Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Lady Susan Stewart's Reel

Scottish Country Dance Instruction


1- 8 1s set, cast below 3s, lead up to top and cast to face 1st corners
9-16 1s dance 'Hello-Goodbye' setting and end facing 1st corners
17-24 1s turn 1st corners RH, partner LH, 2nd corners RH and partners LH to own sides facing down
25-32 1s dance down between 3s, cast up on own side, dance up between 2s and cast back to 2nd place own sides

(MINICRIB. Dance crib compiled by Charles Upton, Deeside Caledonian Society, and his successors)

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams

Dance Instruction Videos

Lady Susan Stewart's Reel - Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

What's this? Yet another dance named for one of the Scottish aristocracy? For sure, there has been no shortage of blue-blooded Stewarts from which to choose, whichever way it is spelled. The Bonny Prince for example!

But let's start with Lady Susan's father, John Stewart. He was a Scottish peer, the 7th Earl of Galloway, and quite infamous in his day which was the mid to late 1700s. James Boswell, an eminent Scottish biographer of that era, once wrote of John Stewart that he had "a petulant forwardness that cannot fail to disgust people of sense and delicacy." Even Robbie Burns targeted Lady Susan's father with an epigram that started "What dost thou in that mansion fair? Flit, Galloway, and find some narrow, dirty dungeon cave, the picture of thy mind." Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that John Stewart was in the process of siring sixteen children, of whom Lady Susan was the third. Perhaps Burns was somewhat envious, being himself no slouch with the ladies.

So enough about John Stewart, the 7th Earl of Galloway, except to say that for the last 23 years of his life, he was appointed Lord of the Bedchamber to King George III, a position for which John seemed to be eminently suited.

At the age of 24, Lady Susan entered into wedlock with the Duke of Marlborough, the 5th in fact. By family name, he was George Spencer-Churchill. Whoa! Spencer? Churchill? Ah! Now we seem to have some added significance as to why someone devised a Scottish Country Dance reel celebrating Lady Susan Stewart. She went on to have four children, all boys, during which time the Duke, Spencer-Churchill himself, added a further 9 illegitimate offspring elsewhere.

Most of us will probably remember one of the most famous of Lady Susan's (now the Duchess of Marlborough) descendants. That would be Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War. He was the great, great, grandson of Lady Susan and her husband George Spencer-Churchill, through their first child.

Now, some readers may perhaps need a little memory prompt about the Spencer half of Lady Susan's family tree. Well, it so happens that in 1981, a certain Lady Diana Spencer married Charles, the Prince of Wales. Remember her? Her father was the 8th Earl Spencer, and if we go back to where we started in Lady Susan Stewart's day, there was a family merger, through the complexities of inheritance. It involved a branch of the Spencer family merging with the Dukes of Marlborough a.k.a. the Churchills. Many of whom through the passage of time, seemed to have lived "happily ever after" (more or less) at either a monumental country estate called Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, or the Spencer family mansion in Northamptonshire called Althorp, where Lady Diana Spencer is buried.

All of which seems to indicate quite clearly a blood relationship between Winston Churchill, the late Princess of Wales, and the focus of our story, Lady Susan Stewart. Although I am by no means a Royalist, I am moved to believe that she deserves a celebratory reel in her name.

Lady Susan Stewart's Reel came to light back in 1928 when it was published in RSCDS Book 5, but may have been devised much earlier. The deviser remains anonymous.

The Barry Pipes Canon 084- May, 2016.

(Dance information from set and link, RSCDS Toronto Newsletter - What's In A Name? The Barry Pipes Canon 2005-2018, reproduced here with kind permission. Copyright Barry Pipes. All rights reserved)

Lady Susan Stewart
Lady Susan Stewart - Susan Spencer-Churchill, Duchess Of Marlborough (10 April 1767 - 2 April 1841)

Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original Susan Spencer-Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright Unidentified painter / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Back to the top of this Scottish Country Dancing Instructions 'Lady Susan Stewart's Reel' page