William Alexander, Earl of Stirling

The township of Stirling was named for Major General Lord Stirling of the Revolutionary War.  Though he never visited the area, he is mentioned here for lending his title to our community. 

born        1726 in New York City
married  Sarah Livingston
died         1783 Jan 15 in Albany, New York
interred  Trinity Churchyard, New York City

Prior to the Revolution, William Alexander was a British subject, as all Colonists were.  The Alexander family had emigrated from Scotland.  During a visit to England, William Alexander took the opportunity to file claim as distant heir to the title, Earl of Stirling.  He was accepted and allowed to vote in the Peerage of Scotland (though the British House of Lords never granted him a seat in Parliament).  With this title he was then refered to as Lord Stirling and upon his return to New York he was thus known the remainder of his life.

Scotland's Stirling Castle

During his service in the Continental Army he was addressed as Major General Lord Stirling, rather than Major General Alexander.  In some parlance he is referred to as William Alexander Stirling, as though Stirling were his last name.  This is due to some American confusion regarding British Peerage and titles.  He is correctly referred to as William Alexander, Lord Sterling.  As Earl of Stirling, he would have been the Lord of Stirling.

The township in the Military Tract was surveyed in 1795 and Stirling was spelled with an i.  When the Town of Sterling was incorporated in 1812, it was spelled, Sterling.  The reason for altering the spelling of its namesake is not known.  

Other places named for William Alexander

  • Sterling Place, a street in Brookyn
  • William Alexander Middle School in Brooklyn
  • Lord Stirling School in New Brunswick, New Jersey
  • Lord Stirling Park in Basking Ridge, New Jersey
  • Stirling, New Jersey
  • Sterling, Massachusettes

Having helped found Kings College, William Alexander served as the first Governor of the college.  This later became Columbia University in New York City.  His wife, Sarah Livingston, was the sister of William Livingston, signer of the Constitution and Governor of New Jersey. 

Alexander served in the Continental Army from 1775 until his death in 1783.


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2 Responses to William Alexander, Earl of Stirling

  1. Jean Mc Robbie says:

    is there an heir with title of Lord Stirling alive today?

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