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Sir William Alexander

Earl of Stirling and founder of Nova Scotia

At the foot of the Ochil Hills about 6 miles east of Stirling there stands, in the little village of Menstrie, the remains of the castle of Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling - the Father of Nova Scotia. It was in this castle that the idea of a new Scotland overseas was born in the mind of Sir William Alexander.

In Edinburgh the document establishing Nova Scotia was sealed with the great Seal of Scotland in 1621. Edinburgh Castle was itself declared to be part of the land of Nova Scotia so that Sir William and the Baronets of Nova Scotia could take possession of their Nova Scotian Estates without having to make the long journey overseas. Affixed to the wall at the entrance of Edinburgh Castle is a plaque, embellished with the badge of Nova Scotia, which declares:

"Near this spot in 1615 Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, Earl of Stirling, received sasine or lawful possession of the royal province of Nova Scotia by ancient and symbolic delivery of earth and stone from Castlehill by representative of the King."

I can do no more than sketch the history of the Alexander settlement here but must acknowledge the part played by Sir William Alexander of Menstrie in the creation of Nova Scotia. Sir William was a particularly well educated Scot whose family had lived in Menstrie for many generations. He was born in Menstrie in 1577. He was educated at the Stirling Grammar School and later studied at Glasgow University and Europe. In 1608 he entered the service of the Crown and in 1615 became a member of the Scottish Privy Council. Since King James VI and I, [was] a resident in England since 1603, Alexander found himself in the Southern kingdom and was quickly caught up in the enthusiasm for overseas adventure and colonial settlement that was sweeping England.

A patriotic and ambitious Scotsman, Sir William was determined to establish a New Scotland overseas. He was well informed on overseas matters and wanted to establish his New Scotland between New England and Newfoundland. He successfully petitioned for a royal charter granting him lands for settlement and development in North America. The terms of the charter were generous and were meant to encourage the settlement of Scots in the New World. This charter was signed at Windsor Castle on September 10th, 1621, but sealed with the Great Seal of Scotland in Edinburgh on September 29th 1621.

Sir William Alexander exerted every effort to carry out his plan and all but bankrupted himself in the process. This was the beginning of the Scottish connection and today's Nova Scotians are proud of their ancestry and their ability to fulfil Sir William Alexander's dream to take Scotland overseas.

These notes, from an address by the Honourable John M. Buchanan P.C., Q.C., M.L.A, Premier of Nova Scotia, at the presentation of the Nova Scotia Charter at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia on Saturday, August 28th 1987, were provided by Tom Ward, an editor of Menstrie Matters in the 1980s.

Other biographies of Sir William Alexander

January 2008

Additional references December 2009

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