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Maitland, Sir William

Maitland, Sir William (c.1528–73). Maitland of Lethington began his career in the service of Mary of Guise, regent for Mary, queen of Scots, but in 1559 denounced the French alliance and urged an understanding with the English. His embassy to Elizabeth resulted in the treaty of Berwick in 1560. Mary's return from France placed him in jeopardy but he was employed to persuade Elizabeth to recognize Mary as heir. Though unsuccessful, he continued to be employed in English negotiations, informing Elizabeth of Mary's intention to marry Darnley. He had complicity in the murders of Rizzio and Darnley, opposed Bothwell, and encouraged a marriage between Mary and Norfolk. He was now one of Mary's leading supporters and, surrounded by enemies, took refuge in Edinburgh castle in 1571. Two years later the castle was besieged, largely by English troops. Maitland was forced to surrender and, already ill, died shortly afterwards. He had a high reputation as a diplomat and was an accomplished man of letters, but it is not easy to perceive much consistency in his policy. Maitland's younger brother John exercised great influence with James VI in the 1580s.

J. A. Cannon

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Maitland, William

William Maitland (Maitland of Lethington), 1528?–1573, Scottish statesman. In 1559 he deserted the regent Mary of Guise and joined the revolt of the Protestant nobles. When Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland two years later, he became her secretary and close adviser. A skilled diplomat, Maitland refused to be swayed by religious passions, which led to suspicion from both Catholics and Protestants. His chief desire was to effect a union of Scotland and England based on Mary's right of succession to the English throne after the death of Elizabeth I. After Mary's marriage to Bothwell, Maitland joined the opposition, but he later worked for her restoration. In the civil war following the murder (1570) of the earl of Murray, Maitland led the queen's party and held out in Edinburgh Castle from 1571 to 1573, but died soon after. He is the probable forger of portions of the so-called Casket Letters.

See E. Russell, Maitland of Lethington, the Minister of Mary Stuart (1912).

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