|Posted by:||Wilmer B Maxwell|
|Date:||22 August 2010|
Copied from, “THE TOWER” by Derek Wilson, Page 207|
1979 by Charles Scribner’s Sons
There was a great deal of popular feeling against the proposed
executions, though this did not prevent the mob displaying its usual
macabre curiosity and flocking out to Tower Hill to watch Earl
Derwentwater and Viscount Kenmure go to their deaths on 24
February. Two weeks later a violent display of the aurora borealis
was seen in London and was widely interpreted as a sign of divine
displeasure at the recent executions. The government was badly
shaken. The sanguine Robert Walpole wrote to his brother, 'I don't
well know what account to give you of our situation here. There are
storms in the air, but I doubt not they will all be blown over'.26 The
King was certainly relieved when one of the condemned men, William
Maxwell, Earl of Nithsdale, solved the government's problem by
escaping on the eve of his execution.
This escape is the most celebrated in the history of the Tower.
Others have been more difficult and more audacious but they lack the
romantic elements which have commended Nithsdale's to generations
of visitors. The architect of the plan was the resourceful Lady Nithsdale
who travelled all the way from Scotland through atrocious winter
weather. Having unsuccessfully petitioned George I for her husband's
release she immediately made preparations for the scheme which
must have been maturing in her mind for some time. She went to
visit her husband in the Lieutenant's Lodgings, taking her maid and
two female companions who had come to say their sad farewells. The
ladies were appropriately lachrymose and flustered and no suspicion
was aroused by their agitated comings and goings. So often did the
gaoler open the door to let one or two of the visitors in or out that he
soon lost track of how many had come and gone. One of the 'ladies'
had, of course, been the Earl, got up in a dress and hood, with rouge
on his cheeks and a tear-stained kerchief held to his face to hide his
beard. The last to leave was Lady Nithsdale who held a long conver-
sation with herself in two voices, then said goodbye to her 'husband'
from the half open doorway of the chamber. As she left she told the
Earl's servant not to disturb him because he was at his prayers. By
this time Nithsdale was already concealed in the house of London
friends. A few days later he left the country in the livery of a servant
to the Venetian ambassador.
(The Jacobite Rebellion of 17151716, under George 1st)