Hon. Keith Stewart
1739-95. He was the second surviving son of the Jacobite-supporting Alexander Stewart, the 6th Earl of Galloway, and of his wife, Lady Catherine Cochrane, the daughter of the 4th Earl of Dundonald. His brother John became Viscount Garlies, and his nephew was Admiral Viscount Garlies.
Little is known of Stewart’s early career but he was commissioned lieutenant on 2 January 1759, and he served in Commodore John Moore’s expedition to Guadeloupe that month. He was promoted commander on 11 February 1761 and joined the newly commissioned Lynx 14, serving in the Downs. In August he commanded this vessel under the orders of the admiral of the fleet, Lord Anson, escorting Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to England and her marriage with King George III.
On 7 April 1762 he was posted captain of the Lively 20 on the West Indian station, this being part of a deal brokered by his father that saw the surrender of a parliamentary seat to which he had been elected in February. After a short period in North American waters he returned to England and proceeded thence to the Mediterranean in 1763. Having returned home he was rewarded with the command of the Montreal 32 which he took out to the Mediterranean in the late summer of 1764, and which he retained on that station for two years.
In 1768 Stewart was returned as the M.P for the Scottish borough of Wigtownshire, becoming renowned for his loyal support of the Grafton and North governments, and being re-elected four years later. During the peace he resided at the estate of Glasserton which had been bestowed on him by his father in 1763.
After many years of unemployment he commissioned the new Berwick 74 at the end of 1777, being present in the van at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July 1778, and enjoying a great deal of action whilst incurring casualties of ten men killed and eleven wounded. During the ensuing political dispute he attempted to remain neutral, and his ship was present in the Channel fleet retreat of August 1779.
In May 1780 Stewart sailed for the Leeward Islands under the orders of Commodore Hon. Robert Boyle Walsingham with his broad pennant aboard the Berwick, arriving after a difficult voyage in July and later being detached with Rear-Admiral Joshua Rowley’s reinforcements to Jamaica. His command only survived the hurricane of 4-12 October by returning directly to England under jury masts, arriving in December with the Jamaica convoy.
With his broad pennant still flying aboard the Berwick, Captain John Ferguson,Stewart took command of a squadron on the coast of Scotland which patrolled from the Firth of Forth northward. He was nominally the second in command at the Battle of the Doggersbank on 5 August 1781, although he was obliged to serve as a ‘volunteer’ because Captain Richard Braithwaite of the Bienfaisant 64 was his senior on the post captain’s list, and the custom of the service dictated that in such circumstances the junior officer should strike his broad pennant. Thereafter he commanded a squadron in the North Sea at the end of that year, but he struck his broad pennant after being severely criticised for failing to force an engagement with a Dutch convoy in the Downs after it had escaped on the other side of the Goodwin Sands.
In the early summer of 1782 Stewart was appointed to the Cambridge 80 which he commanded in the Channel fleet, and he was present at the relief of Gibraltar on 18 October, losing four men killed and six wounded in the subsequent engagement off Cape Spartel. At the beginning of the following year it was intended that the Cambridge go out to the Leeward Islands, but with the ending of hostilities she was decommissioned.
He commanded the Formidable 98 during the Nookta Sound dispute of 1790, was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral on 21 September 1790, and although on the active list at the commencement of war with France in 1793 he was not employed. He became a vice-admiral on 12 April 1794.
Stewart died at his seat of Glasserton, near Dumfries, Wigtownshire, on 3 March 1795, having served in his later years as the receiver-general of Scotland.
On 13 May 1782 Stewart married Georgina Isabella d’Aguilar, the daughter of an eccentric Holy Roman baron and Portuguese Jew. His eldest son, Keith Stewart, a midshipman aboard the Queen Charlotte 100, drowned after falling overboard from that ship on the day after the Battle of Lorient on 23 June 1795 whilst endeavouring to observe the carpenter’s crew stopping the shot-holes. Stewart was also the father of James Alexander Stewart-Mackenzie, the future governor of Ceylon, and had two other sons.
He was the M.P for the Wigtown Boroughs for a month in early 1762, and M.P for Wigtownshire from 1768-84 in the government interest. He enjoyed good relations with the first lord of the Admiralty, the Earl of Sandwich, but although a friend of George Johnstone he argued against this officer’s criticism of Admiral Lord Howe in parliament. He subsequently became a supporter of the Pitt administration.
A friend of William Bligh’s father, he was instrumental in advancing the younger Bligh’s career, and ensured that this officer served under him as his sailing master in 1782. Stewart was well regarded and loyal, thereby earning the jealousy of his unpopular brother who went to great lengths to extend his own and his family’s influence. He spent a good amount of time developing his coal and iron mining interests, and on his recommendation the Admiralty ordered the fitting of carronades to the Rainbow 40 at Chatham in 1782.