The house by the banks of the River Tweed is one of the most romantic in Britain. Scarcely changed for three hundred years, and dedicated with unyielding loyalty for centuries to the Roman Catholic faith and the Stuart dynasty, it has been visited by no fewer than twenty-seven Scottish and English monarchs since the twelfth century, when it was a hunting lodge in a royal forest. Edward I of England was there in 1304 and Edward II in 1310. In the following century Traquair passed to a younger branch of the royal Stuart (or Stewart) dynasty, whose descendants have lived there ever since. In 1566 Mary, Queen of Scots came visiting with her baby son, the future James VI of Scotland.
The present house dates largely from the time of Sir John Stuart, Lord High Treasurer of Scotland under Charles I, who was created Earl of Traquair in 1633. The second earl added the wings and the courtyard around 1700. The fourth earl supported an attempted Jacobite invasion of Scotland in 1708, and had his seventeen children educated by a Catholic priest who was concealed in a room with a secret stairway in case he had to escape. The fifth earl spent time in the Tower of London for supporting the Young Pretender in 1745, and tradition has it that the closed gates at the end of the avenue leading to the house will never be opened until the Stuarts return to the throne. The eighth earl died childless in 1861, when the house passed to the Maxwell Stuarts, who are descended from a sister of the fifth earl.