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Sir Simeon Steward (1575-1629)
Born: 31st July 1575 at Shinfield, Berkshire
Died: 1629

Sir Simon was the son of Sir Mark Steward, of Stantney on the Isle of Ely, by his wife, Anna, the daughter of Dr. Robert Huick, one of Queen Elizabeth I's physicians. He was born on his maternal grandfather's property at Shinfield in Berkshire and was brother to Lady Forster of Aldermaston House. Sir Mark was the son of another Sir Simeon, who was a brother of Robert Steward, Dean of Ely Cathedral. According to an old family legend recorded on Sir Mark's memorial, an ancestor sailed with his relative, James I of Scots, from his home near Dundee, was captured by the English off Flamborough Head in 1405, mar­ried an Englishwoman and, having trans­ferred his allegiance to Henry V of England, settled in Cambridgeshire. The poet's father received the honour of knighthood at Whitehall in July 1603. He was then seventy-nine years old and he died in the following November, when a splendid monument, with a recumbent figure, was erected by his son to his memory in the south aisle of Ely Cathedral.

Simeon Steward was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge and, while still in residence, was knighted by James I of England at Whitehall, pre­vious to his Coronation on 23rd July 1603. He lived at Trinity Hall for many years and was known to Robert Herrick and Thomas Fuller, who describes the coat-of-arms which Steward caused to be carved over his chimneypiece. The room was probably the "cham­ber under ye Library West," but the arms have long since disappeared. In 1614, he represented Shaftesbury in Parliament. In 1624, he was returned for Cambridgeshire but his election was declared void upon a petition. In 1627, how­ever, he entered Parliament again as member for Aldeburgh. A defaced copy of some elegiac verses upon the death of Sir S. Steward, undated, but probably written in 1629, would refer his death to this year.

Herrick sent Steward some verses as a new year's gift in January 1624, in full confidence of his appreciation. For the knight was the possessor of a small claim to rank as a poet himself. Inspired, it would appear, by Spenser and Shakespeare, he wrote a graceful poem called 'The Faerey King'. This appeared under his name in a volume entitled 'A Description of the King and Queene of Fayries: Their Habit, Fare, their Abode, Pompe and State' (1635). Steward's contribution to the volume was reprinted in 'Musarum Deliciae' (1656) and in the rare volume of 'Bibliographical Miscellanies' printed at Oxford in 1813 by Dr. Bliss, who made several manuscript notes relating to the 'Faerey King' in his copy, now in the British Mu­seum. The version he prints was discovered by him among the Rawlinson manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and differs in numerous points from that in the 'Musarum Deliciae.' In the Victorian era, Steward's poem reappeared in Mr. A. E. Waite's selection of fairy poems, entitled 'Elfin Music' (1888).

Edited from Sidney Lee's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1898).


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