by Williamson

The Family of Maitland in Lauderdale, Scotland, of which Ian Colin Maitland, 15th Earl of Lauderdale, is the present head, is very distinguished and has been seated at Thirlestane Castle, Lauder, in the County of Berwick, for nearly eight centuries.

Noted members of the family have been Sir Richard Maitland, the “Blind Knight of Thirlestane” who successfully defended his fort at Lauder against Edward I of England, and who was a devoted adherent of Sir William Wallace, Regent of Scotland, and of King Robert the Bruce; Sir William Maitland of Lethington, devoted friend and counsellor of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots; John, 1st Earl of Lauderdale, Statesman; and John 2d Earl and Duke of Lauderdale, at one time virtually the ruler of Scotland.

The family has been famous in politics and the fighting service for centuries. General Sir Thomas Maitland, originator of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, was Governor of Malta for many years during the Napoleonic wars and was aptly named “King Tom of the Mediterranean.” It was to his brother Admiral Maitland, that Napoleon surrendered on board H.M.S. Bellerophon. Both the 14th Earl and the present head of the family served with distinction in the World War, 1914-18. The present Earl of Lauderdale is descended from a son of the 7th Earl, from who also members of the American branch of the Maitland family are descended, the 10th, 11th and 12th Earls having died without leaving male issue.

There is a tradition about the family to the effect that a curse was laid upon John, Duke of Lauderdale, that no son of an Earl of Lauderdale should inherit the title until the 13th Earl. Curiously, that is what actually happened.

About forty years ago the late Countess of Lauderdale visited Florida in a yacht. While she and her party were anchored near a coast guard station on the East Coast, the Countess, not knowing the port, called to a negro on shore and asked its name.

“Fort Lauderdale, ma’am,” was his reply. Mystified, she went to her host and asked him what the joke was. He and the other members of the party were so surprised that they went ashore and interviewed the man who led them to a still-standing corner of the old log fort from which the present City of Fort Lauderdale had derived its name. This fort was built in 1832 by Major William Lauderdale, a member of the Maitland family, who was in command of the United States forces in this section of Florida against the Seminole Indians at that time, and the fort was named in his honor. It was later rebuilt on a different site.

In 1926 the late Countess of Lauderdale and the present Earl of Lauderdale (then Lord Thirlestane) went to Fort Lauderdale and presented to the city some stones from the original fort of the Maitland family at Lauder, Scotland.

Federal Writers’ Project American Guide Series Miami, Florida Williamson June 22, 1939


Letter to A.J. Henne from the Earl of Lauderdale, Thirlestane Castle, Lauder, Scotland, 27 February, 1936.

Bernard Burke, Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage (90th edn., Burke’s Peerage, Ltd., London, 1932), 1432 et seq.)

Fort Maitland, Its Origin & Hist. (A.J. Hanna, 1936), 45-46.

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