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Women in History of Scots Descent
Winifred Maxwell


Countess of Nithsdale, d. at Rome, May, 1749. She was the daughter of William, first Marquis of Powis, who followed James II into exile. She is famous in history for the heroic deliverance of her husband from the Tower on 23 Feb., 1716. Her married life was passed chiefly at the family seat of Terregles, and here she received the fatal news of her husband's defeat at Preston. After concealing the family papers in a spot still pointed out, she hastened to London to intercede for her husband, having little hope however, for, to use her own words: "A Catholic upon the borders and one who had a great following and whose family had ever upon all occasions stuck to the royal family, could not look for mercy". And so it proved; even her personal appeal to George I was disregarded, and Lord Nithsdale was to owe his safety to her alone. With great courage and ingenuity she contrived his escape from the Tower in female dress -- on the eve of the day appointed for his execution, according to Lady Cowper's "Diary," 1st ed., p. 85, a reprieve was signed for Lord Nithsdale on the very night of his escape -- and after concealing him in London and arranging for his journey to France, this heroic lady returned again to Scotland to secure the family papers which she knew would be of vital importance to her son. In fact her zeal made Lady Nithsdale's position a hazardous one, and King George declared she had done him "more mischief than any woman in Christendom". As soon as she was able she joined Lord Nithsdale abroad and they spent their long exile in Rome, where she survived her husband for about five years. The autograph letter in which Lady Nithsdale gives the account of her husband's escape, and the brown cloak worn by him on the occasion, are now in possession of the Duchess of Norfolk, who represents the Nithsdales in the female line.


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