The House of Stewart, or Stuart, is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of England, Ireland, and Great Britain. Their patrilineal ancestors (from Brittany) had held the office of High Steward of Scotland since the 12th century, after arriving by way of Norman England. The dynasty inherited further territory by the 17th century which covered the entire British Isles, including the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Ireland, also maintaining a claim to the Kingdom of France.
In total, nine Stewart monarchs ruled just Scotland from 1371 until 1603. After this there was a Union of the Crowns under James VI & I who had become the senior genealogical claimant to The Crown holdings of the extinct House of Tudor. Thus there were six Stewart monarchs who ruled both England and Scotland as well as Ireland (although the later Stuart era was interrupted by an interregnum lasting from 1649â€“1660, as a result of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms). Additionally, at the foundation of the Kingdom of Great Britain after the Acts of Union, which politically united England and Scotland, the first monarch was Anne, Queen of Great Britain. After her death, all the holdings passed to the House of Hanover, under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701.
During the reign of the Stewarts, Scotland developed from a relatively poor and feudal country into a prosperous, fairly modern and centralised state. They ruled during a time in European history of transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Monarchs such as James IV were known for sponsoring exponents of the Northern Renaissance such as the poet Robert Henryson, and others. After the Stewarts gained control of all of Great Britain, the arts and sciences continued to develop; many of William Shakespeare's best known plays were authored during the Jacobean era, while institutions such as the Royal Society and Royal Mail were established during the reign of Charles II.