MAULE, Hon. William (1771-1852), of Panmure and Brechin Castle, Angus.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



25 Apr. 1796 - 1796
24 June 1805 - 10 Sept. 1831

Family and Education

b. 27 Oct. 1771, 2nd s. of George Ramsay, 8th Earl of Dalhousie [S], by Elizabeth, da. of Andrew Glenn; bro. of Hon. John Ramsay*. educ. Edinburgh h.s. 1780-4. m. (1) 1 Dec. 1794, Patricia Heron (d. 11 May 1821), da. of Gilbert Gordon of Halleaths, Dumfries, 3s. 7da.; (2) 4 June 1822, Elizabeth, da. of John William Barton of Hospitalfield, Angus, s.p. suc. fa. under entail 1787 to Panmure estates of his gt.-uncle William Maule, 1st Earl of Panmure [I] (d.1782), having taken name of Maule in 1782; cr. Baron Panmure 10 Sept. 1831.

Offices Held

Cornet, 11 Drag. 1788; capt. ind. co. Ft. 1791 (disbanded same year); half-pay 1791; ret. 1825.

Lt. W. Lowland fencibles 1793, capt.-lt. 1793, capt. 1794; maj. commdt. Forfar fencible cav. 1794.


Maule’s inheritance of the vast estates of his great-uncle at the age of 16 made him one of the richest men in Scotland. After coming into full possession of the property in 1792 he soon gained considerable notoriety as the ringleader of a group of wild young men addicted to gambling, heavy drinking, destructive horseplay and sexual licence. He sustained this extravagant and dissipated style of life, into which he probably fell the more readily in the absence of paternal discipline, to the end of his days, long after more decorous standards of behaviour had become the norm among his peers. Sir Walter Scott’s friend Robert Gillies, who had a soft spot for Maule, described him as

a young man of the modern world, rather of the Prince of Wales and royal duke stamp, than that of the old (or young) Scottish lairds ... His ample fortune, his profuse hospitality, his capacity beyond others to endure convivial excesses with impunity, above all, his joyous, cordial, affable manners, which diffused cheerfulness wherever he went— these were points on which he stood elevated and alone, without rival or competitor. ... If his conduct was not in all respects equable and exemplary, it might fairly enough be questioned, what models were there for his guidance, or to what canons could he have referred?1

Maule, who joined the Whig Club in 1798, became an enthusiastic Foxite and named his first son after his idol, though it was not until the Whig exodus to Paris in 1802 that he met him.2 In 1795, seeking to re-establish the supremacy of the Panmure interest in Forfarshire, he abetted Sir David Carnegie in his successful bid to oust the ministerialist sitting Member David Scott, even though he was obliged to Scott for his brother’s position with the East India Company. Henry Dundas complained to the dowager Lady Dalhousie that her son’s treachery ‘unhinges all those ties and obligations in life, by which one is enabled to support and aid one’s friends’ and Scott commented:

although I had heaped attentions on him, and bestowed such essential favours on his family, I yet marvelled not at his conduct because I conceived that wine and its concomitant weakness are equal to blunt all the virtues he might have been possessed of.3

Maule came in as locum for Carnegie at the by-election of April 1796, made way for him at the dissolution a month later and was returned without opposition when he died in 1805.

He supported his Whig friends in power, voting for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. Had the new ministers carried out their plan to make changes among the Scottish lord lieutenancies on political grounds, he would have received that of Forfarshire. In default of this, it was noted that he ‘may be gratified’ by a peerage, though in March 1807, soon after he had received a welcoming and bibulous initiation at Carlton House, he was said to have ‘laughed vastly at the idea of being made a peer’. Like many Scottish Foxites, he grew impatient with the government’s ‘dormant state respecting Scotland’ and in June 1806, when it was reported that ‘his spirits are very bad and [he] almost damns the present ministers’, he was one of the leading agitators for a purge of Melvillite officeholders. Yet Henry Erskine introduced him to Lord Grenville in September as ‘a man of the greatest honour and firmness, upon whose support your lordship may in every possible situation fully rely’ and, when Parliament was dissolved, he was ‘overflowing with zeal and money’ for the Whig cause and managed to secure his brother’s return for Aberdeen Burghs.4 He was considered to be one of the ‘staunch friends’ of slave trade abolition.

He was prevented by illness from attending Parliament for the debates on the recent peace negotiations early in 1807, but was in his place to vote for Brand’s motion condemning the Portland ministry’s pledge on Catholic relief, 9 Apr. At his election dinner in Forfar town hall, 25 May 1807, he and his cronies, provoked by the removal of an anti-ministerial broadside from the wall, drunkenly destroyed a portrait of Lord Melville. Whig party managers feared that he and his accomplices might be prosecuted but Maule, though disposed at first to make light of the incident, took Adam’s advice and apologized and nothing serious seems to have come of it.5

He mustered in London with the Whigs on the eve of the opening of the new Parliament, voted against government on the address, 26 June, and the state of the nation, 6 July 1807, and went on to do likewise in most of the major divisions of the next three years. He was one of the minority of 58 who divided in favour of Whitbread’s third peace resolution, 29 Feb. 1808; voted for inquiry into alleged electoral corruption by ministers, 25 Apr. and 11 May 1809; was in the minorities on the Burdett affair, 12 Mar., 5 and 16 Apr., and voted for Brand’s parliamentary reform motion, 21 May 1810. He voted against government on the Regency, 29 Nov. 1810 and 1 Jan. 1811, but paired for the division of 21 Jan. 1811. His next recorded appearance in the division lists was not until 1812, when he voted against McMahon’s appointment, 14 Apr., for inquiry into Catholic claims, 24 Apr., for the sinecure bill, 4 May, and for a remodelling of administration, 21 May 1812. He voted for Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May, and against Christian missionary activity in India, 22 June 1813, but not a single vote is recorded in his name for the subsequent five years of the 1812 Parliament. A founder member of the Hampden Club, he helped to secure the return of the radical Joseph Hume for Aberdeen Burghs in 1818.

He did not sign the requisition calling on Tierney to take the Whig leadership in the Commons, but turned up in the first session of the new Parliament to cast a dozen recorded votes, which included ones for inquiry into Scottish burgh reform, 1 Apr. and 6 May, and for Tierney’s censure motion, May, but not for Burdett’s parliamentary reform motion, 1 July 1819. He was present for the opening of the emergency session later in the year, when he divided against government on the address, 24 Nov., and the state of the nation, 30 Nov., but his vote against the second reading of the seditious meetings bill, 2 Dec. 1819, is the only one he is known to have cast against the government’s repressive legislation. Yet if Maule, who is not known to have spoken in the House before 1820, was one of the Whigs’ less dependable adherents in terms of parliamentary attendance, he remained loyal to their cause in spirit and could generally be relied on for a contribution when money was required.6

A liberal and benevolent landlord, he was affable and generous to those who bent complaisantly to his will, but he had an evil temper and was implacable in his hatreds when crossed. In his domestic affairs he was tyrannical. His first wife left him in about 1817, and when his 16-year-old son sided with her Maule cut him out of his life and left him to get by on an allowance of £100 a year. Alexander Hunter described him in 1804 as ‘the most long-headed fellow, and of the soundest judgement too (if he did not sometimes let his passion get the better of him)’, but with the passage of time he became an increasingly repellent figure. After his death, 13 Apr. 1852, he was commemorated by one observer as ‘a glorious savage’.7

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Gillies, Mems. of a Literary Veteran, i. 72.
  • 2. Panmure Pprs. ed. Douglas and Ramsay, 5-6; Blair Adam mss, Skene to Adam, 18 Aug., 10 Sept. [1802].
  • 3. SRO GD51/1/198/2/7; Scott Corresp. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lxxv), i. 40.
  • 4. Add. 51471A, ff. 13-14; Archibald Constable, i. 87-88; SRO GD124/15/1707/6; GD225/34/25, Maule to Hay, 21 June, 28 July, Mansfield to same, 28 June; Fortescue mss, Maule to Grenville, 24 Sept., Erskine to same, 26 Sept. 1806.
  • 5. Blair Adam mss, Maule to Adam, 30 Dec. 1806, 26 May, 2 June, Adam to Maule, 26 May; Add. 51585, Tierney to Holland [3 June] 1807; SRO GD51/1/198/2/22; NLS mss 1053, f. 136.
  • 6. Add. 51570, Townshend to Holland, 13 Nov. 1809; 51595, Adam to same, 28 Nov. 1806; 51826, Maule to same, 26 Feb. 1812; 51828, same to same, 24 Jan. 1817; Blair Adam mss, Maule to Adam, 21 Sept., 20 Dec. 1812.
  • 7. Panmure Pprs. 8-9; Archibald Constable, i. 69; Gent. Mag. (1852), i. 516.