Thirlestane Castle celebrating 400th anniversary of birth of duke

Thirlestane Castle, near Lauder.
Thirlestane Castle, near Lauder.

Next Tuesday, Thirlestane Castle, near Lauder, will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of John Maitland, the second earl and only duke of Lauderdale.

Visitors are invited along to find out more about one of the most important Scottish figures of the late 17th century.

Alive from 1616 to 1682, Maitland was appointed secretary of state for Scotland in 1660, effectively ruling the country from Thirlestane Castle, still home to his descendants to this day.

On Sunday, June 12, visitors are invited to join in celebrations on the front lawn of Thirlestane Castle to mark the Queen’s official 90th birthday and also the 400th anniversary of Maitland’s birth.

For details, visit or call 01578 722430.

Maitland signed the national covenant in 1638, and in 1649, after the execution of Charles I, he, like many other covenanters, decided to support the Scottish King Charles II and fought alongside him.

The Royalists were defeated at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, and although Charles II managed to escape, Maitland was captured and imprisoned in England. He was released upon the restoration of Charles II in 1660.

The king then made Maitland his secretary of state for Scotland and later his high commissioner.

Maitland employed the architect William Bruce to transform Thirlestane Castle into a residence suitable for conducting affairs of state.

Between 1670 and 1676, substantial alterations made included the addition of the two front towers and the grand staircase.

This year sees the continuation of extensive restoration work that began in 2013 after the discovery of dry rot, leading to the castle being closed for 18 months.

Until October, the castle will be open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 10am to 3pm. The castle grounds are open from 10am to 5pm.

Edward Maitland-Carew, one of the family trustees, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming visitors and their families and friends to Thirlestane Castle, and for them to see the difference their support makes to ensure the ongoing preservation of this beautiful, historic building for future generations to enjoy.”

James Barnes, chairman of the Thirlestane Castle Trust, added: “Thirlestane Castle holds an important place in Scottish history, and we also need to look to its future to ensure its sustainability.

“It is an exciting time of change for the castle, and we are continuing to work on plans to extend its range of commercial activities.”

The history of the castle goes back at least as far as the 13th century, when a large fort was built on the site to defend the approach to Edinburgh from the south.

The central part of the present castle was completed in 1590 and remodelled in the 1670s and then again in the 1840s.

The Maitlands came to Britain from Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066, originally settling in Northumberland.

In 1984, the castle was gifted to a charitable trust established to ensure its preservation, and major repairs were carried out.