John Maitland, 2nd Earl of Lauderdale, 1616-82

A leading representative of the Covenanters who became a personal friend of Charles II; he was imprisoned for nine years under the Commonwealth but richly rewarded at the Restoration.

Portrait of the Earl of LauderdaleBorn at the family seat of Lethington Hall in Haddingtonshire, John Maitland was the eldest surviving son of the first Earl of Lauderdale, also called John Maitland, and his wife Lady Isabel, daughter of Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline. Little is known about his early life until 1641, when he attended the peace negotiations held at Ripon and London after the Bishops' Wars.

In 1643, Maitland returned to London as a member of the delegation that carried the Solemn League and Covenant to England for ratification by the Westminster Parliament. He remained in London as a lay member of the Westminster Assembly to discuss reform of the Church of England. In February 1644, he was one of the four Scottish commissioners appointed to sit on the Committee for Both Kingdoms.

Maitland inherited the earldom of Lauderdale on the death of his father in January 1645. He returned regularly to England as one of the leading representatives of the Covenanters in the complex negotiations between the King, the Scots and the English Parliament. During 1647, Lauderdale became involved in secret discussions with English Presbyterians who sought Scottish military aid against the Independent faction in Parliament. Lauderdale communicated the plan for a Scottish invasion of England during private meetings with the captive King Charles I during June and July 1647, but in August he was prevented from meeting the King at Woburn by suspicious soldiers of the New Model Army and expelled from the town.

Lauderdale accompanied the Earls of Loudoun and Lanark at meetings with the King held at Hampton Court and Carisbrooke Castle, during which the terms for the Engagement were finalised. Lauderdale's support for the Engagement caused a breach with the strict Covenanters of the Kirk Party. He began negotiating with English Royalists and, during the summer of 1648, went as an envoy to persuade the Charles Stuart, Prince of Wales, to accept Presbyterianism and to take command of the Engager army. Lauderdale joined the Prince aboard the Royalist fleet in the Downs on 10 August. His presence was unwelcome to the English seamen, who did not want to sail to Scotland, but Lauderdale established a lasting personal friendship with Prince Charles. However, when news arrived of the failure of the Engager invasion of England, Lauderdale was obliged to accompany the Prince and his retinue into exile in the Netherlands.

Lauderdale remained at The Hague until 1650 where he tried to persuade Charles to come to terms with the Covenanters. Proclaimed King of Scots after the execution of his father in 1649, Charles II signed the Treaty of Breda in May 1650. Lauderdale went to Scotland with Charles and, by order of the Kirk, made a public repentance for his support of the Engagement. He accompanied Charles on the disastrous Worcester campaign in 1651.

After the battle odf Worcester, Lauderdale was taken prisoner in Cheshire as he tried to escape back to Scotland. Thanks to his involvement in the conspiracies that had led to the Second Civil War in 1647, his estates were confiscated by the Commonwealth government and he was imprisoned without trial in the Tower of London. He remained a prisoner in England for nine years at the Tower, Windsor Castle and Portland, devoting his time to the study of history and theology.

Lauderdale was released from prison with the final collapse of the Rump Parliament. He rejoined Charles II in the Netherlands and accompanied the King as a gentleman of the bedchamber at the Restoration in May 1660. Charles rewarded Lauderdale's loyalty by appointing him secretary of state for Scotland and granting him numerous estates and titles. He remained a powerful figure in Scottish and English politics and was a member of the so-called Cabal ministry of five royal advisers who dominated politics between 1668-73.

Created Duke of Lauderdale in 1672, he developed a reputation for ruthless self-interest. Lauderdale's career came to end in 1680 when he suffered a stroke that left him semi-paralysed. He died in August 1682 and was buried in the Maitland family vault at Haddington.

Lauderdale was twice married. As Viscount Maitland, he married Lady Anne Home, daughter of the first Earl of Home, in 1632. They had one daughter. Lady Anne left Lauderdale and went to live in Paris in 1669 after he began an affair with Elizabeth Murray (c.1626-98), daughter of William Murray, Earl of Dysart, who had been allowed to retain the title Countess of Dysart in her own right. Lauderdale married Elizabeth after Anne's death in 1671. Having no male heirs, Lauderdale's estates and earldom passed to his brother Charles, though he was not allowed to inherit the dukedom or English titles.


Ronald Hutton, John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, Oxford DNB, 2004

Ronald Hutton, Charles II, King of England, Scotland & Ireland (Oxford 1989)

David Stevenson, Revolution & Counter-Revolution in Scotland 1644-51 (Newton Abbott 1977)