The origins of the Douglas family are many and most mythical, but they were perhaps related to the Murray Clan. The name comes from Dubh-Glas, or Dufglas, meaning dark stream, and their strength was in the Douglasdale, an ancient Scottish lordship based around the upper Clyde valley in South Lanarkshire, and abutting the more southerly Lordship of Galloway, which probably led to its strategic importance.


Lords of Douglas (c.l200)


1st Lord of Douglas, William Douglas, b.1174, d.c.1214


William is the first Douglas to appear in historical records, though little is known. He may have been a vassal of the Lord of Galloway, and was possibly the brother or brother-in-law of Freskin of Moray, progenitor of the Murray clan.


2nd Lord of Douglas, Archibald Douglas, b.b.1198, d.c.1238


Son of William Douglas mentioned above, his dates of birth and death are subject to a large error margin. His name appears as a signatory to several royal charters.


3rd Lord of Douglas, William Douglas, b.c.1220, d.c.1274


Son of Archibald Douglas and Margaret Crawford. He was a supporter of Alan Durward, Justiciar of Scotland, during the minority of Alexander III.


4th Lord of Douglas, William Douglas, b.a.1243, d.c.1298


Son of the previous William, and nicknamed ďThe HardyĒ. He married Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of Alexander Stewart, 4th High Steward of Scotland. Elizabeth seems to have died early, possibly in childbirth. William later attacked Faíside Castle in Tranent, which was held by Alan, 1st Baron la Zouche of Ashby, an English noble. From here, he kidnapped Eleanor, the recently widowed wife of the son of the 5th Earl of Derby, and whom he eventually married. His actions, however, offended the English, and he was briefly imprisoned at Knaresborough Castle. His ransom was paid by his wife, and William paid fealty to Edward I. However, by 1291, he had fallen out of favour again with the English, and took a stand against the inauguration of John Balliol as King. When Balliol was replaced by the Guardianship in 1295, Douglas was appointed Governor of Berwick Castle, and was there when the English sacked the town in 1296. After holding out at the castle, he eventually surrendered, and was arrested and imprisoned until he signed the Ragman Roll, promising fealty to Edward as overlord. In 1297, Douglas was summoned to London with other nobles to aid Edward in Flanders, but refused and threw his support behind William Wallace. In retribution, Edward ordered Robert Bruce, later King of Scotland but at the time a supporter of the English, to attack Douglasdale, with the Douglas family removed to Lochmaben and Douglas himself sent to Berwick. After the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the English retreated from Berwick, taking Douglas with them. He died imprisoned in the Tower of London.


5th Lord of Douglas, James Douglas, b.1286, d.1330


Son of the 4th Lord and Elizabeth Stewart, or possibly his second wife Eleanor de Louvaine, offspring of an old French family. During the Wars of Independence, he was sent for safety to France, and returned to Scotland in 1306 as squire to Bishop William Lamberton of St. Andrews. His lands having been handed to the Englishman, Robert Clifford, by Edward I, he met Robert Bruce and committed himself to that manís cause. Despite suffering early defeats, he became an effective commander and tactician, employing guerrilla warfare against an enemy superior in numbers but restricted in mobility. While Bruce consolidated in the north of the country, he gradually won back large parts of the south, in particular his own Douglasdale. In 1310, Edward II led an army into Scotland to try to quell the rebels, but failed to pin them down. By 1314, only a few strongholds were left in English hands. Early that year, Douglas led a successful attack on the strategic and almost impregnable Roxburgh Castle. Later that year, Edward sent a larger army north, but was heavily defeated at Bannockburn, Douglas having a vital role. After Bannockburn, Douglas and Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, took the fight well into England with punitive raids that reached as far south as the Humber, while the Bruceís concentrated on Ireland. In 1318, he was closely involved in capturing Berwick Castle. Edward sent another army north, but in order to avoid direct confrontation, Douglas and Moray raided into Yorkshire, threatening the Queen, who had accompanied her husband as far as York, and chasing her as far as Nottingham, where her supporters suffered a heavy defeat. Upset by this news, Edwardís army at Berwick had no choice but to return south. When Edward Bruce, Robertís brother, was killed fighting the Irish, Douglas became second Guardian of the Realm after Moray. Edwardís last invasion, in 1323, was dealt with in a similar manner to previous attempt, with Bruce pursuing a scorched earth policy in front of the invading army, while Douglas harried deep into England in order to disrupt supplies and create diversions. In 1327, Edward II was replaced in a coup by his son, Edward III, breaking a short period of truce, and Bruce and Douglas resumed their raids into England. Another large army was sent north, only for Douglas to lead a surprise attack into their camp, which caused great chaos and almost resulted in Edward being caught. With no other option, Edward was forced to recognise Scotlandís independence and Bruceís monarchy in the Treaty of Northampton. King Robertís last request was that the Good James Douglas carry his heart to the Holy Land. Douglas departed from Montrose with a small group of knights and squires, landing in Flanders. Here they heard of Castileís war against the Muslim kingdom of Granada and travelled to Seville. They joined the army of King Alfonso XI at Teba, but were isolated during the battle and almost all of them were killed, including Douglas. The survivors brought his remains and Bruceís heart back to Scotland.


6th Lord of Douglas, William Douglas, b.b.1330, d.1333


Son of the 5th Lord and wife unknown. He accompanied his uncle, Archibald Douglas (b.b.1298, d.1333), as a minor, to the Battle of Halidon Hill, where so many were slain. It is worth expanding on Uncle Archibald. While young, he was granted several estates now synonymous with the Douglases, such as Cavers, Drumlanrig and West Calder, and he was rewarded by Bruce with many more. On the death of his half-brother James, Archibald became Guardian of Scotland. In 1332, Edward Balliol, son of King John, backed by Edward III of England, invaded Scotland, supported by the Disinherited, those nobles who had lost their lands after Bannockburn. This undertaking had some success due to the fact that the infant Kingís Guardian, Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, had died suddenly, and there was the usual disunity amongst the Scottish nobility. At the Battle of Dupplin Moor, Balliol defeated the Earl of Dunbar & March, which allowed him to reach Scone, where he was crowned, before retreating to Annan. While he was at Annan, a force of Bruce supporters, led by Archibald Douglas, and including John Randolph, 3rd Earl of Moray, and Robert Stewart, the High Steward, who happened to be the son of Marjorie Bruce, King Robertís daughter, mounted a surprise attack, forcing Balliol to flee back to England. The following year, Edward III rejected the Treaty of Northampton and led a large army north to besiege Berwick. Douglas led a relief force, but in a major tactical error, launched a major charge upslope to the English position at Halidon Hill. This resulted in total disaster for the Scots, who lost huge numbers of troops as well as many senior ranking nobles, including Douglas himself. Fortunately for Scotland at the time, although Berwick was lost, Edward did not take full advantage, leaving a remnant of Scottish resistance active.


7th Lord of Douglas, Hugh Douglas, b.b.1298, d.c.1342


Younger brother of the 5th Lord of Douglas. He became a priest, and only by the deaths of his two brothers did he take on any political responsibilities, although he ceded much of this to his nephew William Douglas, who inherited the Douglas domains after Halidon Hill.


8th Lord of Douglas, William Douglas, b.c.1330, d.1384


Grandson of the 4th Lord, and son of that Archibald Douglas mentioned above, younger half-brother to the 5th Lord, and Beatrice Lindsay, from the family who would become the earls of Crawford. After Halidon Hill, William was taken to France for safety, as also was the young King David II, and did not return until 1348. In the meantime, his distant relative, also William Douglas (b.b.1326, d.1353), known as the Knight of Liddesdale, and the Flower of Chivalry, had begun the process of re-establishing Douglas control over the Border regions, using similar tactics to the Good Sir James. Liddesdale was captured during a skirmish at Lochmaben in 1332 and spent two years in captivity before being released on payment of a ransom. He then re-doubled his efforts to rid Scotland of the English and was responsible for expelling them from various garrisons across the country. He re-captured Hermitage Castle in 1338 and Edinburgh Castle in 1339, and managed to persuade the King to return to Scotland. The English were at this time more pre-occupied with the French, allowing David II time to consolidate his rule. In 1346, however, he was captured along with his King while leading the Right wing of the Scottish Army at the Battle of Nevilleís Cross and only granted his freedom on agreeing to further the English cause. In 1353, William Douglas, Lord of Douglas, murdered his namesake, who by this time had fallen out of favour. Although the principal reason was punishment for his treasonous activities, it was also presumably closely connected to the control of the Douglas power and land. As part of the Auld Alliance, William, Lord of Douglas, fought at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, where he was wounded. In 1357 he was created 1st Earl of Douglas.



Earls of Douglas (1357)


1st Earl of Douglas, William Douglas, b.c.1330, a.1357, d.1384


In later life he was involved in an attempt to negotiate one of Edward the Thirdís sons into the Scottish throne, having grave doubts over King Davidís ability to hold the country together. However, this fell through, with Robert Stewart eventually succeeding David. He married twice, first to Margaret, Countess of Mar, from whom the Black earls of Douglas continued, and then Margaret Stewart, Countess of Angus, from whom the Red earls of Angus continued.


2nd Earl of Douglas, James Douglas, b.c.1358, a.1384, d.1388


Son of the 1st Earl and Margaret, Countess of Mar. He succeeded his father during a time of almost constant Border warfare, and died at the Battle of Otterburn, although the Scots won that day. He left no legitimate heirs, and so the earldom passed to his distant cousin. However, he handed the estates of Drumlanrig to his natural son William Douglas (b.a.1373, d.1427), who was ancestor the earls of Queensberry.


3rd Earl of Douglas, Archibald Douglas, b.c.1325, a.1388, d.1400


Brother of the 6th Lord of Douglas. Known as the Black, and the Grim, due to his dark complexion and dour demeanour, Archibald was a soldier by inclination, and fought at Poitiers with the Scottish contingent. He later became Constable of Edinburgh Castle and Warden of the West March. In 1369, he was given the lordship of Galloway, as he was viewed as being one of the few people with the power to control that wild area. In 1371, he obtained the lands and titles of the earl of Wigtown, later used as the courtesy title for the heir, consolidating his power over the south-west. When he inherited the Douglas domains from his cousin, he became the most powerful man in Scotland, overshadowing the weak rule of Robert III, and used his influence to obtain the marriage of David Stewart, Duke of Rothesay, heir to the throne, to his daughter Marjory Douglas (b.?, d.1421). He imposed a tight feudal order over his lands, which allowed him to call upon large numbers of troops when required.


4th Earl of Douglas, Archibald Douglas, b.c.1370, a.1400, d.1424


Son of the 3rd Earl and Joan Moray (Joanna de Moravia) (b.b.1339-1354, d.b.1403-1409), daughter of Sir Morice Moray, 1st Earl of Strathearn. Shortly after he inherited his fatherís huge domains, he was implicated, with Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, in the death of Prince David, heir to the throne. However, since these two men were vital to Scotlandís survival in the face of the English threat, they were cleared of high treason. Later that year, George, 10th Earl of Dunbar & March, though a Scottish noble of ancient origin, led a small force of Englishmen against a raiding Scottish host, capturing several important Scottish nobles. In reprisal, Douglas led an army into England. However, they were outmanoeuvred at the Battle of Homildon Hill by Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and his son Henry Hotspur, leading to additional captives being taken south, including Douglas himself, Murdoch Stewart, Albanyís son, and George Douglas, 1st Earl of Angus. The following year, Hotspur was in revolt against his own king, and released his captives. Douglas chose to fight for him against King Henry IV. At the Battle of Shrewsbury, with the exiled Earl of Dunbar & March on the English Kingís side, Hotspur was killed and Douglas captured again. He obtained his release by swearing an oath to King Henry, providing suitable hostages for his promised return to England on an agreed day. However, he chose to ignore this condition, and it was not until 1413 that he paid for the hostages to be released. In the meantime, Prince James of Scotland was captured en route to France, and his father died soon after, leaving the new King of Scots as an hostage in England. Scotland was now ruled by the Regent, Albany, with Douglas providing the strong-arm backup. The Albany-Douglas arrangement was cemented by the marriage of Albanyís son John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, to Elizabeth Douglas (b.1385-1401, d.c.1451), daughter of Douglas. In the following years, Douglas acted as Scottish envoy to the courts of England and France, the former to negotiate for the release of the King, the later to renew the Auld Alliance. In 1423, his son and heir, the Earl of Wigton, together with Buchan, returned from France, where they had been fighting alongside the French against the English, in order to raise more troops. The following year, Douglas, with Buchan, led a large contingent of men across the Channel. For this commitment, King Charles VII made him Duke of Touraine, the first foreigner to receive ducal status in France. Unfortunately, the new duke did not long enjoy his new rank, being killed in battle at Verneuil along with another son, James Douglas. It was not for nothing that his nickname was the Tyneman, that is, the Loser, in respect of his ability to snatch defeat at every opportunity.


5th Earl of Douglas, Archibald Douglas, b.1390, a.1424, d.1439


Son of the 4th Earl and Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert III. When his father went over to France in 1424, he left Archibald in Scotland to look after the Douglas estates. The new Douglas continued his fatherís attempts to negotiate for the release of James I. When James returned to Scotland, Douglas was arrested along with Murdoch Stewart, but released soon after, avoiding Murdochís fate. During the minority of James II after the murder of his father, Douglas served on the Council of Regency and was made Lieutenant-General of Scotland. However, as Scotlandís most powerful noble he had little time for the upstart lords, Sir Alexander Livingston and Sir William Crichton, who had been installed as the late Kingís favourites, and stood back while their squabbles tore the country apart.


6th Earl of Douglas, William Douglas, b.c.1424, a.1439, d.1440


Son of the 5th Earl and Lady Eupheme Graham (b.?, d.1468), daughter of Patrick Graham, Earl of Strathearn. At the time of his fatherís death, the realm was governed by William Crichton, the Chancellor, and Alexander Livingston. Perceiving the risk to themselves from the power of Douglas, they summoned the new young earl, and his younger brother David Douglas, to Edinburgh Castle. Here they spent several convivial days in the company of the James II. However, during a banquet, the brothers were suddenly arrested on trumped up charges of treason and beheaded them on the spot, in the presence of the young King. The lordship of Galloway and extensive additional lands were given to Williamís older sister Margaret, the Fair Maid of Galloway, while the Douglas lands and title passed to James Douglas, 1st Earl of Avondale.


7th Earl of Douglas, James Douglas, b.1371, a.1440, d.1442-1443


Younger son of the 3rd Earl. He was created 1st Earl of Avondale and 1st Lord Balveny in 1437, and it has been conjectured that he was complicit in the death of the previous earl. He was known as James the Gross in account of his obesity.


8th Earl of Douglas, William Douglas, b.c.1425, a.1443, d.1452


Son of the 7th Earl and Beatrice Sinclair (b.?, d.c.1462-1463), daughter of Henry Sinclair, 2nd Earl of Orkney. A better man than his father, he regained some of the other titles lost on the death of the 6th Earl by marrying his cousin Margaret Douglas, the Fair Maid of Galloway, and was initially on good terms with the young King, obtaining the removal of Sir William Crichton from the circle of power through an alliance with Sir Alexander Livingston, that manís rival, joining the Privy Council and becoming Lieutenant-General. However, his relationship with the King was soured by his alliance with Alexander Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford and Alexander Ross, Lord of the Isles, and also by his growing arrogance and ostentation, he making a grand expedition to Paris and Rome in the company of many lesser nobles. While he was away, the King was forced to take matters into his own hands, leading a punitive force into Douglas lands to preserve the peace. When Douglas returned, there was a partial resolution of the discord, with the King realising that he could not go against him in the field. This just gave Douglas more licence to further acts of defiance, until it reached a crisis point. With Crichton re-installed as Chancellor, Douglas was invited to Stirling Castle, supposedly to come to some amicable agreement for the good of the realm, and under a letter of safe conduct. However, when Douglas refused to submit to the conditions demanded of him, the King, always of a fiery temper, draw his dagger and stabbed him. The remaining nobles in attendance had little choice but to join in, and the dead body was buried in the open court.


9th Earl of Douglas, James Douglas, b.a.1426, a.1451-1452, d.1491


Younger brother of the 8th Earl, and the last of the Black Douglases. To avenge his brotherís murder, he and his younger brothers tried to take Stirling Castle, but this was too well defended and they burned the town instead. Forced to back down, he was temporarily reconciled with the King. However, he later joined forces with the Duke of York and rose in rebellion. At this point, George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus, decided to commit himself to the King rather than his distant family. This, coupled with the loss of some allies such as the Hamiltonís, forced Douglas to go to England to rally support. While he was away, his brothers lost at the Battle of Arkinholm, Archibald, Earl of Moray by marriage, killed in the fighting and Hugh, Earl of Ormonde, captured and executed soon after. The youngest brother, John Douglas of Balveny, escaped to England. Douglas was thereafter attainted, his lands falling to Angus. Douglas continued to plot and scheme for many years, and was made a Knight of the Garter by Edward IV in 1463. In 1484, he joined the Duke of Albany, brother of James III, in an invasion of Scotland. When they reached Lochmaben, the annual fair was underway, and the townspeople, presuming another English raid, rose against them, and, supported by re-enforcements from the local nobility, defeated the invading force. Albany fled, but Douglas was captured and taken to the King, who in a show of compassion, settled for keeping Douglas under house arrest at the abbey of Lindores. The title became extinct on his death. He had married his brotherís widow, the Fair Maid. However, she divorced him after he was attainted and eventually married Sir John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl.



For the later title of Marquess of Douglas, please refer to the Angus page.


(Last updated: 29/11/2010)


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