Maxwell - Coat of Arms

For almost five centuries, the MAXWELL clan was one of the most powerful and respected families along the border of Scotland and England. It began in the early 1100's with a man called Maccus, a wealthy landowner in the vicinity of Melrose, Scotland in the former county of Roxburgh. Maccus, the son of Undewyn, a Saxon Lord, arrived in Scotland in 1116. He was a trusted supporter of King David I, who rewarded Maccus with a large land grant situated at the juncture of the Tweed and Teviot Rivers in Roxburghshire, Scotland. Maccus built a village, Maccustoun, later called Maxton. King David then gave him another grant of land, which included a salmon pond or "wiel", situated on the River Tweed. This land became know as Macaus's Wiel, later Maccuswell, and finally Maxwell. Maccus died about 1152. However, his name continued in two places. One is the small town called Maxtown, and the other is at the salmon pool, 'Maccus's Wiel'. Both places survive to this day. Maccus derives from the Old Norse given name 'Makkr', a form of 'Magnus' meaning 'great' plus the Old English pre-7th Century 'wael', 'well' or 'pool', hence 'the pool of Maccus', or 'Maccus's Wiel'.

At some point before 1150, it is believed that Maccus had a son named Herbert. He held the land of 'Maccus's Wiel' and was called 'Herber de Macchwel', or 'Maccuswell'.He was Chancellor in the court of King David I of Scotland. We know of three of Herbert's children. Sir John de Maccusweil succeeded Herbert in the Barony. Sir John was the Great Chamberlain of Scotland from the year 1200. He also served as Sheriff of Teviotdale. His services to Scotland brought him the barony of Caerlaverock in Dumfriesshire where he died before 1241. Sir John was succeeded by his younger brother Aymer de Maxwell, the first person to use the 'Maxwell' spelling. Aymer married a girl named Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir Ronald de Mearns. She brought with her the Renfrew barony and this became the base for the Maxwells of Clyde, the Maxwells of Pollock and Calderwood and from there the Irish Maxwells of Farnham, Finnebrogue and Ballyrolly. Sir Aymer's eldest son, Sir Herbert Maxwell, carried the Caerlaverock line of Maxwells.

'Caerlaverock Castle', one of Scotland’s greatest medieval fortresses was their Clan seat. It's located a few miles south of Dumfries, close to where the River Nith flows into the Solway Firth. The castle is close to the border between Scotland and England, so it was a stronghold in several brutal cross-border conflicts. It played a large role in the Wars of Scottist Independance. These wars will forever be remembered for the brave resistance put up by the Scots under Sir William Wallace, Sir Andrew de Moray and Robert Bruce. During the wars, Caerlverock was captured by the English king Edward I, also known as Longshanks. He In 1296 Edward I of England, invaded Scotland and forced many Scots to swear fealty to him in the Ragman Roll. Among these were Herbert de Maxwell and his son John. But the Scots continued to rebel against Edward. In 1300, he and 87 knights and 3000 of his men besieged the castle. After 2 days of pounding with trebuchets, Lord Maxwell’s garrison of 60 men surrendered. Some were hanged from the castle walls and the rest were allowed to live. The castle remained in English hands for several years. The siege of Caerlaverock is one of the most well known incidents of this time because of a detailed written account by a member of the besieging army.

First written in French, this passage is thought to be authored by Walter of Exeter, a Franciscan friar that was with Edward's army during the seige. "Soon afterwards it fortunately happened that the navy arrived with the engines and provisions, and then the foot-men began to march against the castle; then might be seen stones, arrows, and quarrels to fly among them; but so effectually did those within exchange their tokens with those without, that in one short hour there were many persons wounded and maimed, and I know not how many killed." The Roll Of Arms, Of The Princes, Barons, And Knights Who Attended King Edward I To The Seige Of Caerlaverock, In 1300 / Thomas Wright (Author)

In 1312, Sir Eustace Maxwell controlled Caerlaverock. He declared for Robert Bruce, King of Scots. The castle was besieged again, this time by Longshank's son, Edward II. After several days, Sir Eustace could see that they weren't going to be able to hold the castle. Instead of surrendering, he desmolished the castle so that England couldn't use it for a stronghold against Scotland. Robert Bruce granted him a charter of annual rent for doing this. In 1332, Edward Balliol was crowned King of Scots at Scone and Sir Eustace repaired and garrisoned Caerlaverock and placed it at Balliol's disposal. In the following three centuries, the castle switched hands between England and Scotland several times. It remained in possession of the Maxwell family.

With the union of the kingdoms of Scotland and England in 1605, many Maxwells, along with other Scots, migrated south into England. The eighteenth century saw Maxwells dispersed throughout the British Empire.

Down through history, the Maxwells have held numerous titles and offices, such as Earl of Nithsdale, Earl of Morton, Earl of Dirleton, Lords Maxwell, Clyde, Elbottle, Eskdale, Herries of Terregles, Kingston, Farnham and DeRos. They have held five baronecies: that of Calderwood in Lanarkshire, Cardoness in Kirkcudbrightshire, Monerith in Wigtonshire, Pollock of Renfrewshire and Springkelll in Dumfriesshire. Maxwells were Wardens of the West March of the Scotland/English border.

No one is exactly sure when the first Maxwell of our line migrated to America. The first records of our line can be found in the Christ Church, Middlesex County, Virgina parish register in the early 1700s. In the following pages, I have outlined what I have found. A lot of this comes from ancestry.com.

The Maxwell badge is a stag Proper, attired Argent, couchant before a holly bush Proper. The Motto Reviresco means I flourish again


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