Robert Steward (Styward or Wells) (d. 1557) was an English Benedictine prior of Ely, and the first dean of Ely.
He is said to have been born at Wells, Norfolk, and was the eldest son of Simeon Steward and his wife Joan, daughter and heiress of Edward Besteney of Soham, Cambridgeshire. Robert became a monk at Ely, when he adopted as his name the place of his birth. He graduated B.A. at Cambridge in 1516 and M.A. in 1520.
About 1522 he was elected prior of Ely, and in that capacity took the chief part in the election of Thomas Goodrich as bishop in 1534. In the convocation of 1529 he maintained the validity of Henry VIII's marriage with Catherine of Aragon; but he found reason to change his views, and became one of Henry's instruments in persuading monasteries to surrender to the king. In 1536 he was nominated a candidate for the suffragan-bishopric of Colchester, but the king appointed William More. On 18 November 1539 he surrendered the monastery at Ely to the king, and received a generous pension; and on 10 September 1541, when the see was refounded, he was appointed its first dean. He then resumed his family name of Steward. He complied with the religious changes under Edward VI and Mary, retaining his deanery until his death on 22 September 1557. He was buried in Ely Cathedral, and his memorial inscription is printed in James Bentham's Ely and Charles Henry Cooper's Athenae Cantabrigienses.
Steward continued the Historia Eliensis from 1486 to 1554. The manuscript was preserved at Lambeth, and was printed in Henry Wharton's Anglia Sacra.
Among the dean's brothers were Simeon Steward, grandfather of Sir Simeon Steward; Thomas Steward (d. 1568), who was pastor of the English church at Frankfurt during Mary's reign, and canon of Ely from 1560 till his death; Edmund Steward (d. 1559), who was chancellor of the diocese of Norwich until 1529, and afterwards chancellor Winchester under Stephen Gardiner from 1531 until 1553. Edmund was appointed Dean of Winchester in 1554; and Nicholas Steward or Styward (fl. 1560), who was recommended by Andrew Perne as his successor in the chancellorship of Norwich.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Steward, Robert". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.