Sir William Stirling Maxwell 9th Baronet Scotland

Biography of Sir William Stirling Maxwell 9th Baronet

Sir William Stirling Maxwell
Sir William Stirling Maxwell

Sir William Stirling Maxwell (1818-1878) was the University's Dean of Faculties from 1857 to 1859 and Chancellor from 1875 until 1878. Maxwell was the first Chancellor of the University of Glasgow to be elected by the members of the General Council, which had been created in 1859. Previously, Chancellors had been elected by members of Senate.

Born William Stirling, the only son of Archibald Stirling of Keir, Stirling was a descendant of the former University Rector Sir John Maxwell of Nether Pollok. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1839 and MA in 1843.

In 1839, Stirling embarked upon a tour of Europe which included travelling to Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy and in the 1840s he travelled to the Middle East and Spain. He took a keen interest in Spanish culture and artists and wrote a number of books on the subject. During his lifetime he amassed an impressive collection of Spanish art, which can still be viewed today at Pollock house in Glasgow, a residence which had been in the Stirling family since the 13th century.

In 1852 Stirling was elected Conservative MP for Perthshire. He lost his seat in 1868 but regained it in 1874 and held it until his death. He succeeded to the Maxwell baronetcy on the death of his uncle in 1865 and became Sir William Stirling Maxwell. As a politician, Maxwell had a particular interest in higher education and served on the Scottish Education Board and the University of London's senate. He was elected Rector of the University of St Andrews in 1863 and of the University of Edinburgh in 1871.

The Special Collections Department holds some 2,000 volumes in its Stirling Maxwell Collection, which includes Sir William’s unrivaled collection of emblem and device literature, which he assembled over a period of forty years, from Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia and England. The collection was gifted to the University by his son, Sir John Stirling Maxwell in 1956. His emblem books, collected throughout his life range in date from the first edition of Alciati’s Emblems (1531) to the 19th century and are supported by a strong collection of books on allied subjects such as fête books, ceremonial albums, medal books and books of allegorical figures. The collection constitutes one of the largest and most complete gatherings of emblem books in the world.


Sir William Stirling Maxwell 9th Baronet
Politician and Art Historian

Born 8 March 1818, Kirkintilloch, Scotland.
Died 15 January 1878.
GU Degree:
University Link: Chancellor, Dean of Faculties
Occupation categories: historians; politicians
NNAF Reference: GB/NNAF/P144550
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Record last updated: 20th Feb 2019

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