The third son of King Robert II and Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan, Alexander Stewart has become known as one of the most evil characters in Scotland’s history and earned him his notorious nickname, The Wolf of Badenoch.
He lived from about 1343 – 1394 (or 1405) during barbarous times, but even by their standards he stood out, and was feared over a considerable distance.
Throughout his life he was Lord of Badenoch around 1371, Earl of Buchan and was also his brother Robert III’s royal deputy in the north of Scotland.
The Wolf ruled the lands of Badenoch in a cruel way, burning the homes of those who crossed or displeased him. Taking labour and goods way beyond any reason, but went too far when he seized the lands of Alexander Barr, Bishop of Moray. For this he was excommunicated.
His wife, Countess of Ross, was deserted by him. His wife appealed to the Bishop of Moray, who unfortunately for him, gave judgement in her favour.
The Wolf was outraged. All out for revenge, he came down from his stronghold, the castle of Lochindorb and ransacked and burned Forres and Elgin. Elgin of course, being the ecclesiastical centre of the Bishopric of Moray. Setting off fires, mainly in the College, the Canon’s houses and the Hospital of the Maison Dieu, he terrified the people of Elgin, forcing them to flee with their families into the countryside.
In 1390 he burned Elgin Cathedral, destroying many of its irreplaceable records including family, legal and monastic. A terrible loss.
The Wolf was called upon by his father to do penance for this heinous crime. This he did under the watchful eye of his father the King, nobles and many dignitaries of the church. The King, believing that his son had learnt his lesson, finally pardoned him, and his was received back into the Church. Unfortunately, his repentance was superficial.
Throughout his reign he extended and reinforced his castles at Loch-an-Eilein and Lochindorb, and yet hardly changed Castle Roy at Nethy Bridge.
Legend has it that The Wolf of Badenoch died in 1394, although others maintain is was in 1406, when it is believed that he played chess with the devil. He had been visited at Ruthven Castle by a man, who was tall, and dressed in black. The man wished to play a game of chess with the Wolf. The game went on for several hours until the tall, darkly dressed man moved one of the chess pieces and called ‘check’ and then ‘checkmate’. The man rose from the table. On calling these words there was a terrible storm of thunder, hail and lightning. The storm continued through the night until silence befell the castle in the morning. In that morning silence, it was then that the Wolf’s men were discovered outside the castle walls, dead and blackened as if they had all been struck by the lightening. The Wolf was found in the banqueting hall, and although his body appeared unmarked, the nails in his boots had all been torn out.
The funeral procession was held two days later, led by the Wolf’s coffin. Terrible storms started over and over again as the coffins were added to the procession. It was only after the Wolf’s coffin was carried to the back of the procession did the storms cease. The storms did not return.
The Wolf of Badenoch was not buried locally, but is buried in Dunkeld Cathedral where his effigy can still be seen.