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William Maxwell

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Fifth Earl of Nithsdale (Lord Nithsdale signed as Nithsdaill) and fourteenth Lord Maxwell, b. in 1676; d. at Rome, 2 March, 1744. He succeeded his father at the early age of seven. His mother, a daughter of the House of Douglas, a clever energetic woman, educated him in sentiments of devotion to the Catholic faith and of loyalty to the House of Stuart, for which his family was famous. When he was about twenty-three, Lord Nithsdale visited the French Court to do homage to King James, and there met and wooed Lady Winifred Herbert, youngest daughter of William, first Marquis of Powis. The marriage contract is dated 2 March, 1699. The young couple resided chiefly at Terregles, in Dumfriesshire, and here probably their five children were born. Until 1715 no special event marked their lives, but in that year Lord Nithsdale's principles led him to join the rising in favour of Prince James Stuart, and he shared in the disasters which attended the royal cause, being taken prisoner at Preston and sent to the Tower. In deep anxiety Lady Nithsdale hastened to London and there made every effort on behalf of her husband, including a personal appeal to George I, but no sort of hope was held out to her. She, therefore, with true heroism, planned and carried out his escape on the eve of the day fixed for his execution. Lord Nithsdale had prepared himself for death like a good Catholic and loyal servant of his king, as his "Dying Speech" and farewell letter to his family attest. After his escape he fled in disguise to France. He and Lady Nithsdale spent their last years in great poverty, in Rome, in attendance on their exiled king.


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