation

There is perhaps an instinctive tendency to tie the name of Stewart exclusively to the Royal House of Scotland, but there's a lot more to this globally entrepreneurial surname, with its many alternative spellings, than just that.

For example, are you aware that there are Stewart mountaineers, footballers, chemists, writers, swimmers, racing drivers, pop singers, painters, brewers, explorers, broadcasters, and politicians? And did you know that the Hollywood film star James Stewart won the Croix de Guerre with Palm during the Second World War, and during the Vietnam War achieved the rank of Brigadier General in the US Air Force?

There is also the recently knighted Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard, of the science fiction television series Star Trek – the Armstrongs are the only other Scottish Clan to boast an Outer Space connection.

Back in the early Middle Ages, all of our ancestors were identified by either where they came from or what they did for a living. Walter fitz Alan, a Breton crusader who was appointed High Steward of Scotland by King David I around 1150, was no exception. After his office became hereditary and was passed on to the next generation in 1177, the name of Stewar(d)t stuck. Since Walter is known to have fathered at least 10 children, it is hardly surprising his third millennium descendants are legion.

It can be a lot of fun finding out who you are related to and in their remarkable publication Stewart Heritage, Charles Kinder Bradbury and my distinguished friend Henry Steuart Fotheringham, a former President of the Stewart Society, have come up with connections as far afield as Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Uruguay.

Furthermore, I particularly commend the way in which they have not dismissed the supernatural connections. From the age of three, the Lancashire-born Ada Kay had dreams of a medieval battlefield and of herself dressed as a boy in scarlet, heading up a group of horsemen passing through a castle gate. Years later, as the successful author of two well-received stage plays,
Red Rose for Ransom and The Man from Thermopylae, she found herself married to an architect, Peter Stewart, and living in Edinburgh.

It was all strangely familiar. Now known as A. J. Stewart, she inexplicably found herself reading up on the life of King James IV and puzzling over what she already knew about him. In the 1960s, a ‘traumatic and liberating’ visit to the battlefield of Flodden led to her writing the book
Falcon: The Autobiography of His Grace James the 4 King of Scots (1973).

Several academics have confided in me that she had all the answers to the historical questions they had always puzzled over. How did A. J. come to know what she knew? I included a chapter on her in my own book
Supernatural Scotland (2003), and I often visited her at her Edinburgh home, where she would receive me wearing her medieval robes – complete with a gold chain at the waist.

I asked her why it was that those who believe themselves to be reincarnated always claim to have been somebody famous in a past life? “If you have lived a very public life, with great responsibilities, and then it all comes to a violent end and you die with a great sense of anger, guilt and remorse, those emotions are carried over into your future lives.”

Indeed, A. J. Stewart believes we are all reborn as different people in different lifetimes. I too had died at Flodden, she told me. I was Alexander Stewart, the 23-year-old Archbishop of St Andrews, the King's natural son by Marion Boyd. So perhaps I too can claim to be a Stewart.