Take my Heart to Whithorn

In 1508 an ambassadorial visit arrived in Scotland from France. It was headed by Bérault Stewart and Jean Sellat, president of the Parliament of Paris.

Although born and raised in France, Bérault Stewart described himself as Scottish but by this time Bérault, was Lord of Aubigny, Councillor and chamberlain of the King of France, Knight of the Order of St Michael, Captrain of the Garde Ecossaise, hero of the Italian wars, great constable of Sicily and Jerusalem and French lieutenant-general within the kingdom of Naples.

His grandfather, John Stewart of Darnley, had fought for Charles the VII of France throughout the 1420s and received the lordship of Aubigny-sur-Nère from the gratful king in 1423. His father, also called John Stewart, second Lord of Aubigny, enjoyed a distinguished career under Charles VII and Louis XI, as captain of the Garde Ecossaise, the king’s bodygaurd. John Stewart married Beatrix d’Apchier; and around 1452-3 the couple had a son Bérault, whose fame eclipsed that of all other Scots in France.

In keeping with his high status Bérault began the construction of a château at La Verrerie, a few kilometres from Aubigny. The château, with its mixture of French and Italianate Renaissance styles, is now a luxury hotel.

The chapel of La Verrerie has a painted interior including fleurs-de-lys and thistles surrounding roundels of portrait heads of contemporaries, both Scots and French.

During his ambassadorial visit to Scotland in 1508, gifts were showered upon Bérault, a tournament was held in honour of the French and a grateful king of Scots, James IV, wrote to Louis XII asking permission to retain the Lord of Aubigny in Scotland long enough to accompany him on a pilgrimage to Whithorn. No records survive to tell if they made the pilgrimage together as, falling ill in the house of his friend Sir John Forrester at Corstorphine, Bérault made his will on 8 June 1508, instructing that he should be buried in the Edinburgh Blackfriars, and his heart taken to the shrine of St Ninian at Whithorn. He died a few days later, leaving his Scottish kinsman Matthew Stewart, earl of Lennox, as his chief executor.

First Published August 2009

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