Earls of Selkirk (1646)


1st Earl of Selkirk, William Douglas, b.1634, a.1646, d.1694


Son of William Douglas, 1st Marquess of Douglas (for whom see the earls of Angus) and his second wife Mary Gordon (b.c.1600, d.1674), daughter of George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly. In 1646 he was created 1st Earl of Selkirk and 1st Lord Daer & Shortcleuch. He was fined by the Act of Grace in 1651. He married Anne Hamilton, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton, in 1656, changed his surname to Douglas-Hamilton and as a result of her petitions was created Duke of Hamilton for life at the Restoration in 1660. He was a Privy Counsellor from 1660 to 1676, when he was removed for his opposition to John Maitland, 2nd Earl of Lauderdale and had to wait until that manís death in 1682 before recovering his influence and was created a Knight of the Garter. In 1685, he was accepted again into the Privy Council, and was an Extraordinary Lord of Session from 1686 to 1689 and from 1693 to 1694. He supported the Revolution and was president of the convention held in Edinburgh in 1689 that declared the throne of Scotland vacant and invited William of Orange to make claim. He was Williamís first High Commissioner to Scotland from 1689 to 1690 and from 1693 to 1694, and High Admiral of Scotland from 1692 to 1693. In 1688 the titles that he held before his marriage were conferred on his younger son, subject to the condition that if any future Duke of Hamilton were to hold these, that on his death the Hamilton and Selkirk titles should be separated between the eldest and second eldest sons. As well as the Hamilton and Selkirk titles, two other sons were created earls, with John Hamilton becoming 1st Earl of Ruglen and George Hamilton becoming 1st Earl of Orkney.


2nd Earl of Selkirk, Charles Douglas, b.1663, a.1688, d.1739


Younger son of the 1st Earl, inheriting as per the dictates of the conditions of inheritance. He also changed his name back from Hamilton to Douglas on becoming earl. He reached the rank of Colonel in the 1st Horse Regiment in 1688, and was Lord of the Bedchamber from 1689 to 1702. He was Lord Clerk Register of Scotland from 1696 to 1702 and from 1733 to 1739, and was Lord of the Treasury in Scotland from 1704 to 1705. He became a Privy Counsellor in 1733 and was Governor of Edinburgh Castle from 1737 to 1738.


3rd Earl of Selkirk, John Hamilton, b.1664, a.1739, d.1744


Younger brother of the 2nd Earl. He had previously been created 1st Earl of Ruglen. He having no sons, the Selkirk titles transferred to a descendant of his younger brother.


4th Earl of Selkirk, Dunbar Douglas, b.1722, a.1744, d.1799


Grandson of another brother of the 2nd Earl, the Honourable Basil Hamilton (b.1671, d.1701), and Mary Dunbar, and son of another Basil Hamilton (b.1696, d.1742) and Isabella Mackenzie (b.?, d.1725), a grand-daughter of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, 4th Earl of Seaforth. He changed his name from Dunbar Hamilton on succeeding to the title. He became Rector of the University of Glasgow from 1766 to 1768, was a Representative Peer from 1787 to 1799 and was Lord-Lieutenant of Stewartry. He was succeeded by his seventh son, the other six having died without issue prior to their father.


5th Earl of Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, b.1771, a.1799, d.1820


Son of the 4th Earl and Helen Hamilton (b.c.1738, d.1802), a grand-daughter of Thomas Hamilton, 6th Earl of Haddington. Not expecting to inherit anything, he studied law at the University of Edinburgh, and used his knowledge to come to the help of poor Scottish crofters who were being displaced by wealthy landowners greedy for land. When he became earl, he used his position and financial muscle to purchase land in Prince Edward Island in Canada for farmers to settle, and took a controlling interest in the Hudson Bay Company. However, his attempts to colonise the region with Scottish farmers was not well received by the locals, who were backed by the rival North West Company, and the situation eventually led to armed conflict, resulting in Selkirk being accused of being responsible for the deaths of several men he had held in custody. He eventually returned to England with his health and reputation in ruins. From 1806 to 1818 he was a Representative Peer, and from 1807 to 1820 he was Lord-Lieutenant of Stewartry, and he was invested as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1808.


6th Earl of Selkirk, Dunbar James Douglas, b.1809, a.1820, d.1885


Son of the 5th Earl and Joan Wedderburn-Colville (b.b.1792, d.1871). Educated at Eton and Christ Church Oxford, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1831. He was a Representative Peer from 1830 to 1885 and Lord-Lieutenant of Stewartry for the same period. He held the post of Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland in 1852 and again from 1858 to 1859. When he died, the lordship became dormant temporarily.


7th Earl of Selkirk, Charles George Douglas-Hamilton, b.1847, a.1885, d.1886


The terms of succession now caused the earldom to revert to the line of the Dukes of Hamilton in the person of the 12th Dukeís younger brother, who also died childless soon after taking the title. With no other younger brothers available, the title reverted to the 12th Duke.


8th Earl of Selkirk, William Douglas-Hamilton, b.1845, a.1886, d.1895


He was already 12th Duke of Hamilton when he inherited the earldom of Selkirk.


9th Earl of Selkirk, Alfred Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, b.1862, a.1895, d.1940


As is explained in more detail in the Hamilton page, all of the Hamilton titles, including that of the earldom of Selkirk, passed to a distant cousin of the 12th Duke.


10th Earl of Selkirk, George Nigel Douglas-Hamilton, b.1906, a.1940, d.1994


According to the rules of succession, the earldom was at this point able to split again from the dukedom, and was inherited by the 14th Dukeís younger brother. George Douglas-Hamilton was educated at Eton, and attended Balliol College Oxford and the University of Edinburgh, graduating from both, before joining the Faculty of Advocates. He also joined Edinburgh Town Council, and was Commander of 603 Bomber Squadron (City of Edinburgh) in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force from 1934 to 1938. When the Second World War started he joined the Royal Air Force, serving as Fight Commandís chief intelligence officer. He was twice mentioned in despatches, and received the OBE in 1941. When the war ended attended the House of Lords as a Representative Peer from 1945 to 1963, and was a Conservative Lord-in-Waiting from 1951 to 1953 and Paymaster-General from 1953 to 1955, when he was invested as a Privy Counsellor. He was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1955 to 1957 and First Lord of the Admiralty from 1957 to 1959, after which he was UK High Commissioner to Singapore until 1963. In 1959 he became a Queenís Counsel, and was invested as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG). In 1963 he became a Knight Grand Cross of the British Empire (GBE), and in 1976 was made a Knight of the Thistle. He married but had no children.


11th Earl of Selkirk, James Douglas-Hamilton, b.1942, a.1994


A younger brother of the 15th Duke of Hamilton. Educated at Eton, the University of Edinburgh and Balliol College Oxford, he was a councillor in Edinburgh before becoming an MP for Edinburgh West, a post he held from 1974 to 1997, and held various ministries, most notably in the Scottish Office. In 1971 his book about Rudolf Hessís flight to Britain was published, and he wrote other books about his fatherís exploits as a pilot. In 1994, he succeeded his cousin as Earl of Selkirk according to the rules of succession, which meant that he could no longer vote in the House of Commons. Since the Conservative majority at the time was slender, he therefore disclaimed the earldom, a step enshrined in law by the Peerage Act of 1963, which allowed a peer to surrender his position for life, losing all rights and privileges, but not affecting the succession. In 1997 he was made a life peer as Baron Selkirk of Douglas, of Cramond in the City of Edinburgh, and from 1999 to 2007 was a member of the Scottish Parliament. Although there is no current Earl of Selkirk, there is an heir to the title in the form of his eldest son.



The courtesy title for the heir is Lord Daer.


(Last updated: 17/06/2011)


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