Esme Stuart d'Aubigny, first Duke of Lennox c.1542-1583: a French courtier in Scotland
This thesis is a study of the life and careers of Esmé Stuart d’Aubigny, First Duke of Lennox, from his birth in the early 1540s to his death in May 1583, providing discussion of his legacy through his descendants. This study presents an understanding, within the context of the European religious conflicts of the second half of the sixteenth century, how a modest French lord became the most important noble in Scotland between 1579 and 1582. Esmé Stuart d’Aubigny was an influential person during the first years of James VI’s personal reign, notable for being a favourite of the Scottish king and for giving rise, in both Scotland and England, to fear of a new Catholic and French influence. Although he has been studied as the favourite of James VI, studies remained limited on his life in France before 1579, his involvement in a Catholic and European wide plot and his broader legacy. To ensure a higher level of knowledge of this French courtier, this work examines his family background and his education to understand whether his affiliation with the Stewart family was an important factor in his Scottish career. A study of his years in the service of France and his network, including the Valois brothers and the Guises, is also conducted to establish whether his years in France were properly formative. His career in Scotland from 1579 to 1582 are discussed in terms of three perspectives: royal favour, nobility and power, and the defence of the Catholic faith. Finally, his fall and legacy are questioned. This study offers new perspectives on Esmé Stuart d’Aubigny’s life, first by considering this matter using a biographical methodology, and, secondly, by changing the perspective on the second half of the sixteenth century to consider the individual of Esmé Stuart. By addressing gaps in the existing literature – notably using unpublished sources – this work presents the portrait of a French noble man who was not only destined to become the most important noble of the Scottish kingdom from 1579 to 1582 but who, thanks to his frequenting of the French court, become particularly socially intelligent and an opportunist with the ability to manipulate his surroundings to enable him to ascend within the most private royal circles.