The Lineage of the last Chiefs of Maxwell

The chiefdom of the name Maxwell lay with the Lords Maxwell and the Earls of Nithsdale up until the death of William Maxwell the fifth and last Earl who died as a Jacobite exile in Rome in 1744. The titles of Earl of Nithsdale and Lord Herriesl had been attainted and his only son, also William Maxwell, who, out of courtesy was called the Lord Maxwell after some considerable trouble managed to recover his paternal estates. He did this with the help of an entail executed in his favour before the fifth Earl had ridden out in the rebellion of 1715. But for the attainder on his father's titles, he would have become the sixth Earl of Nithsdale in 1744 upon his father's death. He lived privately in London up to his own death in 1776 leaving an only surviving daughter Winifred Maxwell who served as heir-general to her father. Her grandson, William Constable Maxwell obtained an act of Parliament whereby he and all the descendents of the body of the fifth Earl of Nithsdale were restored to the blood. He presented the House of Lords with a petition for his restoration to the title of Lord Herries on the grounds that the title had originally been created for heirs-general and that he was the principle claimant. The House of Lords granted the petition and William Constable Maxwell subsequently became Lord Herries. Interestingly the title of Lord Maxwell had been overlooked and omitted from the original attainder on the fifth Earl and in theory could be claimed by a new chief!.

However back in 1776, a kinsman of Winifred's, John Maxwell of Terraughty then in his fifty-sixth year became the heir-male to the chiefdom of Maxwell. John Maxwell was one of the most respected men in Galloway and lived to the great age of 94. He died on 25th January 1814 and was succeeded by his eldest and only surviving son, Alexander Herries Maxwell of Munchies who died the following year on 28th June 1815. Alexander had no issue and his younger bother, William and his three sons, had predeceased him.

The chiefdom therefore passed to his cousin George Maxwell of Carruchan.  George was 72 when he became the heir-male of the name and died seven years later on 28th November 1822. George’s three sons had predeceased him, but the youngest, George, a colonel in the Galloway Militia, had left four sons. The eldest and next heir-male was George Walter Maxwell who succeeded his grandfather at the age of 17.  Unfortunately he was drowned whilst swimming in the River Nith on 4th August 1827. The second son John had died three years earlier and so the chiefdom devolved upon the third son, William Maxwell of Carruchan, then in his twentieth year. On 15th March 1848, William Maxwell of Carruchan had from the Earl of Kinnoull, the then Lord Lyon, Letters Patent that he was heir-male of Robert Maxwell, 4th Earl of Nithsdale, and but for that attainder, William Maxwell of Carruchan would have been the Earl of Nithsdale and Lords Maxwell and Herries. William Maxwell was twice married but left no children when he died on 2nd May 1863. With William's death, the chiefdom became dormant as his younger brother Alexander had died in 1834 unmarried.

The last nine Chiefs of the name Maxwell. (in red).

The last Chief of Maxwell, William Maxwell of Carruchan. 1807-1863