Clan Maxwell

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Clan Maxwell
Region Lowland
District Dumfries
Earl of Nithsdale arms.svg
Clan Maxwell has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
Historic seat Caerlaverock Castle
Last Chief William Maxwell of Carruchan
Died 1863

Clan Maxwell is a Lowland Scottish clan and is recognized as such by the Lord Lyon King of Arms.[1] However, as the clan does not currently have a chief it is considered an Armigerous clan.[1]


Origins of the Clan

The claimed origin of the name Maxwell is that it comes from Maccus Well, a pool in the River Tweed near Kelso, Scottish Borders.[1] Maccus was believed to be a Norse chief who lived during the reign of David I of Scotland.[1]

Sir John Maxwell was Chamberlain of Scotland but he died without issue and was succeeded by his younger brother, Aymer.[1] From Aymer's sons sprang many branches of the family throughout south-west Scotland.[1]

Wars of Scottish Independence

Sir Herbert Maxwell appears on the Ragman Rolls of 1296, swearing fealty to Edward I of England.[1] Herbert's son, Eustace Maxwell held Caerlaverock Castle as a vassal of the English, however he later followed Robert the Bruce to the Battle of Bannockburn.[1]

15th and 16th centuries

Eustace's descendant, another Sir Herbert, was created Lord Maxwell in about 1440.[1] He took a seat as a Lord of Parliament.[1] A branch of the clan, the Maxwells of Monreith descend from his second son and they were later created baronets in 1681.[1]

The fifth Lord Maxwell intrigued with King Henry VII of England.[1] In 1526 the Maxwells supported Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus at the Battle of Melrose where they defeated the forces of Sir Walter Scott.[2] However, by 1542 King James V of Scotland had appointed him Warden of the Marches.[1] Also in 1542 Lord Maxwell was captured at the Battle of Solway Moss.[1]

John Maxwell, the seventh Lord Maxwell was a devout Catholic throughout the Scottish Reformation and he was linked to a number of plots to restore Mary, Queen of Scots to the throne.[1] After Mary was executed in 1587 and after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Lord Maxwell continued to correspond with Philip II of Spain trying to gain support for a Catholic revolution.[1] However Maxwell was killed in 1593 in a feud with the Clan Johnstone of Lockerbie.[1] (See: Battle of Dryfe Sands). The feud continued and the next Lord Maxwell shot Sir James Johnstone.[1] Maxwell's brother, Robert, succeeded to the Maxwell title and was created Earl of Nithsdale.[1]

17th century

File:Caerlaverock Castle from the air.jpg
Caerlaverock Castle, historic seat of the chiefs of Clan Maxwell

Lord Maxwell was also at feud with the powerful Clan Douglas over the Earldom of Morton, which he regarded as his inheritance. For this quarrel he was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle in 1607. After escaping, he shot Sir James in the back during a meeting held "under trust", and he fled to France. He was convicted of treason in his absence and sentenced to death. On his return to Scotland in 1612 he was arrested, and was beheaded at Edinburgh on 21 May 1613.[3][4]

18th century & Jacobite risings

The fifth Earl of Nithsdale was a staunch Jacobite and was captured at the Battle of Preston (1715) during the Jacobite rising of 1715.[1] He was sentenced to death and imprisoned in the Tower of London.[1] However, with the assistance of his wife, he disguised himself as a serving woman and the couple fled to Rome where the earl died in 1744.[1]



Maxwell tartan (modern dyes)

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 Way, George and Squire, Romily. Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). Published in 1994. Pages 429 - 430.
  2. Battle of Darnick Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  3. Balfour Paul, James (1904), "Maxwell, Earl of Nithsdale", The Scots Peerage, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, VI, pp. 482–487<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Maxwell, Lord (S, 1445 - forfeited 1716)". Cracroft's Peerage. Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 17 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>