Sir William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling, lived from 1567 to 12 September 1640. He was a Royal courtier and poet who went on to establish Nova Scotia. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
William Alexander was born in the village of Menstrie in Clackmannanshire. The family home of Menstrie Castle had been built in about 1560, possibly on the site of an earlier castle owned by the family. As a very junior member of the aristocracy, the young Alexander was appointed tutor to the Earl of Argyll and spent time touring with him abroad. He subsequently became a gentleman usher to Prince Charles, the son of James VI. When the royal court moved to London in 1603 on James' accession to the English crown as James I, William Alexander moved with it, becoming Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Master of the Household.
Increasingly known for his poetry and his rhymed tragedies, Alexander assisted the King in the preparation of "The Psalms of King David, translated by King James", and was later appointed by the King to be their sole printer. In 1614 he was knighted. In 1621 James VI/I granted Alexander vast tracts of land in North America. He christened his new lands "Nova Scotia" and set to work colonising them with Scots to whom he sold hereditary baronetcies (on behalf of the King) at £150 each, with considerable success.
In 1626, James appointed Sir William to the post of Secretary for Scotland, with the power to govern north of the border on the King's behalf. In 1628 Sir William was granted the lands and barony of Menstrie. In 1630 Sir William became Viscount of Stirling and Lord Alexander of Tullibody, and in 1633 he was further promoted through the ranks of the aristocracy to become the 1st Earl of Stirling. This may have been a consolation prize awarded to him by James VI/I, because in 1632 much of Nova Scotia had been lost to the French. In the process much of Sir William's fortune was lost and he spent the remainder of his life in reduced circumstances, despite continuing to hold various government appointments. Not so reduced, however, that he couldn't afford to relocated his home to the newly renovated and very grand Argyll's Lodging in Stirling.
Sir William continue to write throughout his life. He specialised in "closet dramas" not intended to be performed publicly, and is remembered particularly for a series of classical tragedies entitled "Croesus", "Darius", "The Alexandrean", and "Julius Caesar". A number of editions of his collected plays were published between 1604 and 1637. Sir Alexander died in London in 1640. There is an exhibition about Sir William in the small museum in Menstrie Castle.