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. Here he came under the influence of the advanced section of the Anglican Church, whose tenets his keen and logical intellect quickly saw to be inconsistent with non-communion with the Catholic Church. Bute's letters to one of his very few intimate friends during his Oxford career show with what conscientious care he worked out the religious question for himself. On the 8th of December, 1868, he was received into the Church by Monsignor Capel at a convent in Southwark, and a little later was confirmed by Pius IX, in Rome. 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, the results of which 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 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's patronage was extensive, with a particular enthusiasm for buildings of religion and academia. Whilst Rector of the University of St Andrews, he provided the University with a new home for its Medical School and endowed the Bute Chair of Medicine. At the University of Glasgow, he gifted the funds required to complete the University's huge central hall, named the Bute Hall in his honour, and he is commemorated both at the University's Commemoration Day and on its Memorial Gates.
The Marquess of Bute's Case
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:
- Margaret Crichton-Stuart (24 December 1875–6 June 1964)
- John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute (20 June 1881–16 May 1947)
- Lt.-Col. Lord Ninian Edward Crichton-Stuart (15 May 1883–2 October 1915)
- Lord Colum Edmund Crichton-Stuart (3 April 1886–18 August 1957)
- Re Cardiff Savings Bank  2 Ch 100, a case where the Marquis was charged with negligence in his place on the board of a bank.
- Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Works by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute at Project Gutenberg
The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava
|Rector of the University of St Andrews|
| Succeeded by|
|Lord Lieutenant of Buteshire|
| Succeeded by|
|Peerage of Great Britain|
|Marquess of Bute|
| Succeeded by|