The title was created in 1624 for John Maitland, 2nd Lord Maitland of Thirlestane, Berwickshire.
The second Earl was created Duke of Lauderdale and by popular naming represented the "L" in the Cabal ministry, an acronym which amounted to the first major, perennial delegation of power from the monarch to a cabinet. When he died without male issue, the dukedom became extinct. The earldom passed to his brother Charles, 3rd Earl. Charles married, in 1652, Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Lauder of Haltoun and by this marriage came into that family's great estates.
Other titles associated with the earldom are: Viscount of Lauderdale (created 1616), Viscount of Maitland (1624), Lord Maitland of Thirlestane (1590) and Lord Thirlestane and Boulton (1624). All of these titles are in the Peerage of Scotland. The Earl of Lauderdale is the hereditary chief of Clan Maitland. The eldest son is the Master of Lauderdale. The title Viscount Maitland is sometimes used as a courtesy title for the Earl's eldest son and heir.
The historical family seat is Thirlestane Castle, near Lauder in Scotland, home of Captain the Hon. Gerald Maitland-Carew and his family. He is the eldest son of Lady Sylvia Maitland – who became wife to the 6th Baron Carew – she was the eldest of two children of the 15th Earl of Lauderdale; her brother was killed in action in North Africa, aged 27 and left three daughters. Therefore the earldom passed to a cadet branch and the castle passed down the more direct female line.
Hon. Ivor Colin James Maitland, Viscount Maitland (1915–1943), only son of the 15th Earl, killed in action in World War II at Africa, died without male issue
Rev. Hon. Sydney George William Maitland (1869–1946); 2nd son of the 13th Earl
Alfred Sydney Frederick Maitland, 16th Earl of Lauderdale (1904–1968); eldest son of Rev. Hon. Sydney George William Maitland; grandson of the 13th Earl. Maitland died under mysterious circumstances; three days after he disappeared on 24 November 1968 his body washed up on a beach at Angmering in Sussex, England. "Scotland's Flag Bearer Found Dead", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 29 November 1968, p2
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, John Douglas Maitland, Viscount Maitland (b. 1965). His uncle, the next in line, is the Rev. Hon. Sydney Milivoje Maitland (b. 1951). Both are childless.
Next in succession to the peerages is the line of the Maitland baronets, descended from the 5th son of the 6th earl. The presumed current baronet is Charles Alexander Maitland (born 1986),[n 1] the present earl's sixth cousin twice removed (see descent below).
Line of succession (Earls of Lauderdale and Maitland baronets, of Clifton, simplified)
Charles Maitland, 6th Earl of Lauderdale (c. 1688–1744)
Hon. Richard Maitland (1724–1772)
Patrick Maitland (1770–1821)
Frederick Colthurst Maitland (1808–1876)
Frederick Maitland, 13th Earl of Lauderdale (1840–1924)
Sydney George William Maitland (1869–1946)
Patrick Maitland, 17th Earl of Lauderdale (1911–2008)
Ian Maitland, 18th Earl of Lauderdale (born 1937)
(1). John Douglas Maitland, Viscount Maitland (born 1965)
The simplified chart above lists those individuals in the line of succession who are nearest in consanguinity to the present earl; there are further heirs in descent from the 2nd Baronet, the 1st Baronet and from other younger sons of the 6th earl.
A Lion sejant affrontée Gules ducally crowned proper in his dexter paw a sword of the last hilted and pommelled Or and in his sinister a Fleur-de-lys Azure.
Or a Lion rampant Gules couped at all his joints if the field within the Royal Tressure Azure in a Dexter Canton Argent a Saltire Azure surmounted of an Inescutcheon Or charged with a Lion rampant within a Double Tressure flory counterflory Gules.
On either side an Eagle proper.
Consilio Et Animis (By wisdom and courage).
Behind the shield on Staffs in saltire proper two representations of the Sovereign's National Flag of Scotland (Cross of St Andrew) fringed Or roped and tasseled of the last (Insignia of Office of the Bearer for the Sovereign of the Sovereign's National Flag of Scotland).
The Arms of the Earls of Lauderdale are canting as they represent a mutilated lion, forming a pun on the name Maitland; as Hereditary National Flag Bearers, the Earls of Lauderdale are entitled to use the Banner of Scotland in their Arms.
^Has not established his claim to the baronetcy, which is listed as dormant as of 2023.