The 3rd Marquess was born at the family seat of Mount Stuart, on the Isle of Bute in Scotland, to John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute and Sophia Rawdon-Hastings (daughter of Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings). The Crichton-Stuarts were illegitimate offspring of the Scottish royal House of Stuart, ennobled in the 17th century. The foundations of the family's fortunes were laid by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, Prime Minister to George the Third, who married an heiress, Mary Wortley-Montagu, and attained great political prominence, although this was not accompanied by great political success. His son, John Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute, out-stripped his father by marrying two heiresses, Charlotte Hickman, daughter of the 2nd Viscount Windsor, and Frances Coutts, of the Coutts banking dynasty. By his first marriage, the Marquess fathered John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute, the founder of modern Cardiff and father of the 3rd Marquess. The 2nd Marquess was a far-sighted early industrialist and began, at great financial risk, the development of Cardiff as a port to export the mineral wealth of the South Wales Valleys. Accumulating great debts and mortgages on his, admittedly, vast estates, the Marquess rightly foresaw the potential of Cardiff, telling his concerned solicitor in 1844, "I am willing to think well of my income in the distance." The following fifty years saw his faith triumphantly vindicated but the ensuing riches were to be enjoyed, and spent, by his son, rather than himself.
The 2nd Marquess died in 1848 and John Patrick Crichton-Stuart acceded to the Marquessate at only sixth months old. He was educated at Harrow School and Christ Church, Oxford. At a young age, it was apparent that Bute's interests lay in the scholastic, religious and antiquarian spheres and his father's accumulated wealth was to give him the means to indulge those interests on a stupendous scale. But it would be entirely wrong to view the 3rd Marquess as a dilettante; his interests were serious, scholarly and profound. His serious and committed outlook led to a sensational public scandal when he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1868. His conversion was the inspiration for Benjamin Disraeli's novel, Lothair.
The Marquess's vast range of interests; religion, medievalism, the occult, architecture, travelling, linguistics, philanthropy; filled his relatively short life. A prolific writer, bibliophile and traveller, as well as, somewhat reluctantly, a businessman, his energies were on a monumentally Victorian scale. But at a distance, just over one hundred years from his death, it is his architectural patronage that creates his lasting memorial.
In 1865, the Marquess met William Burges and the two embarked on an architectural partnership that long outlasted Burges' own death in 1881. Bute's desires and money, allied with Burges' fantastical imagination and skill led to the creation of two of the finest, if not the very finest, creations of the late Victorian era Gothic Revival, Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch. The two buildings represent both the potential of colossal industrial wealth and the desire to escape the scene of that wealth's creation. The theme recurs again and again in the huge outpouring of Bute's patronage, in chapels, castle, abbeys, universities and palaces.
The Marquess was involved in a notable company law case, known as "the Marquess of Bute's Case", reported on appeal in 1892, called Re Cardiff Savings Bank  2 Ch 100. The Marquess had been appointed to the board of directors of the Cardiff Savings Bank as "President", at the age of six months, in effect inheriting the office from his father. He only attended one board meeting in the next 38 years. When the bank went insolvent following a fellow director's fraudulent dealing, Stirling J held that the Marquess was not liable as he knew nothing of what was going on. It was not suggested that he ought to have known what was going on, and had a duty of care to inform himself as to the affairs of the bank. The case set a famous legal precedent, now superseded, for the minimal view of the duties of company directors. It was naturally a considerable embarrassment for the Marquess, despite escaping legal blame.
John Patrick Crichton-Stuart married Gwendolen Fitzalan-Howard (daughter of Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Glossop) in 1872 and had four children:
I WAS CONKERED! He Came, He Saw. He Conked out. Stripped of Childhood Cheats, How Would Our Man Fare during the Conker Championships? He Didn't Win, but He Certainly Had a Lot of Fun Trying
Oct 26, 2009; Byline: by Tom Sykes WITH my conker string clasped firmly between my index and forefingers, I tested the tension on the leather...