William Maxwell was part of a group who didn’t think that the English King, George I, nor his descendants, had the right to the English throne.
They had schemes to restore their chosen monarchs to the throne.
When captured, some of the group, many of whom were noblemen were released, but William Maxwell was singled out for harsh treatment.
He was to be executed as a warning to others who would plot against the King.
On hearing the news about her husband’s fate, Lady Nisdale was desperate to travel to London to see George I to beg for her husband’s life. It was a tough journey with heavy snows blocking the roads.
She begged the King so much that she had to be dragged from the room. It was no use. The King was determined that William Maxwell would hang.
She hadn’t given up. In a letter to her sister, which was later found, her plot was described.
One evening, close to the time of execution, two women accompanied Lady Nisdale to the Tower.
She told the guards that she meant to petition the King one last time to release her husband, and that her serving maids wanted to bid farewell to their master.
This was a lie. The first maid went in to William’s cell with Lady Nisdale and left a spare cloak. The second maid then went into the cell. She had an extra set of clothing on and left this, taking the spare cloak to cover herself before she disappeared into the crowd in the bustle of the Tower.
Lady Nisdale convinced her husband to put the spare clothing on, and putting on makeup, and covering his face and beard with a handkerchief, he pretended to be the second maid, and was able to sneak past the guards.
Lady Nisdale then pretended to talk to her husband to make it seem that he was still in the cell, before making her own escape.
She instructed the guards that he must not be disturbed because he was praying and they believed her – buying her time for her and William to get clear of the guards.
A cloak used in this amazing escape survives to this day, and William Maxwell was lucky to be one of the few prisoners to ever manage to evade the fate of a Tower execution.