Rory Stewart Family History
Rory James Nugent Stewart was born on January 3rd, 1973 to Brian and Sally Stewart in Hong Kong. The son of a senior officer in the British Secret Service, he spent his early years in London and then in Malaysia and Hong Kong. He was educated first at Eton College, the premier English public school, and afterwards at Balliol College, Oxford where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).
All this might have equipped him for a political career. He was and is articulate and likeable. While a student at Oxford, he had served as private tutor to the Princes William and Harry during the summer.
But Rory would not become the conventional Oxbridge Tory politician. After graduating in 1997, he joined the British diplomatic service and was posted to Indonesia.
Three years later he took leave from the Foreign Office to walk across Asia. He has described his 36-day solo walk across Afghanistan in the winter of 2002 as the most important thing he did in his life. He went on to set up the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Afghanistan and relocated for a time to Kabul to involve himself in its projects.
In 2010 he did enter the world of British politics, becoming the Conservative MP for the Penrith and Border constituency. The next nine years saw him as a backbench MP, hold a number of Cabinet positions, and even in 2019 be a contender for the leadership of the Conservative party. However, as his 2023 book Politics On The Edge described, disillusionment had set in and he quit front-line politics later on in 2019.
Yet Rory has remained in the public eye through his link-up with the former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell in their highly popular The Rest is Politics podcasts.
Scotland and India
Rory’s Stewart name is Scottish and is common in Perthshire and adjoining Angus, known formerly as Forfarshire. The name was first recorded in Forfarshire in 1377 when Sir Alexander Stewart received a grant of lands at Inverlunen.
Redvers Buller Stewart – named after that Victorian war hero General Sir Redvers Buller who had distinguished himself in South Africa – was born in the town of Kirriemuir, Forfarshire in 1886. Kirriemuir was noted at that time for its jute works built in the 1870’s. Redvers left as a young man for India where he came into the employ of Lonsdale & Clark, jute merchants of Calcutta. He would later become a partner in the firm.
Scottish businessmen from Dundee with their expertise in jute spinning and weaving had started the jute industry in Calcutta back in the 1850‘s. There were just five jute mills in operation there in 1872, but that number had jumped to twenty-four by 1892. And by 1908 Calcutta had become the largest jute producer in the world, employing more than 300,000 workers. Its production peaked in 1928.
Scots Jutewallahs dominated this industry. Most came from Dundee and a few from Forfar and Arbroath. They met in their jute clubhouses where Indians were not invited. One of them remembered the compound as “an oasis, beautifully maintained, with a bowling green and tennis courts.”
Redvers was back in Scotland in 1919 for his marriage to Mabel Sparks in Kirriemuir. Their first son George was born in India in 1921, their second son Brian in Scotland in 1922, Shortly after Brian was born, Redvers and Mabel returned to Calcutta, leaving their two sons in the care of his sister Isa at Kirriemuir.
Redvers lived and worked in Calcutta for almost half a century until Partition came in 1947, He hardly saw his two sons over that time. After his retirement he lived on at his Broich home in Crieff, Perthshire until 1977.
World War Two and the Far East
Under the watchful eyes of their aunt, both boys – George and Brian – attended Glenalmond College, an independent boarding school near Perth, and went on to study at Worcester College, Oxford. However, by that time war with Germany had been declared and both enlisted with the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) regiment.
In early July 1943 George landed with the 5th Battalion Black Watch in Sicily. Later that month his battalion came under heavy fire and George was killed. He was just 22 years old.
Brian – Rory’s father – lived to tell the tale. He was with the 3rd Battalion Black Watch during the D-Day landings in 1944 as a commander of an anti-tank platoon. Although injured in the leg, he led his unit into battle and they destroyed twelve Panzer tanks.
After the war young Brian was sent to Malaya as a district commander. With a tiny police force, he ambushed a troop of bandits at night and sentenced them as magistrate the following day.
He left Malaya in 1957 and was immediately recruited by MI6 and posted to Rangoon. Shanghai followed where he was given the title of consul-general. But he in fact operated as a spy accumulating information about the secretive society in Beijing (he was a formidable linguist who spoke Mandarin fluently). Later on, he was widely admired for his skill in running Britain’s largest secret intelligence operation as the MI6 station chief in Hong Kong.
Brian married twice, to his first wife Peggy in 1946 snd to his second wife Sally in 1972. He was thus over fifty when their son Rory was born a year later in 1973. However, Rory did get to know him well as he lived to be ninety-three, dying in 2015.
Post MI6 Brian had a number of positions in the Far East before retiring in 1997 to his father’s Perthshire home of Broich House. There he enjoyed being the tartan Highlander. He took great pleasure in painting watercolors and in planting more than 2,000 trees on the estate. He remained active and energetic throughout his life. He was to his son Rory a remarkable man.
Rory Stewart’s Family Tree
- George Lyell Stewart (b. 1861) from Kirriemuir m. Jeannie Webster (b. 1861) in 1882
- – Isabella (Isa) Stewart (b. 1883)
- – Redvers Stewart (1886-1977)
- – George Stewart (b. 1892)
- Redvers Buller Stewart m. Mabel Sparks (b. 1892) in Kirriemuir in 1919
- – George Stewart (1921-1943), died in Sicily during WW2
- – Brian Stewart (1922-2015)
- Brian Stewart m. Peggy Pollock in 1946, divorced in 1970; rem. Sally Nugent nee Rose (b. 1935) in 1972
- – Heather Stewart, with Peggy
- – Anne Stewart m. Andrew Carver, with Peggy
- – Rory Stewart (b. 1973), with Sally
- – Fiona Stewart (b. 1977 with Down’s syndrome), with Sally
- Rory Stewart m. Shoshana Clark (b. 1981) from America in Crieff, Perthshire in 2012
- – Wolf Stewart (b. 2014)
- – William Stewart (b. 2017)
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