Obituary: Douglas John Moray Stuart, 20th Earl of Moray

Douglas John Moray Stuart, 20th Earl of Moray
Douglas John Moray Stuart, 20th Earl of Moray
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n Douglas John Moray Stuart, 20th Earl of Moray. Born: 13 February, 1928, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Died: 23 September, 2011, aged 83.

Douglas John Moray Stuart, 20th Earl of Moray. Born: 13 February, 1928, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Died: 23 September, 2011, aged 83.

The company has land holdings in Moray, Perthshire and Inverness-shire and over the course of his 60-year involvement Moray provided a steady hand during a period of great change.

In addition to overseeing the traditional estate businesses of farm letting, house letting and forestry, he promoted the diversification of the families’ interests into in-hand farming, a prize winning caravan park, renewable energy and the recently consented Inverness Airport Business Park.

Latterly he was particularly proud of the company’s proposals for a new town of 12,000 people planned for Tornagrain, near Inverness. He was equally proud of the company’s active involvement in the creation of Castle Stuart Golf Links and it is pleasing for those that knew him that he lived long enough to see the Scottish Open played there this summer.

Douglas John Moray Stuart, 20th Earl of Moray was the head of one of Scotland’s oldest and most historic families. The Moray title was originally bestowed by Robert the Bruce on his nephew Thomas Randolph, who had commanded the right flank of the Scots at Bannockburn.

Moray’s direct ancestor was the famous Regent Moray, the natural son of James V and half brother to Mary Queen of Scots, who played a key role in the tumultuous decade between 1560 and 1570. As Lord James Stewart he helped organise Mary’s return to Scotland in 1561 and was her principal advisor in the early years of her reign. In 1562 the Gordon Earl of Huntly led an uprising in the North East in an attempt to turn back the tides of Reformation. Lord James commanded the opposing forces and, with his sister, suppressed the rebels at the battle of Corrichie. It was shortly after this that Mary bestowed the coveted earldom of Moray on him.

Moray’s relationship with Mary broke down over the latter’s doomed marriage to Darnley. With Mary’s abdication Moray was made Regent of Scotland in 1567, on behalf of the young James VI, and he finally defeated the resurgent Marian Forces at the Battle of Langside in 1568.

Interestingly, Moray built a new mill for the bakers of Glasgow in recognition of the fresh bread supplied by them to his soldiers before the battle. The link continues to this day with successive Earls elected to honorary membership of the Incorporation of Bakers.

Moray’s murder in Linlithgow in 1570 is the earliest recorded assassination with a firearm; and with his demise Scotland descended into a bloody civil war. Known by his supporters as the “Good Regent” and Father of the Nation, under his auspices and influence the Reformation was consolidated in Scotland.

Moray and his formidable wife Annas Keith had two daughters, the eldest of whom married James Stewart, Lord Doune thus uniting the two Stewart families. The Stewarts of Doune descend directly from the Duke of Albany, son of King Robert II, who built Doune Castle in the 14th Century.

Albany held Doune (from the Gaelic dun) because his wife was the heiress of the old Celtic earldom of Menteith; thus, in the words of the genealogist Sir Iain Moncreiffe, the Moray family’s connection with Doune of Menteith “goes far back beyond the dawn of history”.

Lord Doune’s accession to the Earldom proved a poisoned chalice as it also exposed him to the wrath of the Huntly Gordons and their ongoing blood feud with the Moray family. On 7 February, 1592 the Gordons attacked Moray’s house of Donibristle in Fife; Moray escaped but was slain on the shores of the Firth of Forth.

Before having him killed, Huntly slashed Moray twice across the face with his sword and, according to tradition; the dying man’s last words were “You’ve spoiled a better face than your own, Huntly!” The celebrated contemporary folk song “The Bonnie Earl O’Moray” laments the horrific murder.

The family changed the spelling from Stewart to Stuart in the later 17th century; this was in deference to the Stuart kings with whom the family was closely associated.

Douglas Stuart, as he was then, was born in Johannesburg on 13 February, 1928. He was the second of four children, an older sister Hermione and twin younger brothers Charles and James. His father Archibald Stuart, the second son of Morton, 17th Earl of Moray, had purchased in 1922 a remote cattle ranch, Saas Poste, to the east of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, then Bechuanaland Protectorate.

Douglas’ mother was Mable Wilson, daughter of Benjamin “Matabele” Wilson, an early explorer and pioneer who had worked for Cecil Rhodes and was one of the few white men who personally knew and was on friendly terms with Lobengula, last king of the Matabele people.

Douglas spent the first seven years of his life by the banks of the “great, grey, green, greasy” Limpopo River before being sent off to prep school in Johannesburg. In 1943, while at Hilton College, Natal, he learned of the sudden and unexpected death of his Uncle Francis, 18th Earl of Moray at Darnaway Castle, the family home in Scotland.

With the absence of a male heir Archibald was now 19th earl and Douglas was to assume the Moray courtesy title, Lord Doune. On being asked by the headmaster of his school if he wanted to change his name there and then, Douglas declined. “Very wise!” was the headmaster’s response.

Archibald had to return to Scotland immediately to attend family affairs, while Douglas, now Lord Doune, made the journey on leaving school in 1945. Doune travelled on a troop ship and the Armistice was signed when the boat was off the North African coast; in future years he often recounted the celebrations that took place.

After his arrival it was often remarked upon how well the boy from Bechuanaland had adapted to life in Scotland and he soon grew to love the country. In 1947 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge to read History followed by a course in estate management at the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester. Having been excused from National Service on account of his South African birth he was encouraged to join the family business by his father.

The 1950s were a period of commercial consolidation. Punitive death duties forced the sale of sizeable portions of the estate including Glen Finglas in the Trossachs, the Royal hunting forest closely associated with Doune Castle and the early Stewart kings.

Between 1951 and 1957 Doune’s illustrious uncle James Stuart, later Viscount Stuart of Findhorn, was Secretary of State for Scotland, having been the Member of Parliament for Moray and Nairn since 1923. Stuart was the youngest son of the 17th earl, a decorated war hero and member of Churchill’s War Cabinet. Harold Macmillan was Stuart’s brother-in-law and was a regular visitor to Darnaway. However, despite these impeccable political connections, Doune was never interested in politics and, on inheriting the Moray title, was one of the few hereditary peers never to participate in the House of Lords.

In 1952 Doune moved to the family home outside the village of Doune, thus continuing the family’s long connection with the area; he would remain passionate about the house and its garden for the rest of his life.

Prominent among Moray Estates’ many activities in the 1960s was the foundation and development of the new town of Dalgety Bay on the Donibristle Estate in Fife. However, by 1970 changes in the fiscal regime prompted the premature sale of the development, and with the concurrent sale of the Donibristle estate the family’s 450-year presence in that part of Fife ended, the only exception being the island and abbey of Inchcolm in the Firth of Forth.

Doune’s passion for motor racing and pre-war sports cars resulted in the founding of the Doune Hill Climb in 1968 and the formation of what became the Doune Motor Museum two years later. “A Day at Doune” was a popular attraction for the people of central Scotland in the 1970s; a single ticket would not only gain admission to the museum, but also Doune Castle and the gardens. The museum closed in 1998; however the Hill Climb remains as popular as ever under the auspices of the Lothian Car Club.

In 1974, on the death of his father, Doune became 20th Earl of Moray. It was at this period in his life that he developed his other great passion, the collecting of contemporary Scottish art. He took immense pleasure in meeting and getting to know both young and established artists and very much enjoyed commissioning work from them.

In 1964 Doune married Lady Malvina Murray, daughter of Mungo, 7th earl of Mansfield of Scone Palace, Perth. The marriage was a long and happy one and Moray is survived by his wife, son and daughter. His son, John, married to Catherine, daughter of Professor and Mrs Alan Lawson of Trinity College Dublin, succeeds as 21st earl; his daughter Lady Louisa is married to Mr David Stewart Howitt of Kinlochmoidart House. There are five grandchildren.

Despite having retired from active management of the company in recent years, Moray continued to follow the company’s progress with enthusiasm and was always willing to proffer wisdom and advice from 60 years’ experience. He was a private family man, characterised by gentleness and a keen sense of humour, and will be very much missed by all who knew him.