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Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox, 1st Earl of Lennox (1542 – 26 May 1583) was the son of John Stewart, 5th Lord of Aubigny. Sir James Melville described him as "of nature, upright, just, and gentle".

At the age of 37 he was introduced to the 13-year-old James VI of Scotland at the time when the latter made his formal entry into Edinburgh. Stewart went on to the Privy Council. He was created 1st Earl of Lennox, on 5 March 1580, and finally 1st Duke of Lennox on 5 August 1581. In Presbyterian Scotland the thought of a Catholic duke irked many and Lennox had to make a choice between his Catholic faith or his loyalty to James. At the end Lennox chose James and the king taught him the doctrines of Calvinism. The Scottish Kirk remained suspicious of Lennox after his public conversion and took alarm when he had James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton tried and beheaded on charges of treason.

In response, the Scottish nobles plotted to oust Lennox. They did so by luring James to Ruthven Castle as a guest but then kept him as prisoner for ten months. The Lord Enterprisers forced him to banish Lennox. The duke journeyed back to France and kept a secret correspondence with James. With his return to France, Lennox had met a frosty reception as an apostate. The Scottish nobles had believed that they would be proven right in their convictions that Lennox's conversion was artificial when he returned to France. Instead the former duke remained Presbyterian and died shortly after. After his death in May 1583 William Schaw took his heart back to James in Scotland. James had repeatedly vouched for Lennox's religious sincerity and memorialized him in a poem called "Ane Tragedie of the Phoenix", which said he was like an exotic bird of unique beauty killed by envy.

Esmé Stewart married Catherine de Balsac, circa 1572. They had five children:

Notes

Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
New creation
Duke of Lennox Succeeded by
Ludovic Stewart
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