STUART, Hon. James Archibald (1747-1818), of Admaleish, Bute.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1768 - 1774
1774 - 1780
30 Nov. 1780 - 1784
1784 - 1790
1790 - 1796
22 Feb. 1797 - 1802
1806 - 1807

Family and Education

b. 19 Sept. 1747, 2nd s. of John, 3rd Earl of Bute [S], and bro. of Hon. Charles and Hon. Frederick Stuart and of John, Lord Mountstuart.  educ. di Graffiani’s acad. Kensington; Edinburgh Univ. 1766-7; France 1767-8.  m. 8 June 1767, Margaret, da. of Sir David Cunynghame, 3rd Bt., of Milncraig, Ayr, sis. of Sir William Augustus Cunynghame, 4th Bt., 4s. 3da.  suc. mother 1794 and assumed add. name of Wortley; suc. uncle James Stuart Mackenzie 1800 and took add. name of Mackenzie.

Offices Held

Lt.-col. commandant 92 Ft. 1779-83.

Dep. ranger of Windsor New Park 1786- d.


Stuart, by the will of his grandfather (who died in 1761), was designated next heir after his mother to the vast Wortley fortune, failing legitimate issue of his disinherited uncle, Edward Wortley Montagu. An idle undisciplined youth, he was sent to Edinburgh to board with Principal Robertson.1 With Algernon Percy he was a ringleader in the student riot which wrecked the Edinburgh Playhouse in January 1767.2 A few months later Bute, on hearing rumours that James had secretly married, ordered him home and soon afterwards sent him off to France with a ‘governor’.3 In April 1768 Lady Betty Stuart Mackenzie told her sister Lady Mary Coke:

It was disagreeable to Lady Bute to have him named for that he had behaved very ill since he went to France ... and had spent a prodigious deal of money ... but there was one thing worse than all, for that, after having assured his father that there was no truth in the report of his marriage, it now came out he was married and had taken such an aversion to the lady, that he wrote to his father to entreat him ... to extricate him out of the dreadful difficulty ... thinking it might be in his friends’ power to break the marriage, which as it was in Scotland, is impossible. The reason he gives for having taken such a dislike to his wife is that he was drawn in ... and ... now declares he will never live with her.

At the general election of 1768 Stuart was returned in absentia for Ayr Burghs. In July, after his return from France, Lady Mary Coke recorded that Bute ‘would not see him till he promised to be reconciled with his wife ... and they are to make him a settlement’.4 Stuart submitted; in November he brought home his bride from Scotland, set up house, was presented at court, and took his seat in Parliament. He consistently supported Administration, his only probable deviation being on the motion of 2 Mar. 1772 to abolish the observance of 30 Jan. (Charles I’s execution). Horace Walpole writes: ‘One of Lord Bute’s sons and another Stuart, probably for a little popularity with the Whigs, voted against the fast.’5 In 1774 Stuart was transferred by his father to Buteshire. James Boswell, whose wife had been Mrs. Stuart’s girlhood friend, records that in 1773 Stuart had ‘become sedate and informing himself as to Scotland’; but by 1775 he was notorious as a heavy drinker and gambler. His wife, aware of her husband’s ‘numberless infidelities’, claimed for herself equal freedom in her ‘gallantries’.6

Having supported in 1775-6 Mountstuart’s abortive bill for a Scottish militia, Stuart in 1778-9 served as a lieutenant-colonel in the Bedfordshire militia.7 Bute wrote to his son Charles in November 1778:8 ‘Your elder brothers have had a military life of four months ... James ... continues fonder than ever of the trade. I wish heartily he could get into the regulars, though it is rather too late.’ In the summer, having ‘taken a public spirited resolution to serve his country by raising a regular regiment and taking the command himself’, Stuart went recruiting in Scotland.9 The regiment reached the West Indies in July 1780, during the sickly season, and shortly afterwards Stuart became a fever casualty and decided to go home.10 His return upset the family’s electoral arrangements. Heavily in debt, he had no seat to give him parliamentary immunity from his creditors; and was eventually returned by Administration at Plympton Erle, Bute paying £1,000 towards the expenses.11

Stuart voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; supported the Coalition; and opposed Pitt’s Administration. Thomas Coutts wrote to Charles Stuart, 23 Jan. 1784: ‘Lord Mountstuart and his brother adhere to Mr. Fox which I believe Lord Bute by no means approves of ... he loves the King so much he cannot bear to see any of his family go counter to him.’12 Living comparatively frugally at Richmond Lodge, Stuart ‘was become’, wrote Boswell, ‘an honest sagacious farmer and ... was cured of the two most baneful vices, gaming and drinking’. Further sobered by the death of a young daughter in 1786, he was no longer regarded as a scapegrace. ‘I think’, wrote his sister Louisa in 1788, ‘his misfortune has altered and improved him—made him much gentler.’13

He died 1 Mar. 1818.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Mackenzie to Bute, 27 June 1766, Bute mss; Alex. Carlyle, Autobiog. 268-9, 470-4.
  • 2. Scots Mag. 1767, pp. 54-55; Caldwell Pprs. ii (2), pp. 105-6.
  • 3. Lady Mary Coke, Letters Jnls. ii. 129, 237-8; Walpole, Mems. Geo. III, iii. 157.
  • 4. Letters Jnls. ii. 324, 398, 406.
  • 5. Last Jnls. i. 40.
  • 6. Boswell, Private Pprs. vi. 84, x. 161, 165; Life of Johnson, iii. 25.
  • 7. Add. 38210, f. 83; 38306, ff. 127, 160.
  • 8. E. Stuart Wortley, A Prime Minister and his Son, 140.
  • 9. Boswell, Life of Johnson, iii. 399.
  • 10. Stuart Wortley, 175-6; Fortescue, British Army, iii. 296, 347.
  • 11. Add. 38458, f. 139; Chas. Stuart to Robinson, 7 Nov., Jenkinson to Robinson, 17 Nov. 1780, Abergavenny mss; Fortescue, vi. 7; Laprade, 57.
  • 12. Stuart Wortley, 198-9, 203.
  • 13. Private Pprs. xv. 195, xvi. 215; Gleanings from an Old Portfolio, ii. 93.