John Maitland, Second Baron Thirlestane, First Viscount of Lauderdale and First Earl of Lauderdale 1585 - 1645

John Maitland, son of the first Baron, married in 1610 IsabeSeton, daughter of Alexander, Earl of Dunfermline. We know little of him, except that he was highly respected, and raised in the peerage by the King. On April 2nd 1616 he was created Viscount of Lauderdale and in 1624 on March 14th was made Lord Thirlestane and Boltoun, Viscount Maitland and 1st Earl of Lauderdale. Boltoun is a small village on the northern slope of Lammermuir, just a few miles south of Lethington.

The first Earl was a keen student of his family history, in particular establishing and recording the identities of his Northumbrian forebears - Thomas de Thirlestane, who died in 1225 in battle, and whose daughter married Richard Mautalent around 1250 or thereabouts. This took the family records back to Alanus Thirlestane, alive in 1180, son of Elsi, in turn the son of Winter (latter dates unknown).

Winter received a grant of the lands of Thirlestane from Hugh de Morville.  This takes our UK based forebears back to around 1140 or a bit later. Hugh was created Constable of Scotland and received the Regality of Lauderdale in 1138 (which was held for six knights service).

The first Earl was highly respected and trusted. We can add something to the bare bones. In 1661 his son John Maitland, the 2nd Earl of Lauderdale whose lands had been confiscated by the Commonwealth regime petitioned the Scots Parliament to accept the 1st Earl’s records of his landholdings because the original documents had been badly damaged. 

A commission was accordingly given,… to [John Campbell], earl of Loudoun, [Alexander Sutherland], lord Duffus, Sir James Lockhart of Lee, knight, Sir Peter Wedderburn of Gosford, Sir Robert Murray [of Cameron], provost of Edinburgh, and John Bell [of Hamilton Ferme], provost of Glasgow, six of their number, and Sir Archibald Primrose [of Carrington], lord clerk register supernumerary…They studied the evidence and stated…

"Seeing it is well-known that the said earl, his deceased father, was an understanding nobleman of eminent and unquestionable integrity, so that it cannot be doubted but that the whole writs contained in the said inventories were extant when he made and wrote the inventories of the same with his own hand; therefore, and for supplying of the want thereof, it is their opinion that there should be an act of parliament made wherein the said inventories should be inserted word for word, and which should be of the tenor after-mentioned of this present act."

Two features stand out:

  • The 1stEarl kept meticulous records, and was also interested in family history, recording the forebears of Thomas de Thirlestane back to before 1162.
  • He had a reputation for “eminent and unquestionable integrity”, so good that his manuscript record of his landholdings was accepted as lawful and incorporated in an Act of Parliament.

Also read:

John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale 1616 - 1682


ohn Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale
John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale

John Maitland, son of the 1st Earl, was born on the 24th of May 1616. He married first Anne, daughter of Alexander, 1st Earl of Home,then Elizabeth Murray, Coun tess of Dysart.   He was a man of great abilities and accomplishments and one of the leading politicians of his age.


He has had a bad press, mainly because the two leading contemporary accounts of the period were written by the Earl of Clarendon and Bishop Burnet, who both loathed him.

He was Scotland's leading diplomat in the 1640s. He became a royalist in 1647 when the King could offer him nothing but his thanks. In 1672 he married the wealthy court beauty Elizabeth  Murray, Countess of Dysart in her own right. As a wealthy widow she coud choose her husband, and would not have married an oaf.

Charles II regarded Lauderdale as a friend as much as a courtier and supported him throughout his lifetime.

His record as a diplomat, courtier and husband of a court beauty able to choose a husband for herself suggests he was not the uncouth man described by Clarendon and Burnet.  In later years he does appear tom have been and authoritarian viceroy in Scotland.


He was deeply engaged with the Covenanters at the beginning of the Civil War in England. When a young man, he was one of the Commissioners appointed by the Church of Scotland to meet with the Assembly of Divines at Westminster in 1643.

In 1647 he was commissioned by the Scottish Parliament to treat with His Majesty King Charles 1 at Hampton Court, and shortly after commanded a regiment of horse in the Parliamentary army at the Battle of Marston Moor, the decisive battle of the civil war, where he distinguished himself by enterprise and bravery.

Soon after, he had a change of heart and became a supporter of the royalist cause, and brought horsemen to rescue Charles from captivity near London. After the murder (30 January 1649) of King Charles had been perpetrated Lauderdale went to Holland to offer his support to Charles II. They became firm friends.

He accompanied Charles to the Battle of Worcester in 1651, where the Earl was taken prisoner, and sent to the Tower of London and other prisons for nine years.

At the Restoration he was released. The King had the highest regard for his great learning and wisdom as well as knowledge of affairs of State. He loved him both for his fidelity and his ability.

Lauderdale became Secretary for Scotland at the Restoration in 1660. In 1669 he became the High Commissioner for Scotland, which gave him virtually royal powers. He took his seat in that famous cabinet council known as the CABAL Administration, his initial L giving the final letter to the word Cabal (meaning a clique) , formed from the initials of the five who composed the Council; (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley & Lauderdale).

After his separation from his wife Anne Home in 1669 and her death in Paris in 1671 he married on February 17, 1671-2 Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart, widow of Sir Lionel Tolmash. A few months before he had been elevated to the Dukedom and received the Order of the Knight of the Garter. The Duke of Lauderdale died on August 24th, 1682.

Ham House

He was an avid builder and decorator, extending both Thirlestane Castle, in Scotland, built by his grandfather, and Ham House, near London owned by his wife. He was also responsible for the extension and decoration of the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

Ham House, shown right, still has the furniture and paintings  they bought for it, as listed in the inventories of 1679 and 1683, together with a fine collection of paintings acquired by William Murray, his wife's father. It is the only house in Europe with its 17th century furnishings intact. Clansfolk who visit London should make a point of visiting Ham.

Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh has the same magnificent plaster ceilings as those at Thirlestane, and the ceilings at Ham follow a similar, but simpler design.

Thirlestane Castle

Thirlestane Castle, near Lauder, about 25 miles south east of Edinburgh remains in family hands, and is one of the finest houses in Scotland, with marvellous ceilings, good furniture and paintings, and is a must to visit on any trip to Scotland.

Below, the Ante Chamber to the state drawing room; this is unchanged from the Duke's design


A detail of the Dunsterfield plaster ceiling.


John, 1st Lord Thirlestane began work on the castle in 1590, constructing a simple rectangular building, similar to Traquair in appearance. It was the first large house in the Borders to be built without fortifications. In the 1670's the Duke devoted massive resources in extending the castle, adding fine ceilings made by Charles II's best plasterers, who went on to work at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Two new wings, were added, as shown in the engravings, and the fine entrance staircase added.

Thirlestane also has a fine collection of family portraits, as well as some very good early 20th century paintings.

Charles Maitland of Haltoun, 3rd Earl (after 1616 - 1691)

Charles Maitland of Haltoun, 3rd Earl

The Duke's brother Charles Maitland of Haltoun or Hatton became the 3rd Earl of Lauderdale. He was a Senator of the College of Justice with the title of Lord Haltoun and Lord Treasurer Depute in 1670. He married in 1651 Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Richard Lauder of Haltoun, County of Edinburgh.

There is some mystery about the marriage – Maitland’s brother the Earl of Lauderdale was a prisoner of the English government and his estates had been confiscated. Why should Richard Lauder endow his daughter with the substantial family estates and marry her to a man whose brother had lost his liberty and estates?

Part of the marriage agreement was that Charles should take the name of Lauder, UNLESS he inherited his farther's Earldom. In that case, he would become Earl of Lauderdale and retain the name of Maitland, but his son would take the name of Lauder under similar conditions. In the event, his eldest son Richard became Earl of Lauderdale and the second son, John adopted the surname of Lauder, being known as John Lauder of Haltoun, and Baronet of Ravelrig. When John's elder brother Richard died, he inherited the Earldom, and reverted to Maitland - as provided in the 1651 marriage settlement, which was confirmed by a writ issued under the Great Seal of Scotland in 1660  

Read more: Charles Maitland Writ Under Great Seal (Adobe PDF file 302kb)

Charles was one of the Privy Council of Charles II and Lord Justice General and General of the Mint from 1681 to 1684. He was accused of withdrawing coin from the mint, clipping it and then returning it to the mint. He was fined £20,000 sterling. When Queensberry House, Edinburgh (where he had lived for some years) was being prepared for use by the Scottish Parliament around 2000 a 17th century metallurgical furnace was discovered, complete with traces of coinage silver...


Richard Maitland 4th Earl, after 1651 - 1695

Richard Maitland 4th Earl
Richard Maitland 4th Earl

He was a Roman Catholic, benefitted from royal favour but had a chequered career, full of rises and falls as his religion helped or hindered his career.

In 1678 aged 25 he became a Privy Councillor and was appointed joint General of the Mint. In 1680 he was Lord Justice Clerk, but in 1684 he was deprived of that office, on account of suspected communications with his father-in-law, the Earl of Argyll, charged with treason.

However, by 1687 he was restored to favour by fellow religionist James IInd and VIIth, appointed Treasurer-depute, and supported James when he was deposed in 1688.

He was present at the Battle of the Boyne supporting King James, and subsequently went to his exiled Court at Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris. He succeeded to the Earldom in 1689. In 1694 he was outlawed for his adherence to James.

Whilst in exile in France he translated the works of Virgil into English. Dryden wrote "The late Earl of Lauderdale sent me his new translation of the Aenis: which he had finished before I ingag'd in the same Design...” and was inspired by it. He died without issue and was succeeded by his brother John Lauder, then John Maitland. For an explanation of the name changes, see the biography of the 5th Earl.