Brief History of the Claimants
To open this part of the history of the
heir-males of the Maxwell family it is necessary to determine what the an
heir-male is. Scotland is by heritage a patriarchal rather than a matriarchal
society such as that in Spain. That is to say that inheritance has
in Scotland traditionally gone to the sons and in particular the eldest
son. The eldest son would usually get the principal estate of his father and
younger son would have property settled on them in their fathers lifetime or if
no property was available, they would be set up in business with their fathers
help. Daughters would be married off to husbands with prospects either of
inheritance or with established income. If available a dowry might be given with
the bride as an inducement to potential husbands. If there were no sons, the
daughters would become joint heiresses and the estates would be split amongst
the them but usually held back from them to be passed to their husbands should
they marry or on to nephews if they did not. In the main therefore, property and
titles would pass by right of inheritance to the eldest son he being the
heir-male. In the Maxwell family two lines of inheritance have evolved, one
being the heir-male and the other being the heir-general. We will look at the
When William Maxwell of Nithsdale died
in 1777 he left but a single daughter, Winifred.
She then became his sole heir and by definition his heir-general. Her
inheritance was her grandfather's vast estates of the Earldom of Nithsdale which
she placed into the hands of her husband William Haggerston-Constable of Everingham
Hall in Yorkshire.. He took the additional name of Maxwell and between them,
they gave rise to the vast army of Constable-Maxwells, Constable-Maxwell Stuarts
and Constable-Maxwell Scotts that abound today. The grandson of Winifred, William
Constable-Maxwell claimed the title of Lord Herries in 1848 by proving that
the title had come to the Maxwell family from the Herries family through right
of inheritance of heirs-general although the evidence appears that Mary, Queen
of Scots, made Sir John Maxwell of Terragles,
Lord Herries as a new creation in 1567. William Maxwell of Carruchan,
the then heir-male, contested the claim but lost the case in the House of Lords.
The title of Lord Herries has subsequently passed to the family of the Duke
of Norfolk as William, Lord Herries' granddaughter who was heir-general to the
title, married into that family.
In the Chief's Lineage we looked at how
the chiefdom of the name had devolved down to the heir-male, William Maxwell
of Carruchan. He having died without children and being last of his line the
next heir-male is to be sort from the descendants of Alexander Maxwell of Park
and Terraughty. To best explain this search I will now quote from an article
that appeared in The Genealogical Magazine of 1897. It was written and
presumably researched by one W. Harold Maxwell whom I have been unable to identify.
Dormant Earldom of Nithsdale
by W. Harold Maxwell
James Maxwell of Breconside and Terraughty, was living 22nd June 1749. By his wife Margaret, daughter of Vans of Barnbarroch, and relict of Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar, he left two sons, John, who died unmarried before 3rd May 1718 and Alexander Maxwell of Park, Dalbeattie and Terraughty, who died 10th October 1701, and was twice married. By his first wife, Margaret, youngest daughter of Alexander Murray of Conheath and Terraughty, Alexander had six sons and two daughters, Of these, James, three other sons, and one daughter died young. The two surviving sons were:
Alexander married, secondly, Janet, daughter of John Irving, Provost of Dumfries, and had issue by her five daughters, whose names may be found in the Book of Carlaverock, and five sons:
3. Alexander, an upholsterer in London, where he died. He was living 4th January 1748, when his brother George left him a legacy, but I can find no further trace of him. If he left any children, which I am inclined to think is improbable, the headship of the house would rest with them.
1. Charles, mentioned in his mother's will as the eldest son. He was an apothecary and surgeon at 29, Fleet Street, and a liveryman of the Apothecaries' Company, and died between 2nd and 12th January 1786, He was thrice married.
3. Alexander, a minor at the date of his father's will (20th April 1758). In his mother's will, dated 29th August 1761, he was left some goods which in a codicil dated 16th February 1762, were left to others. It therefore seems probable that he died between these dates.
4. Margaret, born after 1727. She married William Cunningham, surgeon on H.M.S. Blenheim.
Charles Maxwell the younger married, first, Mary Magdalen Cousein, marriage settlement being dated 14th October 1754. She died before 15th November 1769 (when administration of her goods was granted to her husband), leaving issue:
1. Margaret. who, according to the Book of Carlaverock, married Mr. Turnbull, and went to America. She was living, unmarried, 12th January 1786, on which date she proved her
Charles Maxwell married, secondly, Isabella Delbraid, who died between 7th February and 8th August 1771, and was buried at Wing, in Buckinghamshire near her mother. She left her freehold and real estate in Buckinghamshire to her nephew, Henry Gardiner, and her personality to her husband, so probably died without issue. His third wife was Helen, eldest daughter of James Douglas, physician in Carlisle, and grand-daughter of Sir William Douglas, of Kelhead. No mention is made of her in her husbandís will, so she probably predeceased him, leaving issue:
1. Charles William.
2. James Douglas.
3. Charlotte, who married, 23rd September 1792, Mr Williams of Manchester.
Charles William, the eldest son of Charles Maxwell was born about 1775, and entered St. Paul's School on 10th January 1785 aged nine years. He entered the army in 1796, and attained the rank of Lieutenant‑General in 1841, was Governor of several of the West Indian Islands, and was knighted in 1836. He died at Broadstairs, 23rd September 1848, and is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. According to the Gentleman's Magazine, Sir Charles was twice married, on 5th April 1821 at Locksley House, Dumfries, to his second cousin Mary, daughter of Colonel William Douglas of Greencroft; and, secondly to a daughter of Charles Bird. In the Annual Register the death is mentioned, on 17th November 1860 at George Street, Bathwick Hill, Bath, of Catherine Wade, widow of Lieutenant‑General Sir Charles William Maxwell. She was, we suppose, the daughter of Charles Bird; or does this indicate that he married a third wife? In his will two natural sons only are mentioned. It is to be presumed, therefore, that he left no legitimate issue.
James Douglas Maxwell was born about 1777, and entered St. Paul's School on the same day as his brother, at the age of eight years. We can find nothing more about him; but as he is not mentioned in Sir Charles Maxwell's will, although legacies are left to the children of his sister Charlotte and several other persons, it is probable that he died unmarried before that date.
If this supposition is correct, the headship rests with the descendants of one of the other sons of Charles Maxwell, the upholsterer. It is uncertain whether Robert or William was the elder. Neither appears to have been baptized in any of the Drury Lane parishes. Robert Maxwell in 1762, the date of his mother's will, was living at New Broad Court, Drury Lane. His uncle, George Maxwell, left him all his working tools and benches and stock of wood, so he was probably a joiner. In the Book of Carlaverock he is said to have gone to Grenada, and to have twice married. By his first marriage he had one daughter who died in Dumfries. By his second he had a son, Homer, and others whose names are not mentioned.
William, the next son of Charles Maxwell, the upholsterer, was a merchant, and was living in Bristol in 1761. He is said in the Book of Carlaverock, to have gone to New York. His wifeís name was Marion. She was living in 1762, when her mother‑in‑law left her a legacy. Legacies were also left to Robert and James Homer, two of William Maxwellís sons. There were therefore probably other children.
Robert is probably identical with the Robert Maxwell, Lieutenant‑Fireworker in Colonel Pierce's regiment of artillery at Fort William in Bengal, the administration of whose estate was, on 26th January 1779, granted to his father, William Maxwell, residing at New York.
In the list of scholars at St. Paul's School is James Maxwell, nephew of Charles Maxwell of 29, Fleet Street, who was admitted on 14th September 1770 aged thirteen. Whether he is identical with James Homer Maxwell, or whether Robert Maxwell had a son of that name, is uncertain.
(A paragraph recently appeared in the Daily Mail (vide "Genealogical Magazine" p60), which indicates that an actual claimant is in the field. We have several times endevoured to communicate with Miss Maxwell in hope of publishing any pedigree or details she may possess, but unfortunately so far we have been unsuccessful.--Ed.)
W. Harold Maxwell has made extensive
use of the Book of Carlaverock, published by William Fraser
We must now deal with the first claimants. These were the 'children' of Lt
A few actual facts:
1) Lt. Gen. Sir Charles William Maxwell, born in early 1776, was promoted to the rank of Lt. Gen. and knighted on the field of Waterloo by Wellington in 1815. (Yes, he did attain the rank of Major Gen. at the remarkably young age of 35 in 1811. He entered the army in 1796 as a Lieutenant.)
2) On April 5, 1816, Sir Charles married Mary Douglas, only daughter of one of his officers, Col. Wm. Douglas, in Dumfries.
3) Sir Charles and Lady Mary went to St. Kitts in 1816 to re-assume his position as Governor, a post he'd left in 1813 to join Wellington's army.
4) Lady Mary delivered William Charles Maxwell in 1818 in Dominica, and Christopher Nithsdale Maxwell in 1820 in St. Christopher. Catherine Wade, a beautiful but aggressive woman, was their "nanny." She was then married to a destitute drunkard, Wade -- first name unknown. Her family name was Bird. Her ancestry was English and Spanish. She had borne Wade three children, Laura, Robert and James.
5) Lady Mary died on January 9, 1823 as the result of a "fever" in Dominica.
6) Sir Charles took a leave of absence to England from his Governor's post in 1831, in which year he entered his sons into St. Paul's School, (which he (Sir Charles) attended from 1785 through 1795).
7) In 1836, he was required to present himself to the Court of Queen Victoria to confirm his 1815 field knighthood. In this process, he made, a fundamental social mistake. As a widower, he introduced Catherine to the Queen as his future wife. A group led by a guy named James Maxwell, who was seeking the Earldom of Nithsdale, protested to the Queen, claiming that Sir Charles was living "in sin" with a "concubine." Sir Charles was subsequently barred from the Court.
8) Upset, mad and distressionally impacted, Sir Charles married Catherine Bird in 1836 in Dumfries, and they returned to the British West Indies (the Virgin Islands).
9) During the next 10 years, Sir Charles filled Governor posts on several Virgin Islands. However, his health was steadily declining and Catherine increasingly assumed control over him.
10) In 1846, Catherine persuaded Sir Charles to return to England. By then she was actually dictating the actions of her husband.
11) Virtually incoherent mentally and bedridden Sir Charles became during the period of' 1846 through 1848 (in which year he died on September 23 totally dominated by Catherine.
12) In the meanwhile, William and Christopher had graduated from St. Paul's. In 1845, William Charles persuaded Sir Charles to finance him so that he could settle in New Zealand. (I have not yet researched what happened to Christopher except that I understand he also left England.)
13) During 1846 and 1848, Catherine accomplished a number of interesting objectives. Laura, Robert and James became Laura Nithsdale Maxwell, William Robert Maxwell and Christopher James Maxwell, all "natural" children of Sir Charles and Catherine. She motivated a Sir Charles will identifying his "natural" children.
XXXXXX, I may owe you a great favor. Because you have motivated me to begin a research of my ancestors, the end result may indicate that I am now the most eligible letitimate heir of both titles of Lord Maxwell of Dumfries and Earl of Nithsdale"
I believe that
Norman Maxwell was claiming descent from the elder 'son' of Sir Charles being
William. In a pedigree which I have of William's descendants, a Scott (Norman)
Maxwell appears to be the grandson of William by his second son, Christopher
Freke Maxwell. This Scott appears to have been the third son of the affore mentioned
Christopher Freke Maxwell. I have, however had correspondence with Peter Valentine
Nithsdale Maxwell of Auckland, New Zealand, who is the eldest son of the older
brother of Scott (Norman) Maxwell and this correspondence was subsequent the
date of the latter's letter. It is perhaps easy to condemn the 'evidence' in
Norman Maxwell's letter, however it is likely that a lot of his findings are
based of family oral tradition in which facts are often distorted inadvertently.
But the persistence of the family stories continues to allow for the possibility
that there is some truth in the claim. If the descendants of this family can
produce evidence to support the legitimacy of the 'sons' who landed in New Zealand
in 1840, then we would very quickly have an heir-male to the name Maxwell. I
personally believe that the family found sufficient adverse evidence to drop
their claim in the 1920's and we must look further afield for the Maxwell heir-male