Sir John Maxwell of Terregles, Lord Herries. 1512-1583

In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his attack on the Roman church to the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral sending the tidal wave of religious reform hurtling through the continent. Scotland had for many years felt the pressures of papal intimidation and many of the Scottish lords very quickly embraced the reformation. It was into these uncertain times that John, the second son of Robert Maxwell of Caerlaverock, was born in 1512. A year later his grandfather, the Lord Maxwell, fell with the flower of Scotland's nobility at the battle of Floddon. The young John was educated by the Cistercian monks at Sweetheart Abbey in Kirkcudbrightshire. 

His childhood was spent in more or less peaceful times in the borders but as he reached his manhood the reformation scythed through the peace as the powerful forces of faith struggled for supremacy. In the forefront of the reformers was John's father now Lord Robert Maxwell who was later to publish the Bible in the common tongue (English). Both John and his older brother Robert followed their father into the new faith. By the mid 1540's Henry VIII of England had started his "rough wooing" when he tried to secure a marriage contract between the infant Mary, Queen of Scots and his son the Prince Edward. Dumfriesshire and the Borders were laid to waste by the English. At the battle of Solway Moss in 1542, Lord Maxwell and his eldest son Robert had been taken prisoners and were held as assurity of the peace for many years. This act of incarceration began John's rise to power and brought one of Scotland's most devoted nationalists to prominence. He was now effectively the head of the Maxwell family, he was tutor to his young nephews and presumptive heir to them and his imprisoned brother. Known then as the Master of Maxwell he was already a knight of great renown for his defence of Lochmaben castle in 1545. 

In 1547 he married Agnes Herries, eldest daughter and co-heiress with her two sisters of William, third Lord Herries of Terregles. To win the hand of this 14 year old heiress, John entered into complicated intrigues with her guardian the Earl of Arran. Sir John Maxwell of Terregles, as he was now styled was appointed to the Maxwell's hereditary office of Warden of the Western Marches. As warden, he took up a commission to strengthen the defences against English attack. He rebuilt and fortified the castles of Hoddom, Castlemilk, Langholm Annan and the Castle Dykes at Dumfries. He also built the look out tower known as Repentance. It is said that he named the tower Repentance after breaking a pact with the English Warden which cost the lives of twelve hostages including that of his nephew and uncle. In 1559 as a Lord of the Congregation, John was committed to Edinburgh castle by the Queen Regent, Marie of Guise, for declaring that he would to the uttermost of his power "assist the preachers and the congregation". He shared a special friendship with the reformer John Knox and following his escape from Edinburgh his adherence to the reform party seemed absolute. 

In 1561 the young catholic Queen Mary returned from France after the tragic end to her marriage to the Dauphin and John was again appointed Warden of the Western Marches. Henceforth his attitude towards the reform party was uncertain, for while he continued normally as a Protestant, his political sympathies where with the new Queen. When the Queen decided to marry Darnley, Moray and the other reform lords were outraged and marched on Edinburgh, but John was able to meditate with them and sent them to his own house in Dumfries to wait for word from him. His success with the rebellious lords was not shared in his approach to the Queen who still did not trust him as he had not broken with Moray. Finally, Maxwell sent Moray into England out of range of Mary who sought revenge on her rebel lords. In 1566 Mary absolved John of the treasonable charges brought against him for his association with the rebels and henceforth he may be reckoned to have been one of Mary's staunchest supporters. He was created Lord Herries on 17th December 1566 at the baptism of the infant Prince James. Earlier that year he had obtained from his wife's sisters their shares of their father's estate and on 8th May 1566 obtained a charter to the Barony of Terregles. 

Herries was one of the assize lords who acquitted Bothwell of the murder of Darnley, he was however an enemy of Bothwell rather than a friend and on hearing of Mary's plans to marry Bothwell, Herries sought the young queen on his knees to eschew "sic utter wrak and lncovenientis as that wuld bring on". Still he remained faithful to the Queen when the marriage proved a disaster for her. The Lords of the Congregation under Moray, outlawed Bothwell, imprisoned Mary and proclaimed her son, James VI of Scotland. Herries refused to hold conference with Moray whilst Mary was held at Lochleven Castle and would not allow the proclamation of Moray's regency at Glasgow Cross. Eventually Herries "bent" and rode to Edinburgh, he recognised Moray and gave a remarkable speech to the effect that those who had put the Queen in Lochleven had "done the duty of noble men" and that others of the Queens loyal lords should give their acknowledgement to the infant King's party. Notwithstanding these sincere professions within three months Herries had subscribed to the band of armed men who liberated Mary and quickly came to her side as she face the Regent, Moray in a final confrontation at Langside on the 13th May 1568. It was to Herries that Mary entrusted herself when her cause was lost and when their flight to Dumbarton was blocked they turned south and sought refuge in Herries' own territories. They spent the night of 16th May at Herries' home of Terregles and the following night under the protection of his son Edward, commondator at Dundrennan Abbey. The following night Mary fled into England and her miserable demise under the English Queen Elizabeth. 

Herries pleaded with Mary not to put herself at the mercy of the English Queen to no avail. Again Herries put himself at risk when he went ahead of Mary to prepare the way for her but his interviews with the English held no sway. All the same, Herries was usually held in high regard by the English, Throckmorton is recorded as saying that "the cunning horse-leech is the wisest of the whole faction". Herries returned to Scotland in August when his estates were forfeited. Moray intended to pull down his castle but when he was informed that it was Herries' intention to rebuild Terregles himself the Regent not wishing "to be a barrowman for his old walls" allowed it stand. Proceedings against Herries were suspended pending negotiations with England where Herries' wise councils would be needed. Over the next four years, Herries switched allegiances on a regular basis, sometime favouring the King's party, at other time the captive Queen's cause. After Moray was assassinated, Herries was restored to his estates and seeing that Mary was lost to Scotland, put his influence behind those who opposed the new Regent Morton. 

He showed great restraint in his politicking, always keeping in favour with the English who's threat held sway over his lands. He played an instrumental part in depriving Morton of the Regency and supported the young King when he tried to settle his troubled kingdom in 1578. Douglas, Earl of Morton had pitched the Maxwells against the Johnstones in August 1578 by giving the wardenship of the Western Marches to the Johnstone laird. Now in his mid sixties Herries saw Morton off to his execution in 1581 and true to his Marian sympathies supported the Earl of Lennox. He joined Lennox in Edinburgh in August 1582 and acted as intermediary between him and the young King James. On Sunday 20th January 1583, in his seventy first year this grand old man of political intrigues who over his long life had often been called on to act as Scotland's senior statesman died quite suddenly at William Fowler's lodgings in Edinburgh. 

John Maxwell, Lord Herries goes down in Scottish history as one of Mary, Queen of Scots staunchest allies, although he never openly embraced the Catholic faith in his manhood, he saw no harm in his sovereign lady's practice of it. He mediated with all political and religious factions of the day and spent much of his life soothing the great agitation's that embroiled the great northern kingdom.

James Maxwell, Earl of Dirleton, Lord Kingston and Elbotle.  1580-1652

Little is known about James Maxwellís life which in the face of it is quite extraordinary as here was a man who though service to two Kings rose to very high rank and yet remains quite anonymous to us today. James was the third of the five sons of Robert Maxwell of Kirkhouse and his wife Nicholas, daughter of Sir Charles Murray of Cockpule. His father was killed in a feud with his cousins the Maxwells of Cowhill in 1583. In is not possible to determine the exact year of Jamesís birth but he had at least four brothers and two sisters. He is first recorded as one of the prosecutors of Archibald Maxwell of Cowhill and his son William being tried for the murder of Jamesís father.

However James was by this time already a gentleman of the bedchamber to Henry, the Prince of Wales, eldest son of King James VI and I. His young master died in 1612 but James seems to have secured a move within the court probably to the service of the young Prince Charles.  He was granted various lands in October 1606 and accrued a great many others in the coming years either from the King or by purchase. He married circa 1620, Elizabeth Besyne de Podolsko who was undoubtedly another courtier in the court of King James. They had two daughters, Elizabeth born in 1620 and Diana who was a year younger. In 1623 James acquired the lands of the parish of Innerwick in East Lothian on the resignation of Sir Alexander Hamilton and also had a grant of the town and lands of Lochmaben and the custody of the Castle of Lochmaben.In 1629 he was appointed Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod and Custodiam of Windsor Little Park.In 1631 under King Charles he was granted lands in Derbyshire and mines in the peak district where he carried on the manufacture of iron by a new process, he also was granted a patent for the manufacture of pipe clay. In the same year he had a charter for the barony of Dirleton and the lands of Kingston and Elbotle. His younger brother Robert Maxwell was at this time Sargeant of Arms to the House of Commons.

James was clearly a man of great enterprise and with others he had a charter to trade with the west coast of Africa and a twenty-one year lease for the mineral rights of all Scotland. He had in 1636 a charter to erect a lighthouse on the Isle of May with the right to extract a duty of ten shillings a ton on Scottish ships and four shillings a ton on English ships which undoubtedly raised a great deal of revenue for him. He lent large sums of money to the King an in 1640 the Scottish Parliament found there were £84,866 due to him by the public and granted him warrants for the repayment of the debt. He was created Lord Kinston and Elbotle about 1640 at the start of the civil war and was raised to the Earldom of Dirleton in 1646.

His whereabouts during the troubled times of the civil war are uncertain but it seems most likely, as a staunch loyalist, he was with the King. His death was not recorded but appears to have been between 1650 and 1652 as his will was confirmed on 28th July 1652. Both his daughters made good marriages the elder Elizabeth,  to William, Duke of Hamilton and Diana to Viscount Cranbourne. Jamesís wife Elizabeth died in 1659 and was buried at St Martinís-in-the-Fields in London.