A GRANDFATHER who worked in a tractor factory has been revealed as a descendant of Robert III in a transatlantic project to trace the king’s men.

King Robert III reigned Scotland from 1390 until his death in 1406. Now, more than 700 years on, a DNA genealogy programme has found two of his living relatives.

One is an engineer and electronics entrepreneur from a noted line of nobility. The other, who also worked in engineering, lives in a former council house. Yesterday both men were celebrating after scientists pinpointed a distinct genetic marker proving their royal lineage.

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The marker, known as ZZ52, is only found in men and the team behind the project believe there are many more living with the link in Scotland and abroad.

Graham Holton of Strathclyde University said: “There are likely to be quite a number of people. Finding this marker is not straight forward. It needs an advanced DNA test.

“It has to be an unbroken male line and so many of them have died out in the last 700 years. This is a fascinating discovery.”

News of the link was broken to Archie Shaw Stewart, owner of electronics firm Pan Controls, and retiree Donald Stewart last week.

Shaw Stewart’s family is descended from Sir John Stewart of Blackhall and Ardgowan, one of the king’s sons.

Sir John’s great-grandfather Walter Stewart, a High Steward of Scotland, was a commander for Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and went on to marry his daughter Marjorie, mother of King Robert II.

The family retains land in Renfrewshire, including its Ardgowan House seat near the coastal village of Inverkip and has historical records dating back hundreds of years, leaving little doubt over its origins.

However, amateur genealogist Donald Stewart – a former mechanical engineering draughtsman from Lanark who spent much of his career at the mothballed Caterpillar plant – had no such proof of his family’s past and spent years trying to piece it together through the National Records in Edinburgh before being contacted by Holton’s team as part of the Bannockburn Family History Project.

The history buff, who inherited a passion for the past from his mother, had taken his family tree back to 1710 but, despite suspicions of a royal link, had been unable to prove it.

Yesterday he said he was “doing the highland fling in the kitchen” when he got the confirmation.

He told The National: “I have been searching for this link since 1992. I always had a suspicion I was linked to the Ardgowan Stewarts but I didn’t have any documentation.

“I was fifty-fifty. You just can’t make assumptions in genealogy because it’ll come back and hit you in the face. I was at a brick wall, I just couldn’t get the proof.”

Stewart’s brick wall was John Stewart, a tenant farmer on the Duke of Argyll’s estate at High Park, Kintyre, from 1710.

He says family history has been his “passion” and has now broken the news to his children and grandchildren.

Stewart said: “I have been ranting about this for years. I have grown up with the name Stewart and I always thought I should live in a castle – I live in a bought council house.

“I went to Ardgowan House and met the Baronet. He shook my hand and said ‘I believe we are cousins’.”

Testing was done at Family Tree DNA in Texas and the discovery hinges on a genetic mutation in Bruce III’s line and Holton believes there may be other DNA clues yet to be found.

However, ZZ52 is not found in descendants of the king’s brothers and work continues to trace more living members of the ancient family.

Holton said: “We would regard this as certainly quite important because we are gradually trying to distinguish through genetic testing the different branches of the Stewart family.

“We will be able to discover branches closer in time – we’re still talking about 600 years ago when the branching of this line took place and most people can only trace their ancestry to the 1800s so there is a big gap there.

“This is an opportunity to bridge that gap.”

Testing can be carried out privately for any Scots who believe their family may have been part of the medieval monarchy. However, this comes at a price, with the process costing around £400.

Shaw Stewart said: “My great uncle Patrick Shaw Stewart produced an extensive family tree over 100 years ago, extending back to Robert III. He would be very satisfied to see this part of it – Stewart – verified by new technology.”


Illegitimate heir spent most of his life waiting for throne before losing power as illness set in

ANALYSIS BY HAMISH MCPHERSON

ROBERT III whose descendant has been identified through DNA was perhaps the saddest and most unlucky King of Scots, who summed up his life in his own epitaph – “here lies the worst of kings and the most miserable of men”.

He also asked to be buried in a dungheap, which summarises his mindset as death approached. He was born John Stewart, the illegitimate son of King Robert II and Elizabeth Mure, thus making him the great-grandson of Robert the Bruce. He was about nine or 10 when he was legitimised by his father marrying his mother in 1348 following a papal dispensation. Despite once rebelling against him, he was created Earl of Carrick by his father’s predecessor on the throne, King David II. It was John’s misfortune to be born into a very troublesome family, his brother Alexander being the infamous Wolf of Badenoch, while another brother, Walter, Earl of Atholl, would end up being tortured to death for his part in the assassination of John’s son King James I.

His father lived a long life, thus stopping John becoming king until the age of 53, though he did engineer a coup of sorts to take over the running of Scotland in 1384, only to be kicked senseless by a horse and lose his vitality.

He was too kind and gentle a soul to be king, and his own brother, Robert, the Earl of Fife and later Duke of Albany, seized power – though not the throne – in 1388.

That throne did eventually go to John when his father died, aged 74, in 1390. He renamed himself Robert, saying John was not a kingly name because of John Balliol, and by 1399 he was so sickly that Albany was again able to grab ruling power.

When Robert III’s son James tried at the age of 11 to win back control of Scotland for his father, the boy lost and had to go abroad only to be captured by the English. Robert III grew even more sick on hearing of this and died on April 4, 1406.