Maxwell, Robert (d.1546) (DNB00)

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MAXWELL, ROBERT, fifth LORD MAXWELL (d. 1546), was descended from a family which, probably originally from England, settled in Scotland at Maccuswell or Maxwell, on the Tweed, near Kelso, in or before the reign of David I. Ewen Maccuswel of Caerlaverock, Dumfriesshire, assisted Malcolm Canmore at the siege of Alnwick in 1093, and it is with Dumfriesshire and Galloway that the subsequent history of the Maxwells is chiefly associated. Sir Herbert Maxwell won special renown for his defence of the castle of Caerlaverock against the army of Edward I in 1300, and in the subsequent wars its possession was frequently in dispute. The lordship of Maxwell dates from about 1428. The fifth lord was the eldest son of John, fourth lord, killed at Flodden, 9 Sept. 1513, his mother being Agnes, daughter of Sir Alexander Stewart of Garlies, ancestor of the Earls of Galloway. He was returned heir to his father on 4 Nov. 1513. At the time of Flodden he was admiral of a fleet, which it was proposed to send to France, but which on the voyage was driven back, and arrived at Kirkcudbright on the day after the battle. Maxwell immediately afterwards seized Lochmaben; and on 26 Nov. he was appointed captain and keeper of Thrieve. On the forfeiture of Lord Home in 1516 he acquired part of his lands, and in the following year was made warden of the west marches.

After the return of the Earl of Angus, husband of the queen, to Scotland, Maxwell became one of the queen's party. He was concerned in the removal of the young king from Stirling to Edinburgh, 26 July 1524; was on 18 Aug. made lord provost of Edinburgh; took part in the scheme for the king's nominal assumption of the government in November, with the advice of his mother; and was one of the council appointed to assist her in the government. The queen's divorce from Angus changed the attitude of Maxwell as well as other nobles towards her; and on the king attaining his majority, fourteen years, 21 June 1526, Maxwell became one of the council appointed to assist Angus in the guardianship of the king and management of affairs, he was in company with the king at Melrose Bridge on 25 July, when an unsuccessful attempt was made by the Douglases to get possession of him. The same year he was appointed steward of Kirkcudbright and keeper of Thrieve. On the escape of the king from Falkland Palace to Stirling in July 1528, Maxwell separated himself from the party of Angus, and was chosen one of the new council. Having accompanied the king to Edinburgh he was again made lord provost of the city, and on 26 Aug. frustrated an attempt of Angus to take possession of it (Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 11). He was one of the jurors on the trial of Angus, and on his forfeiture received a portion of his lands. Like most of the southern nobles, Maxwell gave his indirect countenance to the border raiders, and not unfrequently engaged in raids on his own account. In 1528 he had been compelled by Angus to make compensation to the English for burning Netherby, and this probably was the reason of his hostility to Angus. In the following year, when the king determined to make a progress southwards for the chastisement of the raiders, it was deemed advisable to place Maxwell and other sympathisers with them in ward in the castle of Edinburgh, but after the king's return they were released on giving pledges for their allegiance. The execution of John Armstrong [q. v.], who was partly under his protection, was specially distasteful to Maxwell, but he afterwards became reconciled to the king, and on 17 Nov. 1533 was appointed an extraordinary lord of session. During an excursion into England in 1536 he burned Penrith. The same year he was appointed one of the regents during the absence of King James on his matrimonial expedition to France; and after the death of the king's first wife, Madeline of France, was sent in December 1537 with other ambassadors to conclude a treaty of marriage with Mary of Guise.

Maxwell as high admiral commanded an expedition to the Orkneys in 1540. He joined the army which assembled on the Borough Muir of Edinburgh in October 1542, and having in vain urged that battle should be given to the English, he after its disbandment took the principal part in raising a force for a new expedition. In command of ten thousand men he proceeded to the western borders, but just before the encounter with the English at Solway Moss a warrant was produced by Oliver Sinclair, authorising him to assume the chief command. Such confusion and discontent thereupon resulted that scarce any resistance was made to the English, Maxwell alone strenuously endeavouring to induce his men to make a stand. On being 'admonished to take horse,' he answered, 'I say, I will rather abide here the chance which it shall please God to send me, than to go home and there to be hanged.' 'So' says Calderwood, 'he remained on foot, and was taken when the multitude fled' (History, i. 14). Along with other captive nobles he was sent to London, but the death of James V shortly afterwards somewhat changed Henry's policy. The captive nobles were permitted to return to Scotland on paying a ransom, and on entering into a bond to aid the English king by force if necessary in his scheme for a marriage of Prince Edward with the young queen, Mary Stuart, an essential preliminary being the recognition of Henry's overlordship. Maxwell, who perhaps more than any other Scottish noble had been inveterate in his hostility to England, must have only consented to serve the interests of Henry from desperation. Nevertheless he now, while Beaton was in prison, took occasion to show his hostility to him by proposing and getting passed an act that all should have liberty to read the Bible in the Scots and English tongue, provided that 'na man dispute or hold opinions under the pains contenit in the actis of parliament' (Acta Parl. Scot. ii. 45). Along with Lord Somerville he was one of the chief agents of Angus in his intrigues with Henry. On the last day of October 1543 Maxwell and Somerville were captured by the Abbot of Paisley, while proceeding with letters to the Earls of Cassilis and Glencairn, Maxwell being sent to the castle of Edinburgh (Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 29). On obtaining his liberty he joined Lennox in the castle of Glasgow, and was taken prisoner at its capture, 1 April 1544, but was set at liberty on 3 May following, on the approach of the English fleet to Leith roads, lest his friends or followers should take part with the English. Having now excited the suspicions of Henry as to his fidelity, he was taken prisoner and sent to the Tower. Thereupon he offered to serve under the Earl of Hertford, with a red cross on his armour as a symbol of his devotion to England; and in October 1545 he was allowed to return to Scotland, on delivering the castle of Caerlaverock into English keeping. Early in November his castles were captured by Beaton, and he was conveyed a prisoner to Dumfries; but having affirmed that he had only made terms with Henry in fear of his life, he on 12 Jan. 1545-6 received a remission, and was at the same time made chief justice of Annandale. On 3 June 1546 he was appointed warden of the west marches. He died on 9 July of the same year. By his first wife, Janet, daughter of Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, he had two sons Robert, sixth lord Maxwell, and Sir John Maxwell of Terregles, fourth lord Herries [q. v.] and a daughter, Margaret, married, first, to Archibald, sixth earl of Angus, and secondly to Sir William Baillie of Lamington. By his second wife, Lady Agnes Stewart, daughter of James, earl of Buchan, and widow of Adam, second earl of Bothwell, he had no issue.

[Histories of Buchanan, Leslie, and Calderwood; Diurnal of Occurrents (Bannatyne Club); State Papers, Henry VIII; Cal. Hamilton Papers, vol. i.; Sir William Fraser's Book of Caerlaverock, i 172-209; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 316-17.]

T. F. H.