The son of Sir John Maitland, 1st Lord Thirlestane by his spouse Jean, only daughter and heiress of the Fourth Lord Fleming (subsequently Countess of Cassillis), he was admitted a member of the Privy Council of Scotland on July 20, 1615.
Lord Lauderdale was removed from his place on the bench, on February 14, 1626, in consequence of a resolution by King Charles I that no nobleman should hold the seat of an ordinary Lord, and instead was on 1st June following appointed one of the Extraordinary Lords of Session, usually reserved by the Crown for either noblemen or dignitaries of The Church. He remained an Extraordinary Lord until November 8, 1628, and in the following year was appointed one of the Lords of the Articles.
Regardless of the honours generously bestowed upon him by his monarch, upon the breaking out of the English Civil War, he joined the side of the parliament and was employed in a great variety of commissions of importance.
On June 4, 1644 he was elected President of the parliament, and reappointed on 7th January following. He died before the 20th of the same month, and was interred in the Maitland family burial vault within St. Mary's Collegiate Church, Haddington.
A poetical epitaph on him by Drummond of Hawthornden, as also the one by King James VI on his father, the Chancellor, can be found in Crawfurd's Peerage.
He married Lady Isabel (d. November 1638), daughter of Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of Dunfermline, celebrated by Arthur Johnston in his poems. They had a large family of whom only three sons and one daughter survived their parents.