STEUART (STEWART), William (1686-1768), of Weyland and Seatter, Orkney.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1713 - 1722
1722 - 1734
1734 - 1741

Family and Education

b. 25 May 1686, o. s. of Thomas Steuart, commissary and stewart clerk of Orkney, by his 2nd w. Isobel, da. of Andrew Young of Castle Yards, Orkney.  educ. Aberdeen Univ. (King’s Coll.) 1701; adv. 1707.  m. 30 Apr. 1741, Frances, da. of Dr George Cheyne of Bath, Somerset, s.p.1

Offices Held

Principal clerk of treasury and exchequer [S] 1705–8; jt. King’s remembrancer in exchequer [S] 1708–d.; sec. for Scotland to the Prince of Wales 1714–27; paymaster of pensions 1731–42; overseer of King’s swans by 1739.2

Burgess, Kirkwall 1710.3


Steuart, a lawyer by training, was a client of the Duke of Argyll and his brother, the Earl of Ilay. Under their patronage he had obtained, in 1705, a place worth £500 p.a. This place initially survived the Union, and though it was abolished by the Act establishing the Scottish exchequer court in 1708 Steuart was compensated with a half-share of an office in the new court. He stood as an unsuccessful Court candidate for Tain Burghs in 1710, but did not enter Parliament until 1713. His election for Inverness Burghs was a hostile act towards ministerial interests, Argyll and Ilay having broken with Lord Oxford (Robert Harley*). According to Ilay, it was also designed as a reprisal against the former Member, George Mackenzie, a suspected Jacobite. The nature of this change was noted by Lord Polwarth, who classified Steuart as a ‘Hanoverian’ in his analysis of the 1713 election in Scotland. Mackenzie’s petition was never reported from committee.4

Steuart assiduously followed the Hanoverian line of his patrons. He voted on 18 Mar. against the expulsion of Richard Steele, and was probably among the Argathelian contingent that voted on 15 Apr. against the Court over the current danger to the succession. His Whiggish sympathies were likewise evident in his vote on 12 May in favour of extending the schism bill to cover Catholic education, and in his tellership on 3 July against a Scottish Tory initiative for the investigation of episcopal revenues in Scotland.5

George Lockhart* attributed Steuart’s support for the Whigs to the influence of Argyll, on whom he ‘depended absolutely . . . being as it were of his own family’. Despite loyalty to the Duke and having voted ‘according to the measures he pursued’, Steuart was, in Lockhart’s estimation, a secret Jacobite. No evidence survives beyond Lockhart’s assertion that in 1712 Steuart favoured an approach by Argyll to the exiled court. Having been appointed Scottish secretary to Prince George in 1714, Steuart was re-elected without a contest for Inverness Burghs in 1715, also standing unsuccessfully for Orkney and Shetland. He was listed as Whig both in the Worsley list and in another comparative analysis of the two Parliaments. In the aftermath of the Fifteen, he received redress for the loss of income that had occurred with the abolition of his pre-Union clerkship, being compensated with a pension of £300 p.a. formerly paid to a member of a Jacobite family. Connexion with the Argathelian interest proved increasingly remunerative: Steuart possessed offices worth £1,400 a year by 1739. He continued to adhere to his patrons’ line, and was returned for a series of Scottish burghs on their interest. Difficulties arose, however, when Argyll and Ilay quarrelled in the mid-1720s. For several years, Steuart acted as a vital link between the brothers. He retired from Parliament in 1741 and died on 13 Sept. 1768.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. Scot. Rec. Soc. lxxvi. 199.
  • 2. Gent. Mag. 1739, p. 307.
  • 3. Orkney Lib. Kirkwall burgh recs. K1/1/4, f. 174, council mins. 27 Oct. 1710.
  • 4. Add. 38507, ff. 199–204; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP F54, ff. 8–9.
  • 5. NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 8, f. 65; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 283.
  • 6. Lockhart Pprs. i. 395–8; HMC Portland, x. 297; Add. 38507, ff. 199–204; Gent. Mag. 1739, p. 307.