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Robert Maxwell was born after 1586 the son of John Maxwell (seventh or eighth Lord Maxwell and Earl of Morton, 1553-93) and consort Lady Elizabeth Douglas, daughter of the Seventh Earl of Angus. In 1607 he became Provost of Annan, and 11 years later he became a commissioner of the Borders. He was made a member of the Privy Council in 1619. He was invested with the title of Earl of Nithsdale in 1620, his full title included Lord Maxwell, Eskdale and Carleill. The following year he was one of six members of the Council who formed a War Cabinet -including Lord Spynie [SSNE 177], Sir James Spens [SSNE 1642] and Sir Andrew Gray [SSNE]. King James VI and I sent Maxwell to Rome in 1624 to obtain papal dispensation for Prince Charles to marry Henrietta-Maria of France. In February 1627 Maxwell was authorised to levy a regiment of 3,000 Scots foot for Danish service. Lord Spynie and Sir James Sinclair of Murkle [SSNE] were also to levy 3000 each and on 15 March all three of them received a total of £8000 Sterling to undertake their levies. When Maxwell was appointed supreme commander and general of the Scots in Danish service Lord Spynie complained bitterly that he was a man universally hated, of no character or estate and a "Papist". Spynie expected that Maxwell would only use his position to benefit the enemy. Discharged 27/11/1628 with his guarantor Sir James Baillie of the sum of £4,000 Sterling granted to them for the recruitment of soldiers for Danish service. Of his later years, it is known that in April 1644 he joined James Graham, Marquis of Montrose at Dumfries. He was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Francis Beaumont. She was excommunicated for being a Catholic in 1628. Maxwell died on the Isle of Man in May 1646.

Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA, Skotland A II 4 n.d. [1627-8?], Spynie to Christian IV; DNB XXXVII, pp. 124-8; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, 2nd Series, vol.I, pp. 531-2 and 550-3 (27/2 and 10/2-7/3/1627), vol.II, pp. 32-6 (15/7-3/8/1627) and vol.III, p. 48 (27/11/1628); Sir James Balfour Paul, The Scots Peerage (8 vols., Edinburgh, 1904-1911), VI, p.485; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.133; G.E. Cokayne, The complete Peerage, (London, 1936), vol.ix, pp.559-561; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), p.100.

Montrose's Civil War; 


Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA, Skotland AII 4. Lord Spynie to Christian IV (n.d. but c.1627)

Most serene King,

When I heard that your Majesty had appointed the Earl of Nithsdale Commander General of your troops in Scotland, I could not have believed my ears, were not Nithsdale himself bragging about all kinds of things which ought to have hindered his being appointed to such honours in the first place. Indeed, the nobility as well as the common people were astonished what your Majesty could have intended by appointing a man who has done nothing and has no reputation at home, who is not only in thrall to the Catholic religion, but is also its defender in Scotland, (and, what is more, has not long come back from Italy, where he is believed to have been the driving force behind criminal plans, along with the bishops), and by raising to such great honours a man who has had absolutely no military experience. The result is that those who are reasonably acute are concluding that he solicited this appointment for no other reason than to discover your Majesty's plans and betray them to the enemy.

I hope your Majesty will not believe that all these reflections come from me because I enjoy slandering [people]. The truth is open to all Scots, and I cannot persuade myself that many are going to reject your commands. So let me most humbly beg your Majesty not to saddle everyone with a thoroughly hateful man, and one whose loyalty is much in doubt. Even though his public bragging has not got him anywhere, I ask only that you order a thorough public investigation to find out whether the things people say about him are true or not, and that you be willing to attribute this impertinence of mine to my devotion to your service.

May Almighty God protect your Majesty for a long time.

Your Majesty's most humble servant,

Spynie (Colonel)