John Maxwell, second son of Robert, fifth Lord Maxwell, married Agnes Herries, eldest heiress of the Herries title and estates, in 1547, and acquired the title, through purchase, of the lands held by her sisters, thus consolidating the family holdings. Three generations later, the male line of the Lords Maxwell died out, and John Maxwell, seventh Lord Herries, became the twelfth Lord Maxwell and the third Earl of Nithsdale. It was his grandson who made the famous escape from the Tower of London. When the titles merged in one person in 1667, Lord Maxwell became chief, in fact, of the Herries family, although they may have recognized a Maxwell chiefship before that date.

Chalmers says the Herries name probably stemmed from the Anglo-Norman family of Heriz of Nottinghamshire and entered Scotland during the time of David I. Black shows William de Heriz to have been the first of that name recorded in Scotland, appearing as witness to charters by Earl Henry, David I, William the Lion, and Walter the Steward, among others, and, in 1296, taking the oath of fealty to England.

Since the mid-14th Century, Herries have been associated with Galloway. Richard Hereis received the lands of Elstanefurd in the sheriffdom of Edinburgh as a gift from Robert I. Some of this name appeared in Banff in the 15th Century: David Heris being bailie of Finlay Ramsay of Banff in 1483, Margaret Hirys being one of the heirs of deceased Andrew Heris in 1496, and Robert Herys receiving a charter in 1498.