In this investigation, we revisit the question of linear stability analysis of two-dimensional steady Euler flows characterized by the presence of compact regions with constant vorticity embedded in a potential flow. We give a complete derivation of the linearized perturbation equation which, recognizing that the underlying equilibrium problem is of a free-boundary type, is carried out systematically using methods of shape-differential calculus. Particular attention is given to the proper linearization of contour integrals describing vortex induction. The thus obtained perturbation equation is validated by analytically deducing from it stability analyses of the circular vortex, originally due to Kelvin, and of the elliptic vortex, originally due to Love, as special cases. We also propose and validate a spectrally accurate numerical approach to the solution of the stability problem for vortices of general shape in which all singular integrals are evaluated analytically.