1684, Richard, Lord Maitland, professes his loyalty to the king and hopes to be released from custody

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1680s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Richard, Lord Maitland. SP 29/436 f. 30 (1684).

To the King’s most excellent majestie

The humble peticion of Richard Lord Maitland


That whereas your petitioner having been committed to custody on Monday last by your majesties order, and warrant of Master Secretary Jenkins, as a person disaffected to your government and service your majesty having been gratiously pleased to allow your petitioner the honour to speak with your majesty and his royall highnesse in private, hee hopes hee gave you full satisfaction. Although your petitioners life hitherto hath beene nothing but one continued tract of misfortune, yet hee looks on this as the greatest and most unsupportable to him of all the others, that hee should be thought by the world capable of the least disloyalty or designe against your majestie or the government; especially seeing hee is not conscious to himself of having in all his life ever harboured in his breast so much as a disaffected thought; and would rather dye instantly then outlive his loyalty affection and duty to your majesty, your lawfull heires and successors, and the present government; one minute. And whereas your petitioners restreint is of great prejudice to his private fortune and affaires, as also to his health;

May it therefore gratiously please your majestie to consider your petitioner to be a young man; his present condition and circumstances, which you know to be very hard; and to compassionate the many disasters and misfortunes of his family; and also to remember its former services to the crowne; and out of your princely innate grace and goodnesse to give order, that your petitioner may be discharged and sett at liberty; or that hee may be allowed to give baile to answer when and where your majesty pleaseth.

And your petitioner (as in duty bound) shall ever pray etc


Report by Mary Wiggins

In his petition Richard, Lord Maitland, recounted that he had recently been arrested on a warrant issued by Master Secretary Jenkins, on the grounds that he was disaffected with the King and his government. He had subsequently been allowed to speak to the King in private and hoped he had given the King full satisfaction. He asserted he had never harboured any ‘disloyalty or design’ against the King. He asked now that the King remember his youth, his hard circumstances, the disasters and misfortunes of his family together with the family’s former services to the Crown and set him free.

Richard, Lord Maitland

Richard, Lord Maitland was born at Haltoun (or Hatton or Halton) House in 1653, a Scottish baronial mansion west of Edinburgh. He was the eldest son of Charles Maitland, the 3rd Earl of Lauderdale. Richard’s mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of Richard Lauder of Haltoun, the last laird of Haltoun.  He settled his estates on Elizabeth, so these passed to Charles Maitland on their marriage. Richard was married to Lady Agnes Campbell, the second daughter of the Earl of Argyll, they had no children, so his title was passed on to his brother, John.[1]

The Lauderdale Maitlands were one of the great old houses of Scotland, comprising six centuries of statesmen, warriors, poets and lawyers. They originated from Normandy, following William the Conqueror to England. The family were very strong supporters of the crown which Richard Maitland suggests in his petition.[2]

In 1678, Richard was appointed as a Privy Councillor and the Joint General of the Mint with his father, this was high office for someone at so young an age, he was only 25 and by 1681 he had also been appointed to the office of Lord Justice Clerk, the second most senior judge in Scotland, after the Lord President of the Court of Session. He was subsequently relieved of this office in 1684, having been suspected of communicating with his father-in-law, the Earl of Argyll, who had escaped to Holland in 1681, following a charge of treason. It was presumably for this that he was taken into custody, on the warrant of Master Secretary Jenkins. Previously, in 1683, he was suspected of having some connection with members of the Rye House plot, the alleged Whig conspiracy to assassinate Charles II and his brother James because of their Roman Catholic leanings. He maintained he had no sympathy with the participants of this plot and stood firm in his full support for the Stuart dynasty.[3]

On 7 January 1684, very shortly after receipt of Richard’s petition, the Privy Council considered his case. Those present included the King and Secretary Jenkins. It was decided that Richard should ‘remain in the hands of a messenger till further news from Scotland and then to be sent down thither. His papers to be restored’.[4]  It is not clear how long Richard was held in custody but he was in due course (certainly by 1687) restored to favour with the Stuart dynasty.[5]

Richard’s family

This petition mentions the misfortunes of Richard’s family. His father Charles, 3rd Earl of Lauderdale, who held several important offices under Charles II, was accused of perjury, together with others, following the trial of James Mitchell. Mitchell was a religious fanatic convicted of attempting to murder Archbishop James Sharp and hanged at Grassmarket in Edinburgh in 1678. He originally made a full confession after being promised that he would not be executed. However, he was indicted again and this time he pleaded not guilty. At his final trial, several high-profile witnesses, including Charles Maitland, lied under oath saying that Mitchell had not been offered his life for his confession. Several of these witnesses were later convicted of perjury. Maitland, however, after being accused of perjury in July 1681 before parliament, was spared prosecution as parliament was then adjourned.[6] Archbishop Sharp was involved in suppressing Presbyterian dissidents in Scotland and was therefore a target for radicals: he was actually assassinated by a group of Covenanters in 1679.[7]

In 1682, a commission was set up to inquire into the coinage and the Mint and the subsequent report suggested that Maitland, now the Earl of Lauderdale, had misappropriated public funds by withdrawing coin from the Mint, clipping it and then returning it. He was tried in the Court of Session, lost his offices and fined £20,000.[8]

Another member of the Maitland family, Richard’s uncle, John, the 2nd Earl of Lauderdale, was very close to King Charles II and was the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, he lost control in Scotland and his enemies suggested he was involved in the ‘Popish Plot’ although he was never likely to support Roman Catholics. The King supported him until these implications came to light but he managed to keep his Whitehall post until he resigned in 1680 due to ill health. Charles II stopped his pension on the advice of the Privy Council for Scotland, but no attempt was made to impeach him. He protected his brother, Charles, until he died in 1682.[9]

Leoline Jenkins

The Master Secretary mentioned in this petition was Sir Leoline Jenkins, born about 1625. He was the son of Llewellyn Jenkins, yeoman, of Llanblethian, Glamorgan. He was an alumnus of Jesus College, Oxford, and its Principal for 12 years. He was a civil lawyer, diplomat and benefactor of Jesus College and was seen as conscientious and principled. Samuel Pepys described Jenkins as ‘very rational, learned and uncorrupt’. He was appointed a judge of the Admiralty of the Cinque Ports in 1667 and two years later was knighted for his part in negotiating with the French with regard to settling the Queen Mother’s estate. He was the MP for Hythe in 1673 and Oxford University from 1679 to 1685. In addition, he was appointed a Privy Councillor and became Secretary of State (north) 1680-1 and (south) 1681-4. He was an effective diplomat but thought of as a disastrous choice as a spokesman for the Court of the Commons, called ‘the most faithful drudge of a secretary the court ever had’ (Roger North – MP for Dunwich in 1685). As Master Secretary, his duties included carrying messages to and from the king almost daily. He would also have been investigating plots and rumours of plots against the government. He died in September 1685 at his house in Hammersmith and was buried in the chapel of Jesus College. He was a generous benefactor and left the major part of his estate to the college and also made provision under his will for his old school, Cowbridge grammar.[10]


[1] ‘Haltoun House’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haltoun_House.

[2] ‘The Great Historic Families of Scotland: The Lauderdale Maitlands’, Electric Scotland, https://electricscotland.com/webclans/families/maitlands.htm.

[3] ‘Richard Maitland, 4th Earl of Lauderdale’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Maitland,_4th_Earl_of_Lauderdale; ‘Maitland, Richard (1653-1695), Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_National_Biography,_1885-1900/Maitland,_Richard_(1653-1695).

[4] ‘Charles II: January 1684’, in F H Blackburne Daniell and Francis Bickley (eds.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1683-4, (1938), pp. 195-253. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1683-4/pp195-253.

[5] ‘Richard Maitland 4th Earl, after 1651-1695’, Clan Maitland, https://clanmaitland.uk/history/20-1600s.

[6] ‘Charles Maitland, 3rd Earl of Lauderdale’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Maitland,_3rd_Earl_of_Lauderdale; ‘James Mitchell (Covenanter)’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Mitchell_(Covenanter).

[7] ‘James Sharp (bishop)’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Sharp_(bishop).

[8] Charles Maitland, 3rd Earl of Lauderdale’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Maitland,_3rd_Earl_of_Lauderdale; ‘Charles Maitland of Haltoun, 3rd Earl (after 1616-1691)’ Clan Maitland, https://clanmaitland.uk/history/20-1600s.

[9] ‘John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale 1616-1682’, Clan Maitland, https://clanmaitland.uk/history/20-1600s.

[10] ‘JENKINS, Sir Leoline (c. 1625-1685)’, in B D Henning (ed.), The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1660-1690 (1983), http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1660-1690/member/jenkins-sir-leoline-1625-85.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.