Home > Deaf History > Jean Stewart of Scotland, Countess of Morton, was Deaf

Jean Stewart of Scotland, Countess of Morton, was Deaf

December 4, 2008

King James I and Queen Joan Beaufort of Scotland’s daughter Princess Jean a.k.a Joan (1428 ā€“ 1486) was also known as “the dumb lady of Dalkeith” was born deaf and in public used sign talk even though in that era it was seemed to be improper. She was married to the 4th Lord Dalkeith and Earl of Morton, James Douglas in 1457. Betrothed at age 13 to her cousin, James Douglas, third Earl of Angus, in an arranged marriage, but he died before the wedding. Sent to France in 1445 for education at a nunnery. In 1457, she married to James Douglas, 4th Lord Dalkeith and 1st Earl of Morton, she became the Countess of Morton. She had four children; Janet, Elizabeth, James and John Douglas, 2nd Earl of Morton. Buried with her husband in the Morton Monument tomb at St. Nicolas Buccleauch Parish Church, Dalkeith, near Edinburgh. Her simulacrum on the Morton Monument tomb2 is presumed the world’s oldest representation of a deaf person as sculpture. [Sources from RoyaList Online and wikipedia.org]

Categories: Deaf History
  1. Anonymous
    December 4, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Interesting history. I found the story about restore the tomb. http://www.midlothianadvertiser.co.uk/news/Restored-earl-returns-to-Dalkeith.1080258.jp

  2. December 4, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Interesting family tree, too. One of her descendants was Diana, Princess of Wales.

  3. Amazing
    December 4, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Wow! I can’t believe how great Fookem and Bug’s editors are. They always digging anything out of the ground or find the lost Deaf history for us. I praise for their hard work. Thank you very much. I love your site.

  4. December 4, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Nice job on this. I think I did blogged about this in my old Yahoo 360 blog one-time.

  5. December 4, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Founded this for you: James Douglas, 1st Earl of Morton, the husband of Lady Joan/Jean Stewart.

    According to this: She was deaf and dumb, known as “the dumb lady of Dalkeith”. She lived in France from Aug 1445 to spring 1458[752]. They were ancestors of the later Earls of Morton, extinct in the male line in 1548.

  6. A.J
    December 4, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    How come my hs history teacher did not talk about her? Eh?

    Can you find more interesting story or deaf history and share with us?

  7. David Di Cesaris
    January 3, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    I am doing a research on Jean of Scotland, Countess of Morton and I seem cannot find anything in website to research her life and death. Is there anything that give out a biography story about her? If so, can you tell me where to find them.



  8. Jody
    January 3, 2011 at 4:15 am

    David I have been researching her for about a year and she being woman there exactlyntwo references to her in actual archival records. Some of the information above is not correct, she was betrothed to the Earl of angus sometime around the death of her father in 1437 when she was 11. It is. Quite apparent that the marriage was either pushed on the earl of angus by the other line of Douglas ( black) but they never intended to honor it. She left with her sister elanore as an uninvited guest to the court of Charles VII where their sister was married to the dauphin. This was in 1445 when Joan or Johanna as she is referred to in Scottish records, was 17 years old. If the Earl if Angus had intended to marry her he would have one at least by the time she was 15. The reason they were sent to the court was because by then their other sisters Isabella and Mary were already married and the court in France was seen as sort of a marriage mart. Unfortunately whether is was her deafness or not she spent 13 years at the Frnch court 9 of them by herself as elanore married the arch duke of austria. Some sources will say she went to France to be educated but there are no surviving records that this was true either in France or in the treasury records of Scotland ( I have checked ). At the age 31 she returned to Scotland and married lord Dalkeith who was also a James Douglas of the the black line ( the Earl of Douglas was the black line And the Earl of aAngus was the red line- both shared a common ancestor cack in the 13 th century). When lord Dalkeith married Johanna he was granted the title of Earl of Morton with land in the borders and in Angus.
    It is thought that because the girls where probably taught by those of Cistercian monastic movement of which there are many in Scotland of that prior, she probably learned a type of monastic sign language monks used during periods of silence, this coupled with th fact that she probably used a form of him sign language and was literate so she could write out her wants and needs she was able to survive will in her environment. Though ones intelligence, worth and value in the period define by the church had a
    lot to do with being vocal she was probably very unique for her period and probably because she was of royal/ noble birth she was acceptable. But given all of her sisters and brother married into high ranking noble families of Europe an she married a minor Scottish lord probably had to with her being deaf. And I question if she was actually deaf at birth but her deafness might have been brought on by an early illness but the only record that defines her deaf is an archival records about a 100 years later as an excuse to dissolve a marriage of her decendants as being to close too the mute dumb lady of Dalkeith so as to imply that their union might result in more deaf children (1500s). If you want some sources contact me at jawisrwa@gmail.com. By the way ther is no biography for her nor is there one for h mother who was Joan beaufort, the grand daughter of John of Gaunt and. Katherine Swynford. Women even queens rarely made in the history books.

  9. Anita Halterman
    July 19, 2011 at 2:11 am

    That is so cool that I found out she is deaf as I am too and we are related. Surprise she make it good there because around that time there, they usually hide the deaf, blind, retard or sometime kill them. Wow I am so exciting and can’t wait to spread to my family and friend. I need to know what kind of sign language she use as I use ASL with english.

  10. May 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    With royals in the far past, it was usual to have more than one wife in succession, plus concubines or mistresses, and to have many children. Probably a good percentage of English descendants today and those who emigrated to America have royal blood in their ancestry without knowing it.

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