John Maxwell, 8th Lord Maxwell

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John Maxwell, 8th Lord Maxwell[1] (24 April 1553 – 7 December 1593) was a Scottish Catholic nobleman. In 1581 he was created Earl of Morton, and in 1587 he travelled to Spain where he took part in the planning of the Spanish Armada.


The noble House of Maxwell had held the castle of Caerlaverock near Dumfries since the 13th century, and by the mid 16th century were the most powerful family in south-west Scotland. John Maxwell was the second son of Robert Maxwell, 6th Lord Maxwell (died 13 September 1552) and his wife Beatrix Douglas, daughter of James Douglas, 3rd Earl of Morton. He was born seven months after his father's death, and succeeded as 8th Lord Maxwell at the age of two, following the death of his brother Robert at the age of four.[2]

In 1581, James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, was convicted of the murder of Lord Darnley in 1567 and executed, and his titles forfeit. On 29 October 1581, James Maxwell was created Earl of Morton, with the subsidiary title Lord Carlyle and Eskdale, and he received the lands of Morton in a charter the same year. In 1585, his rights to the lands were revoked, although he apparently retained the right to use the title. He was styled Earl of Morton until his death,[2] despite Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus (1555–1588), being confirmed as 5th Earl of Morton in 1586.[2]

Maxwell served on the Privy Council of Scotland, and as Warden of the West Marches between 1571 and 1577.[3] In 1587, he was given leave to go overseas, travelling to Madrid where he took part in the planning of the Spanish Armada of 1588.[3] On his return that year, he was arrested as a traitor, but was freed in 1589 on a bond of £100,000. In 1592 he was reappointed as Warden of the West Marches.[3] On 7 December 1593, an ongoing feud with the Johnstones of Annandale led to a fight at Dryfe Sands near Lockerbie at which Lord Maxwell was killed. His son John Maxwell, 9th Lord Maxwell, continued the feud and was executed in 1613 for the revenge killing of Sir James Johnstone.[2]

Lord Maxwell married Elizabeth Douglas (d.1637), daughter of the 7th Earl of Angus, and they had seven children:[2]


  1. He is also recorded as the 7th Lord Maxwell
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Balfour Paul, James (1904), "Maxwell, Earl of Nithsdale", The Scots Peerage, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, VI, pp. 482–485<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Maxwell, Lord (S, 1445 - forfeited 1716)". Cracroft's Peerage. Heraldic Media Limited. Retrieved 17 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Robert Maxwell
Lord Maxwell
Succeeded by
John Maxwell