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The Great Historic Families of Scotland
The Douglases


IN the story of Scotland,’ says Mr. Froude, ‘weakness is nowhere; power, energy, and will are everywhere;’ and this national vigour, determined will, and indomitable resolution seem to have culminated in the ‘Doughty Douglases.’ Their stalwart and tough physical frames, and the strong, resolute, unbending character of such men as ‘William the Hardy,’ ‘Archibald the Grim,’ and ‘Archibald Bell-the-Cat,’ the types of their race, eminently fitted them to be ‘premier peers‘—leaders of men. From the War of Independence down to the era of the Reformation, no other family played such a conspicuous part in the affairs of Scotland as the Douglases. They intermarried no less than eleven times with the royal family of Scotland, and once with that of England. They enjoyed the privilege of leading the van of the Scottish army in battle, of carrying the crown at the coronation of the sovereign, and of giving the first vote in Parliament. ‘A Douglas received the last words of Robert Bruce. A Douglas spoke the epitaph of John Knox. The Douglases were celebrated in the prose of Froissart and the verse of Shakespeare. They have been sung by antique Barbour and by Walter Scott, by the minstrels of Otterburn and by Robert Burns.’ A nameless poet who lived four hundred years ago eulogised their trustiness and chivalry. Holinshed, in the next century, speaks of their ‘singular manhood, noble prowess, and majestic puissance.’ They espoused, at the outset, the patriotic side in the War of Independence, and they contributed greatly to the crowning victory of Bannockburn. They sent two hundred gentlemen of the name, with the heir of their earldom, to die at Flodden. There was a time when they could raise thirty thousand men, and they were for centuries the bulwarks of the Scottish borders against our ‘auld enemies of England.’ They have gathered their laurels on many a bloody field in France, where they held the rank of princes, and in Spain and in the Netherlands, as well as in England and Scotland, and— 

‘In far landes renownit they have been.’

They have produced men not only of ‘doughty’ character, but of the gentle and chivalric type also, like the ‘Good Sir James,’ and the William Douglas who married the Princess Egidia, justifying the exclamation of the author of the ‘Buke of the Howlat ‘—

‘O Douglas, Douglas,
Tender and true !’

On the other hand, it cannot be denied that their haughtiness and turbulence and ambition often disturbed the peace of the country, and imperilled the stability of the throne. On the whole, however, setting the good and the evil against each other, it may be said, in lines which were old in the days of Godscroft, and were then, he says, ‘common in men’s mouths ‘—

‘So many, so good, as of the Douglases have been,
Of one sirname were ne’er in Scotland seen.’

 The cradle of the race was in Douglasdale, but their origin is hid in obscurity. ‘We do not know them,’ says Godscroft, in his ‘History of the House and Race of Douglas and Angus,’ ‘in the fountain, but in the stream; not in the root, but in the stem: for we know not who was the first mean man that did raise himself above the vulgar.’ The traditionary account of the descent of the family from ‘a dark-grey man’ (Sholto-Dhu-Glas), who rescued Solvathius, a mythical king of the Scots in the eighth century, from imminent danger of defeat in a battle with Donald Bane, is evidently fabulous. It is alleged by Chalmers that the founder of the family came from Flanders, about the year 1147, and was named Theobald the Fleming, and that he received from Arnold, Abbot of Kelso, a grant of lands on Douglas Water (Dhu-Glas), the dark stream, from which the family name was derived. But this is mere conjecture, not supported by any evidence; and it has been ascertained that the lands granted to Theobald are not those of which the first known Douglas, in the next generation, was in possession, and that these lands never formed a part of the barony of that name. Wyntoun is of opinion that the Douglases had the same origin as the Murrays, either by lineal descent or by collateral branch, as they have in their arms the same stars set in the same manner.

Through the innate energy of their character, the Douglases seem to have sprung almost at a bound into the foremost rank of the Scottish nobles. The first mention of their name in any authentic record is in a charter by Joceline, Bishop of Glasgow, to the monks of Kelso, between 1175 and 1199, which was witnessed by William of Dufglas, who is said to have been either the brother or brother-in-law of Sir Freskin de Kerdale in Moray. Sir William was a witness to a charter in 1240, and, along with Sir Andrew of Dufglas, to another charter in 1248. His great-grandson, surnamed the ‘Hardy,’ from his valour and heroic deeds, fought on the patriotic side in the War of Independence. He was governor of the Castle of Berwick in 1296, when that town was besieged and taken, after a resolute defence, by Edward I. The garrison of the castle on capitulating were allowed to march out with the honours of war; but Sir William Douglas was detained for some time a prisoner in one of the towers of that fortress. On regaining his liberty he rejoined the patriotic party, but fell once more into the hands of the English, and died in confinement in the Tower of York in 1302. He was the father, by a sister of the High Steward, of— SIR JAMES DOUGLAS, the ‘good Sir James,’ the friend of Robert Bruce, the most illustrious member of the Douglas family, and one of the noblest of the band of heroes who vindicated the freedom and independence of Scotland against the English arms. The romantic incidents in the career of this famous warrior and patriot would fill a volume. On the imprisonment of his father he retired to France, where he spent three years, ‘exercising himself in all virtuous exercise,’ says Godscroft, and ‘profited so well that he became the most compleat and best-accomplished young nobleman in the country or elsewhere.’ On the death of his father young Douglas returned to Scotland. His paternal estate having been bestowed by King Edward on Lord Clifford, he was received into the household of Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, with whom he ‘counted kin’ through his mother. He was residing there when Robert Bruce assumed the crown in 1305-6, and took up arms against the English invaders. Douglas, who was then only eighteen years of age, on receiving intelligence of this movement, resolved to repair at once to Bruce’s standard. According to Barbour, he took this step secretly, though with the knowledge and approval of the patriotic prelate, who recommended him to provide himself with a suit of armour and to take a horse from his stables, with a show of force, thus ‘robbing the bishop of what he durst not give.’ Lesley, Bishop of Ross, however, makes no mention of force, and says Douglas carried a large sum of money from Lamberton to Bruce. He met the future King at Erickstane, near Moffat, on his way to Scone to be crowned, and proferred him his homage and his services, which were cordially welcomed. From that time onward, until the freedom and independence of the kingdom were fully established, Douglas never left Bruce’s side, alike in adversity and prosperity, and was conspicuous both for his valour in battle and his wisdom in council. He was present at the battle of Methven, where the newly crowned King was defeated, and narrowly escaped being taken prisoner. He was one of the small band who took refuge, with Bruce and his Queen and other ladies, in the wilds first of Athole and then of Breadalbane, where for some time they subsisted on wild berries and the scanty and precarious produce of fishing and the chase. Barbour makes especial mention of the exertions of Sir James Douglas to provide for the wants and to promote the comfort of the ladies :— 

‘For whiles he venisoun them brocht,
And with his hands whiles he wrocht
Gynnes to take geddys (pikes) and salmonys, 
Troutis, eelys, and als menonys (minnows).’

Bruce himself was often comforted by his wit and cheerfulness.

At the encounter between the small body of men accompanying the King and the MacDougals of Lorn, at Dalry in Strathfillan, Douglas was wounded, and Bruce freed himself only by his great personal strength and skill in the use of his weapons from a simultaneous attack made upon him by three of the followers of the Lord of Lorn. It was Douglas who discovered the small leaky boat in which the remnant of Bruce’s followers were ferried, two at a time, over Loch Lomond. He spent the subsequent winter with the King on the island of Rachrin. On the approach of spring he made a successful descent on the island of Arran, and succeeded in capturing a large quantity of provisions, clothing, and arms. Shortly after, while Bruce was engaged in an effort to wrest his patrimonial domains in Carrick from the English, Sir James repaired secretly into Douglasdale, which was held by Lord Clifford, surprised the English garrison on Palm Sunday (1306-7), took possession of Douglas Castle, destroyed all the provisions, staved the casks of wine and other liquors, put his prisoners to the sword, flung their dead bodies on the stores which he had heaped up in a huge pile, and then set fire to the castle. This shocking deed, which we may hope has been exaggerated by tradition, was no doubt intended to revenge the atrocious cruelties which Edward had perpetrated on Bruce’s brothers and adherents, and especially the death of Douglas’s faithful follower, Dickson, who was killed in a conflict in the church. It was long commemorated in the traditions of the country by the name of the ‘Douglas larder.’ Sir James continued for some time after this exploit to lurk among the fastnesses of Douglasdale, for ‘he loved better,’ he said, ‘to hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak.’

Douglas Castle was speedily rebuilt by Clifford, who placed a garrison in it under the command of a brave soldier named Thirlwall, and then returned to England. After his departure, Douglas determined to expel the enemy again from his patrimonial estates. For this purpose he had recourse to stratagem. ‘He caused some of his folk,’ says Godscroft, ‘drive away the cattle that fed near unto the castle, and when the captain of the garrison followed to rescue, gave orders to his men to leave them and to flee away. This he did often, to make the captain slight such frays, and to make him secure that he might not suspect any further end to be on it; which when he had wrought sufficiently (as he thought), he laid some men in ambuscade, and sent others away to drive such beasts as they should find in the view of the castle, as if they had been thieves and robbers, as they had done often before. The captain hearing of it, and supposing there was no greater danger now than had been before, issued forth of the castle and followed after them with such haste that his men (running who should be first) were disordered and out of their ranks. The drivers also fled as fast as they could till they had drawn the captain a little way beyond the place of ambuscade, which when they perceived, rising quickly out of their covert, they fell fiercely upon him and his company, and so slew himself and chased his men back to the castle, some of whom were overtaken and slain; others got into the castle and so were saved. Sir James, not being able to force the house, took what booty he could get without in the fields, and so departed. By this means and such other exploits he so affrighted the enemy that it was counted a matter of such great jeopardy to keep this castle that it began to be called the adventurous (or hazardous) Castle of Douglas. Whereupon Sir John Walton, being in pursuit of an English lady, she wrote to him that when he had kept the adventurous Castle of Douglas seven years [the real period prescribed was a year and a day], then he might think himself worthy to be a suitor to her. Upon this occasion Walton took upon him the keeping of it, and succeeded to Thirlwall; but he ran the same fortune with the rest that were before him. For Sir James having first dressed an ambuscade near unto the place, he made fourteen of his men take so many sacks and fill them with grass, as though it had been corn which they carried on the way towards Lanark, the chief market town in that country; so hoping to draw forth the captain by that bait, and either to take him or the castle, or both. Neither was the expectation frustrate, for the captain did bite, and come forth to have taken this victual (as he supposed). But ere he could reach these carriers, Sir James and his company had gotten between the castle and him; and these disguised carriers, seeing the captain following after them, did quickly cast off their upper garments, wherein they had masked themselves, and throwing off their sacks, mounted themselves on horseback, and met the captain with a sharp encounter, he being so much the more amazed that it was unlooked for. Wherefore, when he saw these carriers metamorphosed into warriors and ready to assault him, fearing (that which was) that there was some train laid for them, he turned about to have retired into the castle, but there also he met with his enemies; between which two companies he and his followers were slain, so that none escaped. The captain afterwards being searched, they found (so it is reputed) his mistress’s letters about him. The castle also fell into Douglas’s hands, and its fortifications were levelled with the ground.’

Sir James continued to take a prominent part in the struggles of the patriots to expel the English from the country, and was concerned in all the most perilous enterprises of that protracted warfare. He defeated a detachment of the English while marching from Bothwell into Ayrshire, under the command of Sir Philip Mowbray, and he cleared the wooded and mountainous district of Ettrick Forest and Tweeddale of the enemy. It was his skilful strategy that inflicted a crushing defeat on the Lord of Lorn at the Pass of Brander, near Loch Awe, in Argyleshire. On March 13, 1213, he captured the important fortress of Roxburgh and took the garrison prisoners. He commanded the left wing of the Scottish army at the battle of Bannockburn. His chivalrous behaviour towards Randolph, on the evening before that memorable conflict, shows the true nobility of his character. Randolph had failed to notice the movement of a strong body of horse under Sir Robert Clifford, who had been detached from the main army of the English, for the purpose of strengthening the garrison of Stirling Castle, and he being apprised of this movement by Bruce himself, had hastened at the head of an inferior force to arrest their march. Douglas, with great difficulty, induced King Robert to give him permission to go to the assistance of Randolph, whose little band was environed by the enemy and placed in great jeopardy. But on approaching the scene of conflict, he perceived that the English were falling, into disorder, and ordered his followers to halt. ‘These brave men,’ he said, ‘have repulsed the enemy; let us not diminish their glory by claiming a share in it.’ ‘When it is remembered,’ says Sir Walter Scott, ‘that Douglas and Randolph were rivals for fame, this is one of the bright touches which illuminate and adorn the history of those ages of which blood and devastation are the predominant characters.’

After the defeat of his army at Bannockburn, King Edward was closely pursued by Douglas in his flight from the battlefield. He came up with the fugitive monarch at Linlithgow; but as he had only sixty horsemen with him, while the royal escort numbered five hundred men, he could not venture to attack them. He continued the chase so closely, however, as not to give the fugitives a moment’s rest, killing or taking prisoners all who fell an instant behind, and did not cease from the pursuit until Edward found refuge in the Castle of Dunbar, sixty miles from the field of battle.

Douglas continued to take an active part in the measures adopted after Bannockburn to clear the country completely of the English, and during the expedition to Ireland, undertaken by King Robert and his brother, Edward Bruce, the government of the kingdom was intrusted to Sir James, in conjunction with Walter Stewart, Bruce’s son-in-law. Hostilities between the two kingdoms at this period were for the most part confined to occasional Border forays, in which the Scots were almost always successful, mainly through the activity and skill of Douglas. He inflicted a severe defeat on the Earl of Arundel at a place called Linthaughlee, near Jedburgh. The line of march of the invading army lay through an extensive wood, and Douglas having twisted together the young birch-trees on both sides so as to form a kind of abatis impenetrable by cavalry, posted a considerable body of archers in ambush at the narrowest part of the pass. The English advanced in careless security, and on reaching this spot they were assailed by the Scots both in front and on the flanks, and driven back with great slaughter. In the first onset Sir Thomas de Richemont, one of the English leaders, was slain by the hand of Douglas, who took as a trophy of victory a furred hat which Sir Thomas wore above his helmet. The estate of Linthaugh, which King Robert bestowed upon Douglas as a reward for this victory, is still in the possession of the family.

Shortly after the defeat of the English in Jedburgh Forest, a Gascon knight, named Edmund de Cailou, governor of Berwick, made an inroad into Teviotdale, but while returning through the Merse loaded with spoil, he was attacked by Douglas and killed, along with most of his men. A similar fate befell Sir Robert Neville, who at that time resided in Berwick. He boasted of his willingness to encounter this puissant Scottish leader if he would display his banner before that renowned stronghold. On receiving notice of this bravado, Douglas marched to the neighbourhood of Berwick, and sent out a detachment to burn some villages within sight of the garrison. Sir Robert on this issued out at the head of a force more numerous than the Scots. An obstinate engagement ensued, in which the English were defeated with the loss of their leader, who was slain in a hand to hand encounter with Douglas, and Sir Ralph Neville and various other persons of distinction were taken prisoners. In consequence of these and other similar exploits, Sir James excited such dread among the enemies of his country that all along the Borders the English mothers were accustomed to quiet their children by threatening that they ‘would make the Black Douglas take them.’

From this time onward Douglas and Randolph were almost always conjoined in the enterprises which the Scots undertook against the English. They carried out successfully the plan which King Robert arranged for the capture of the important Border fortress of Berwick in 1317. Two years later, while King Edward, at the head of a powerful army, was making a vigorous effort to recover that place, these two noble brothers in arms crossed the Borders with a well-appointed force of fifteen thousand men, and laid waste the northern counties with fire and sword. The Archbishop of York, to resist these ravages, hastily collected a large but ill-assorted and undisciplined force, composed of archers, yeomen, priests, clerks, monks, and friars, and gave battle to the Scots at Mitton. As might have been expected, they were completely defeated after a very brief conflict, and four thousand men are said to have fallen in the battle and the pursuit, among whom were three hundred priests. In allusion to this circumstance and to the clerical leaders of the defeated army, this rout was named by the Scots, in the savage pleasantry of the times, ‘The Chapter of Mitton.’ On the failure of the invasion of Scotland by King Edward in person in 1322, Douglas and Randolph grievously harassed the English in their retreat; and in retaliation for the ravages committed by the invaders, they laid waste the north of England, and, in company with King Robert and his son-in-law, inflicted a severe defeat on Edward at Biland, in Yorkshire, and captured his camp baggage and treasure, the King himself with difficulty escaping to York.

The last and most successful of the invasions of England by these two redoubted warriors took place in 1327, after the accession of Edward III. to the English throne. Crossing the western Border at the head of twenty-three thousand men, they plundered and laid waste the country as far as the Wear, and completely baffled the attempts of the young King, at the head of sixty-two thousand men, to arrest their progress. While the two armies were lying opposite each other, Douglas crossed the river at midnight with a chosen body of four hundred horse and penetrated into the English camp, which appears to have been carelessly guarded. He even forced his way to the royal tent, and would have carried off the young King but for the brave resistance of his chaplain and other members of the household, who lost their lives in their master’s defence, and thus gave him time to escape. Having failed in his attempt on the King’s person, Douglas cut his way through the gathering crowds of his enemies, and with inconsiderable loss returned in safety to the Scottish camp. A few nights later the Scots quitted their encampment unperceived by the English, passing over a morass in their rear, and were several miles on their way homewards before it was known that they had left their position. Pursuit was hopeless, and, unmolested by the enemy, they regained their own country in safety. The successful result of this expedition contributed not a little to bring about the recognition of the independence of Scotland by the English Government, and the conclusion of a treaty of peace between the two kingdoms.

In the year 1329, when King Robert was on his deathbed, after giving some general instructions to his most trusted barons and lords, Froissart says, ‘He called to him the brave and gentle knight Sir James Douglas, and said before the rest of the courtiers: "Sir James, my dear friend, none knows better than you how great labour and suffering I have undergone in my day for the maintenance of the rights of this kingdom, and when I was hardest beset I made a vow which it now grieves me deeply that I have not accomplished. I vowed to God that if I should live to see the end of my wars, and be enabled to govern this realm in peace and security, I would then set out in person and carry on war against the enemies of my Lord and Saviour to the best of my power. Never has my heart ceased to tend to this point, but our Lord has not consented thereto; for I have had my hands full in my days, and now at the last I am seized with this grievous sickness, so that, as you all see, I have nothing to do but to die. And since my body cannot go thither and accomplish that which my heart hath so much desired, I have resolved to send my heart there in place of my body to fulfil my vow; and now, since in all my realm I know not any knight more hardy than yourself, or more thoroughly furnished with all knightly qualities for the accomplishment of the vow in place of myself, therefore I entreat thee, my dear and tried friend, that for the love you have to me you will undertake this voyage and acquit my soul of its debt to my Saviour; for I hold this opinion of your truth and nobleness, that whatever you undertake I am persuaded you will successfully accomplish; and thus I shall die in peace, provided that you do all that I shall tell you. I will, then, that as soon as I am dead you take the heart out of my body and cause it to be embalmed, and take as much out of my treasure as seems to you sufficient for the expenses of your journey both for you and your companions, and that you carry my heart along with you and deposit it in the Holy Sepulchre of our Lord, since this poor body cannot go thither. And it is my command that you do use that royal state and maintenance in your journey, both for yourself and your companions, that into whatever lands or cities you may come all may know that you have in charge to bear beyond seas the heart of King Robert of Scotland."

‘At these words all who stood by began to weep, and when Sir James himself was able to reply, he said, "Ah! most gentle and noble king, a thousand times do I thank you for the great honour you have done me in making me the depositary of so great and precious a treasure. Most faithfully and willingly, to the best of my power, shall I obey your commands; albeit, I would have you believe that I think myself but little worthy to achieve so high an enterprise." "Ah, gentle knight," said the King, "I heartily thank you, provided you promise to do my bidding on the word of a true and loyal knight." "Assuredly, my liege, I do promise so," replied Douglas, "by the faith which I owe to God and to the Order of Knighthood." "Now praise be to God!" said the King, "for I shall die in peace, since I am assured that the best and most valiant knight of my kingdom has promised to achieve for me that which I myself could never accomplish."

Soon after the death of King Robert, Sir James Douglas prepared to execute the last injunctions of his beloved master. He had the heart of Bruce embalmed and enclosed in a silver case, curiously enamelled, and wore it suspended from his neck by a silver chain. Having settled all his affairs and made his will, he set sail from Scotland, attended by a numerous and splendid retinue, and anchored off Sluys, where he lay for twelve days, keeping open table on board his ship, and entertaining his visitors with almost royal magnificence. Froissart says that Sir James had in his train a knight bearing a banner, and seven other noble Scottish knights, and was served at table by twenty-six esquires, all ‘comely young men of good family; and he kept court in a royal manner with the sound of trumpets and cymbals. All the vessels for his table were of gold and silver, and whatever persons of good estate went to pay their respects to him were entertained with two sorts of wine and two kinds of spice.’

While lying off Sluys, Douglas learned that Alphonso, the young King of Leon and Castile, was carrying on hostilities with Osmyn, the Moorish King of Granada. As this was reckoned a holy warfare Douglas resolved, before proceeding to Jerusalem, in fulfilment of his own mission, to assist Alphonso in his contest with the enemies of the Christian faith. He accordingly sailed to Spain, and shortly after his arrival at Seville a battle was fought with the Moors near Theba, on the frontiers of Andalusia. Douglas, to whom the command of the vanguard was assigned, fought with his usual bravery and put the enemy to flight; but he and his companions, pursuing the fugitives too eagerly, were separated from the main body of the Spanish army. The Moors, perceiving the small number of their pursuers, rallied and surrounded them. Douglas, who had only ten men with him, cut his way through the enemy, and might have made good his retreat, had he not turned back to rescue Sir William St Clair of Roslin, whom he saw surrounded by the Moors and in great jeopardy. ‘Yon worthy knight will be slain,’ he exclaimed, ‘unless he have instant help.’ And putting spurs to his horse he galloped back to St. Clair’s. assistance. But, in attempting to save his friend, he was surrounded and overwhelmed by the crowds of the Moors, who were twenty to one. When he found himself inextricably involved, he took from his neck the casket which contained the heart of Bruce, and throwing it before him he exclaimed, ‘Now pass thou onward as thou wert wont, and Douglas will follow thee or die !’ He then rushed forward to the place where it fell, and was there slain, along with Sir William St. Clair and Sir Robert and Sir Walter Logan. On the following day the body of the hero of seventy battles was found on the field beside the casket, and by his few surviving friends sorrowfully conveyed to Scotland and interred in the sepulchre of his ancestors in St. Bride’s Church at Douglas. The heart of Bruce was buried by Randolph, Earl of Moray, in Melrose Abbey.

The portrait of Sir James Douglas has been drawn in very graphic and pleasing terms by the friendly hand of Barbour, from the testimony of persons who were personally acquainted with the hero. He was tall, strong, and well-made, though lean, broad-shouldered and large-boned, and of swarthy complexion, with black hair. He lisped a little in his speech, but, says the metrical historian, ‘that set him right wonder weel.’ He was pleasant and affable in his manners; his countenance had a modest and gentle expression in time of peace, but he had a very different aspect in the day of battle. Notwithstanding the perils to which he had been exposed and the numerous engagements in which he had fought, his face had escaped without a wound. There was a knight of great renown at the court of King Alphonso, whose face was all over marked with the scars of wounds received in battle, and who on meeting with Douglas, expressed his astonishment that a knight so famous for his warlike exploits, and who had seen so much hard service, should have no marks of wounds on his countenance. ‘I thank God,’ Douglas modestly replied, ‘that I had always hands to protect my face.’ He was universally beloved by his contemporaries for his kindness and courtesy, as well as admired for his bravery and chivalrous deeds, and he is affectionately remembered among his countrymen by the name of the ‘Good Sir James.’ Godscroft, who dwells with peculiar complacency on the daring exploits and many virtues of this great ornament of the Douglas family, winds up his eulogium on him in the following characteristic terms: ‘We will not omit here to shut up all the judgment of those times concerning him, in an old rich verse indeed, yet such as beareth witness of his true magnanimity and invincible mind in either fortune, good or bad:-

"Good Sir James Douglas,
who wise, and wight, and worthy was,
Was never over glad for no winning,
Nor yet over sad for no tyneing; [losing]
Good fortune and evil chance
He weighed both in one balance."'

Godscroft states that Sir James was never married, but Dr. Fraser has discovered that he was married, and left a legitimate son, who fell at Halidon. Archibald the Grim, his natural son, became third Earl of Douglas. Sir James was succeeded by his next brother— 

HUGH DOUGLAS. ‘Of this man,’ says Godscroft, ‘whether it was by reason of the dulness of his mind, or infirmity of his body, we have no mention at all in history of any of his actions.’ The true, reason was that he was a canon of the Cathedral Church of Glasgow.

ARCHIBALD DOUGLAS, youngest brother of Sir James, succeeded to the territorial estates and title of the Lord of Douglas by virtue of the resignation made by his brother Hugh, the churchman. He was chosen Regent of Scotland in 1533, after the capture of Sir Andrew Murray of Bothwell at Roxburgh Castle—an unfortunate choice, as succeeding events proved. In his attempt to relieve the castle and town of Berwick, then besieged by Edward III., Douglas rashly and imprudently attacked the English army drawn up in a strong position at Halidon Hill (July 22, 1533), and was defeated and killed, along with a large number of the leading nobility of Scotland and several thousands of the common soldiers. This disastrous battle for a time laid Scotland prostrate at the feet of the English monarch. In this extremity the struggle for the independence of the country was maintained by a small band of gallant leaders, conspicuous among whom was— 

SIR WILLIAM DOUGLAS, the Knight of Liddesdale, known also in history by the title of ‘The Flower of Chivalry.’ He was supposed by Tytler and other historians to have been a natural son of the ‘Good Sir James;’ but this is a mistake. He was the lawful son of Sir James Douglas of Loudon, and came into possession of the lands of Liddesdale through his marriage with Margaret, daughter of Sir John Graham of Abercorn. He took a distinguished part in the expulsion of Baliol and his English partisans from Scotland, after the young King David Bruce had taken refuge in France. He was unfortunately taken prisoner in 1332 in an encounter with an English force at Lochmaben, and was confined in iron fetters by the orders of Edward III. himself. He was detained two years in captivity, and was released only on paying a large ransom.

On his return to Scotland the Knight of Liddesdale exerted himself more energetically than ever to expel the English invaders and to vindicate the independence of his country. He took part in the conflict with the Earl of Athole at the Forest of Kilblane, in which that powerful but rapacious and unpatriotic noble was defeated and killed. He captured and demolished the Castles of Dunnotar, Kinclaven, and Laurieston, which had been garrisoned by the English. He encountered, near Crichton, the Lords Marchers of England, who had come to the relief of Edinburgh Castle, then besieged by the Regent, and drove them across the Tweed, but was himself severely wounded in the contest. He expelled the enemy from Teviotdale, captured Sir John Stirling at the head of five hundred men-at-arms, intercepted a convoy of provisions on its way to Hermitage, and succeeded in reducing that fortress; defeated Roland de Vaux, a celebrated warrior in the English interest, and in a fierce and repeatedly renewed engagement with Sir Lawrence Abernethy, a Scotsman who had espoused the cause of Edward Baliol, he succeeded at the fifth encounter in capturing that knight and dispersing his followers. In 1339 he was sent to solicit assistance from the French Court, and brought back with him from France five ships of war, having on board a body of men-at-arms under the command of an experienced French officer, who contributed largely to the reduction of Perth, at that time held by the English. Shortly after he succeeded, by a dexterous stratagem, in recovering the Castle of Edinburgh. He tarnished his laurels, however, and his reputation, by the cruel murder of his friend and companion in arms, Sir Alexander Ramsay. (See sketch of the RAMSAYS.) Such was the weakness of the Government at this time, that King David was obliged not only to pardon the savage murderer, but to bestow upon him the office on account of which he had perpetrated the atrocious crime. The assassination of David de Berkeley shortly after, at the instigation of Douglas, is supposed to have been connected with a plot for the restoration of Baliol to the throne. It is certain that Edward at this time appointed commissioners with full powers ‘to treat of and to conclude a treaty with William Douglas, to receive him into our faith, peace, and amity, and to secure him a reward,’ and that Douglas accepted the terms which they offered. But, for some unknown cause, the conspiracy was laid aside for the time.

The Knight of Liddesdale commanded the right wing of the Scottish army at the battle of Neville’s Cross (17th October, 1346), and was taken prisoner along with his sovereign. He was induced to purchase his liberty at the expense of his loyalty and honour, and promised to transfer to the English monarch that allegiance which he owed to his own sovereign. He bound himself by a secret treaty to allow the English to pass unmolested through his estates at all times and for all purposes; neither openly nor secretly to give counsel or aid to his own country, or to any other nation, against the King of England: and to keep on foot a body of men for his service. In return for this treasonable compact he was liberated from prison, and received from Edward a grant of the territory of Liddesdale and the Castle of Hermitage, with some possessions in Annandale. But his treachery was discovered and his intrigues baffled by his kinsman, William, first Earl of Douglas, by whom, shortly after his return to Scotland, he was waylaid and slain while he was hunting in Ettrick Forest. Some contemporary writers ascribe this deed to revenge for the murder of Sir Alexander Ramsay and Sir David Berkeley, which, however, does not appear at all probable. Others affirm that it was owing to domestic jealousy, and Hume of Godscroft has preserved a single stanza of a ballad composed on the murder of Douglas which conveys this impression

‘The Countess of Douglas out of her bower she came,
And loudly then did she call:
It is for the lord of Liddesdale
That I let the tears down fall.’

It is probable, however, that the treachery of Douglas to his country, and his attempt to deprive his kinsman and chief of his patrimonial inheritance, led to his violent end.

WILLIAM DOUGLAS, son of the Regent who fell at Halidon Hill, and nephew of the ‘Good Sir James,’ returned from France, where he had been bred to arms, soon after the battle of Neville’s Cross and the captivity of the Scottish king, and, with the hereditary valour and energy of his house, succeeded in expelling the English from Douglasdale, and in the course of time from Ettrick Forest, Tweeddale, and Teviotdale. He was created Earl of Douglas by King David in 1357. He faithfully supported the cause of national independence, and even went so far as to unite with the Steward and the Earl of March in a formal bond to compel David to change his counsellors and to give up his intrigues for altering the succession to the crown in favour of one of the sons of the English king. He made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas-à-Becket in the year 1363; but, unlike some others of the great Scottish barons, who made such pilgrimages a pretext for treasonable intrigues with the English Government, Douglas continued steadfast in his adherence to his country’s cause, and resolutely opposed the attempts of the unworthy son of Robert Bruce to betray it to the enemy. On the accession of Robert II., the son of the Steward and Marjory Bruce, the Earl of Douglas unexpectedly put forth pretensions to the crown, but abandoned them on finding that they were not likely to meet with public support. As a reward for the promptitude of his submission, the King’s eldest daughter was promised in marriage to his eldest son, and the Earl himself was appointed Justiciar of Scotland south of the Forth, and Warden of the East Marches. This great noble, one of the best of his race, died in 1384 at an advanced age. He was succeeded by his eldest son by his wife the Countess of Mar.

JAMES DOUGLAS, second Earl. He was a renowned warrior, and closed his brilliant career at the celebrated battle of Otterburn. At this period a close alliance was formed between the Scots and the French, and large sums of money were distributed by the King of France among the Scottish nobles to induce them to invade England. The great influence, of the Earl of Douglas is shown by the fact that while the powerful Earl of March received four thousand livres, and the Earl of Fife (afterwards Duke of Albany, and Regent) only three thousand, no less than seven thousand five hundred (equal to thirty thousand pounds of modern money), were bestowed upon the Earl of Douglas. In opposition to the advice of the King, the Scottish barons resolved, about the end of July, 1388, to make an inroad into England. A large army assembled at Southdean, near the Cheviot Hills, [Tytler and other historians have represented Yetholm, the well-known gipsy village, as the place of meeting. But Yetholm is nearly fifteen miles from Redeswire, the place at which Douglas and his army were about to enter England. Froissart calls the place Zedon. Southdean, which is pronounced Sooden at the present day, is the place meant. It was only four miles from Redeswire.] and, after consultation among the leaders, it was arranged that the main body, under the Earl of Fife, should enter England by Carlisle, while a smaller division, commanded by the Earl of Douglas, should invade it by the Eastern Marches. The latter accordingly pushed rapidly through Northumberland, and ravaged the bishopric of Durham without opposition. On their return homeward a personal encounter took place at the gates of Newcastle between Douglas and Sir Henry Percy—the renowned Hotspur [Tstates that it was the Scots who gave Henry Percy this nickname, on account of the ardour with which he assailed them.]—in which the latter lost his pennon. Douglas boasted that he would plant it on the tower of his castle of Dalkeith. ‘That,’ said Percy, ‘shalt thou never do; you shall not even bear it out of Northumberland.’ ‘Well,’ rejoined Douglas, ‘your pennon shall this night be placed before my tent; come and win it if you can.’ The Scots retired to Otterburn, a hamlet in Redesdale, about thirty miles from Newcastle; but it was not till the third day that Percy marched against them at the head of a greatly superior force, and attacked their encampment shortly after sunset. Froissart, whose account of the battle was obtained from English and Scottish knights who took part in it, says it was fought on a sweet moonlight evening, clear and bright. It raged for several hours with the utmost fury. At length the Scots, who fought against treble their number, began to give way, when Douglas, wielding a battleaxe with both hands, and followed only by a few of his household, cut his way into the thickest of the enemy, where he was borne down and mortally wounded. The tide of battle was for the moment setting against the Scots, and some time elapsed before the English were again forced to give way and the spot where Douglas had fallen was cleared. Sir James Lindsay, Sir John and Sir Walter Sinclair, were the first to discover him as he lay bleeding to death. His banner lay on the ground not far from him, the bearer having fallen, and his chaplain, Richard Lundie, who had fought during the whole battle at his side, was found bestriding the Earl and protecting him from injury with his battleaxe. ‘How farest with you, cousin?’ asked Sir John. ‘But so so,’ replied the Earl; ‘yet few of my ancestors have died in chambers or in their beds. There has long been a prophecy that a dead Douglas should win a field. I trust it will now be fulfilled. My heart sinks; I am dying. Do you, Walter, and you, John Sinclair, raise my banner and cry ‘Douglas!’ and tell neither friend nor foe I am lying here.’ These were his last words. [‘Hosts have been known at that dread name to yield; And Douglas dead, his name hath won the field.’— Home.

] The Scottish leaders raised the banner, and with cries of ‘Douglas! Douglas!’ assailed the English with renewed energy. Their followers, animated by the cry, and believing that their leader was still in the field, pressed on the enemy so fiercely that they gave way on all sides. Hotspur and his brother, Sir Ralph Percy, were taken prisoners, and scarcely a man of note among the English escaped death or captivity. This battle, celebrated in the well-known ballads of ‘The Battle of Otterburn’ and Chevy Chase,’ was fought on the 5th of August, 1388. Froissart says, ‘Of all the battles that have been described in this history, great and small, this of which I am now speaking was the best-fought and the most severe; for there was not a man, knight, or squire who did not acquit himself gallantly, hand to hand with his enemy, without either stay or faintheartedness.’ In this memorable conflict the banner of Douglas was borne by his natural son, Archibald Douglas, ancestor of the Douglases of Cavers, long hereditary sheriffs of Teviotdale, amongst whose archives this relic is still preserved. [In Cavers House there are preserved what are called the ‘Percy Relics,’ consisting of a pair of gauntlets bearing the badge of the Percys, a white lion, embroidered in pearls and fringed with filigree work of silver. These gauntlets, according to unvarying and credible tradition, were attached to the handle of Hotspur’s lance, and were captured along with it by Douglas, in his personal encounter with its owner at Newcastle.] The Earl is said to have charged his son to defend it to the last drop of his blood. 

The body of Douglas was carried by the Scottish army in solemn and sorrowful procession to the abbey of Melrose, where they buried him beneath the high altar. ‘His obsequye was done reverently,’ says Froisart, ‘and on his bodye layde a tombe of stone, and his baner hangyng over hym.’

The hero of Otterburn was Earl of Mar, in right of his mother, as well as Earl of Douglas, but as the Countess had no family the earldom passed to her sister. (See THE ANCIENT EARLDOM OFMAR.)

At this period great celebrity was acquired by another member of the Douglas family—SIR WILLIAM DOUGLAS, the natural son of Sir Archibald, Lord of Galloway, the third Earl of Douglas. Wyntoun describes this famous knight as— 

‘A young, jolly bachelor
Prized greatly was of war;
For he was ever travelland
Whiles by sea and whiles by land.
To skathe his foes right busy
So that they dread him grettumly.’

And after mentioning several valiant deeds performed by Douglas, which bear no inconsiderable resemblance to those of King David’s worthies, the old chronicler thus sums up his description of this Scottish Paladin:-

‘So stoutly he was travelland
And put to sa hard assayis,
That to say sooth in to my days
I have not heard a Bachelor
Sa greatly prized far or near,
In to sa short time as was he.’

Sir William Douglas’s graceful person and warlike renown, combined with his generous disposition and a most winning gentleness of manners, gained him the hand of King Robert’s daughter Egidia, who, according to Wyntoun, was— 

‘The fairest of fashion (form) and of face
That men might find that day living,
Though they had sought o’er all Scotland.’

Fordun says that the report of the beauty of the Princess so inflamed the King of France that he privately despatched a painter to Scotland to bring him her picture; but he found, to the great disappointment of the King, that her affections were already engaged. Boece varies the story a little, and says the French king, on receiving the portrait of the Princess, ‘was so enmoured thereof that incontinent he despatched ambassadors to desire her in marriage,

And there the dying lamps did burn,
Before thy low and lonely urn,
o gallant chief of Otterburne !’
Lay of the Last Minstrel, canto ii.

but all too late, for she was married to Nithsdale before their coming.’ King Robert, along with the hand of his daughter, bestowed upon Douglas the lordship of Nithsdale, and also appointed him Warden of the West Border, and Sheriff of Dumfries.

The coast of Galloway was at this time infested by bands of Irish catterans, who ravaged and spoiled the country; and shortly before the battle of Otterburn Sir William resolved to punish them for their piracies. Having collected a force of five hundred spearmen, he effected a landing near Carlingford, and was proceeding to assault the town when the inhabitants offered him a large sum of money to ransom the place. Having thus obtained an armistice they secretly despatched a messenger to Dundalk and procured the assistance of eight hundred horse. Douglas, meanwhile, unsuspicious of treachery or fraud, was engaged on the shore in victualling his ships, when he perceived the approach of this strong body from Dundalk, and the inhabitants of Carlingford at the same time sallying out from the town to assist them in the assault upon his men. He immediately divided his troops into two bodies, and sent Sir Robert Stewart with the one to repel the attack of the citizens, while he with the other encountered the auxiliaries. After a stubborn conflict the Scots, though greatly outnumbered, completely defeated their assailants, ravaged and burned the town, demolished its castle, and loaded with their plunder fifteen merchant vessels which lay at anchor in the harbour.

A truce was shortly after made with England, and Sir William Douglas, ‘that he might not languish in idleness,’ joined the Teutonic knights in their crusade against the Pagans in Prussia and Lithuania, and was appointed admiral of their fleet. He is said to have been created Duke of Prussia and Prince of Dantzic for his services in raising the siege of that town and expelling the Pagans from the district. His countrymen were also thenceforth made freemen of Dantzic. He was murdered at Dantzic, about the year 1392, by a band of assassins hired by an Englishman, whom Fordun terms Lord Clifford, who had fastened a quarrel on him.

As Earl James, the hero of Otterburn, left no legitimate offspring, he was succeeded by a natural son of "the good Sir James "—

ARCHIBALD DOUGLAS of Galloway, third Earl, surnamed the ‘Grim,’ from his swart complexion and stern expression of countenance. Before he succeeded to the earldom he fought with great gallantry in the wars both of France and England. In 1356 he accompanied William, Earl of Douglas, to France, and was taken prisoner at the battle of Poictiers (13th September), but made his escape through a dexterous stratagem of Sir William Ramsay of Colluthie. In 1378 he inflicted a signal defeat, near Melrose, on a body of English spearmen and archers under Sir Thomas Musgrave. Before the battle began he knighted on the field two of the King’s sons, who were under his banner, along with his own son. The conflict was keenly contested, but was quickly decided. Douglas, according to his general custom, as Froissart mentions, when he found the fight becoming hot, dismounted, and wielding a large two-handed sword, made such havoc among the enemy that they gave way on all sides. Great numbers were slain, and Musgrave and his son, with many other knights and squires, were taken prisoners. After the Earl became the head of the family, he was regarded as the most powerful subject in the kingdom. He was noted for his courage, firmness, and sagacity, and not less for his pride. Hume of Godscroft says, ‘He was a man nothing inferior to any of his predecessors in any kind of virtue. In piety he was singular through his whole life, and most religious according to those times.’ He founded the Collegiate Church of Bothwell, a part of which still remains to attest its former magnificence. Godscroft affirms that the Earl had a mind free from all ambition, but his conduct in regard to the marriage of his daughter Marjory to David, Duke of Rothesay, the heir-apparent to the throne, shows that he was scarcely entitled to that eulogium. The Prince was affianced to the daughter of the Earl of March; but Douglas, jealous of the aggrandisement of a rival noble, by the offer of a much more splendid dowry prevailed upon Albany, the King’s brother, to get that contract set aside, on the plea that the sanction of the Estates had not been given to it, and to wed Rothesay to Marjory Douglas. The result of this dishonourable transaction was highly injurious to the happiness of the Prince, and the peace of the country. Notwithstanding, the influence of the Earl was on the whole beneficial during the feeble reign of Robert III.; and when he and the Queenmother, Annabella Drummond, and the venerable Bishop Traill of St. Andrews, all died, A.D. 1400, within a short time of each other, according to Fordun it was commonly said throughout the kingdom that the glory and honesty of Scotland were buried with these three noble persons. The Earl was succeeded by his eldest son—

ARCHIBALD DOUGLAS, fourth Earl, immortalised both by Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott.He was called Tineman (Loseman), in consequence of his having lost almost all the battles that he fought. ‘It is true,’ says Godscroft, ‘that no man was less fortunate, and it is no less true that no man was more valorous.’ He married Margaret, daughter of Robert III., and was even more famous and powerful than his father had been in the government of the kingdom. He was accused of having been, accessory. along with the Duke of Albany, to the death of the Duke of Rothesay, his brother-in-law, against whom his resentment was said to have been roused by the neglect with which that unfortunate prince treated his wife, the Earl’s sister. (See THE EARLDOM OF MENTEITH.) From his youth upwards Douglas showed great promptitude and activity in defending Scotland against the inroads of the English. In the year 1400 he gained a victory at East Linton over Hotspur and the Earl of March, who had renounced his allegiance to the Scottish king in consequence of the unjust treatment which he had received in the affair of his daughter’s affiance to the Duke of Rothesay. The Earl also successfully defended the Castle of Edinburgh against the assault of Henry IV. on his invasion of Scotland, the last conducted by an English monarch in person. In September, 1402, however, Douglas was defeated and taken prisoner by Percy at Homildon Hill, near Wooler, where he displayed great courage, but was guilty of very grave errors as a general. He was wounded in four places and lost an eye in this battle, which was gained entirely by the skill of the English archers and the mismanagement of the Scottish leaders, many of whom were left on this fatal field.

A quarrel rose between the victors and Henry IV. respecting the disposal of the numerous Scottish nobles and knights taken prisoners at Homildon, and a conspiracy was set on foot by the Earl of Northumberland and his son against that King, whom they had been mainly instrumental in raising to the throne. Douglas and the majority of the captive Scottish knights were gained over to support the enterprise. The insurgent forces hastened to the South with a view of effecting a junction with Owen Glendower, who had also taken up arms against Henry; but they were encountered at Shrewsbury by a powerful army, which the King had assembled to intercept their march. The conflict which ensued raged for three hours with varying fortune. The brilliant courage displayed by Douglas, which has been commemorated by Shakespeare, called forth the eulogiums of his adversaries, and his fierce attacks more than once placed the life of Henry himself in imminent danger and nearly decided the battle. According to the old chroniclers, Lord Stafford, Sir Walter Blunt, the royal standard-bearer, and two other leaders, who were arrayed like the King, were encountered and killed by Douglas, who, in cutting down the fourth man clad in royal apparel, is said to have exclaimed, ‘Where the devil were all these kings born?’ In the end the death of Hotspur, who fell pierced through the brain with an arrow, turned the tide of battle and gave the victory to the royal army. Douglas, in attempting to escape from the field, fell over a precipitous bank and was severely bruised. He was in consequence taken prisoner, quietly remarking, ‘The man sits full still that has a rent in his breeks (breeches),’ a homely saying which has passed into a proverb. He recovered his liberty in 1406 on payment of a large ransom.

During the protracted war in France between the Dauphin (afterwards Charles VII.) and Henry V. of England, an auxiliary force went from Scotland under the Earl of Wigton, the eldest son, and the Earl of Buchan, the son-in-law, of the Earl of Douglas, to the assistance of the French, and rendered them important service in their desperate struggle for national independence. They defeated the English at the battle of Beaugé, A.D. 1420, in which the Duke of Clarence, King Henry’s brother, was killed, along with a considerable number of English nobles. The Earl of Douglas was induced, by the promise of an annual payment of two hundred pounds, to engage that he would assist the English king in his French campaign with two hundred knights and two hundred mounted archers. But after the battle of Beaugé the Earl of Buchan returned to Scotland to recruit his forces, and succeeded in inducing his father-in-law to break off his agreement with King Henry, and to bring to the aid of France an auxiliary force of five thousand men. He performed some brilliant exploits, and was rewarded for his services with the Duchy of Touraine. But the usual bad fortune which procured him the name of Tineman continued to attend him. He, was defeated at Crevant, mainly in consequence of the same neglect of military tactics which caused the loss of the battle of Homildon. In the following year (17th August, 1424) he fell at the battle of Verneuil, along with the Earl of Buchan and the greater part of the Scottish knights who had accompanied him to France, and the auxiliary force under his command was almost entirely annihilated. The celebrated Scots Guard, who were for a long time the attendants of the French kings, originated with the small body of Scotsmen who survived the disastrous battle of Verneuil. The unfortunate Tineman was buried in St. Gratian’s church at Tours.

ARCHIBALD DOUGLAS, his eldest son, succeeded him as fifth Earl of Douglas and second Duke of Touraine. He had during his father’s lifetime possessed the earldom of Wigton, which was resigned to him by Thomas Fleming, the head of that old family. After the return of James I. from his long captivity in England, the Earl of Douglas was arrested in March, 1424, along with Murdoch, Duke of Albany, the late Regent, and upwards of twenty other nobles of the highest rank, for no reason assigned, but probably on account of his alliance with the house of Albany. He was speedily released, however, and sat on the jury by whom the Duke was tried. He was again imprisoned in May, 1431, probably because of his opposition to the measures of the King; but, at the urgent solicitation of the Queen and the nobility he was set at liberty in the following September. After the murder of James, in 1437, the Earl of Douglas was elected a member of the Council of Regency, and in the following year he was appointed Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom. His great military talents and experience fitted him in a high degree for the duties of this office; but he was intolerably arrogant and jealous of the honour of his family and his privileges as a noble, quick to revenge an injury, and by no means scrupulous as to his mode of gratifying his resentment. He cherished a strong dislike to the chief ministers of the late King— Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar and Sir William Crichton the Chancellor—who belonged to the inferior class of barons, and had been elevated by James to high office for the purpose of assisting him in his efforts to restrict the power of the great nobles. When Livingston and Crichton quarrelled after the death of their patron, and the latter solicited the assistance of Douglas, offering his constant friendship in return, the Earl not only rejected the overtures of the Chancellor, but in fierce and contemptuous terms declared Livingston and him both to be ‘mischievous traitors,’ whom it became not ‘the honourable state of noblemen’ in any way to help. ‘Would to God,’ he said, ‘I might see a miserable mischief to befall them both, seeing they have both deserved the same condignly, through their own ambition, falsehood, pride, and height.’

Meanwhile the country was brought to the verge of ruin by the feuds of the nobles, which, owing to the youth of the sovereign and the weakness of the Government, were carried on without restraint. The vast power and chivalrous character of the Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom might have effected the suppression and punishment of these outrages, but, unfortunately, at this critical period he was suddenly seized with malignant fever, and died at Restalrig, near Edinburgh, on the 26th of June, 1439.

Under Earl Archibald the greatness of the house of Douglas may be said to have culminated. Their vast estates in Galloway, Annandale, Douglasdale, and other districts of Scotland, together with the Duchy of Touraine and the County of Longueville, in France, yielded them revenues probably not inferior to those of the Scottish king; while they could bring into the field an army scarcely less numerous than his, and perhaps even more highly disciplined, in consequence of their share in the incessant raids of Border warfare. The intermarriages of their kinsfolk with the members of other great houses had largely extended the influence of the family, and throughout the districts where their estates lay the whole of the inferior barons and knights were either their allies or vassals.

On the death of Earl Archibald his titles and vast possessions descended to his eldest son WILLIAM, sixth Earl of Douglas, and third Duke of Touraine. At the time of his father’s death he was only fourteen years of age, and his youth and inexperience rendered him quite unfit to wield the great power and dignity which had devolved upon him. It speedily became evident that the young Earl had inherited the characteristic qualities of his race. ‘The Earl of Douglas,’ said Godscroft, ‘was of the old spirit of the ancient nobility; he could not serve or obey but whom he ought, and the lawful commanders lawfully commanding for his honour and utility.’ He was blamed by some as ‘being guided by flattery, given to insolence, presumptuous in his port,’ but the family historian adds with amusing naïveté that there was no evidence that ‘he was more insolent, presumptuous, or arrogant, than became a man of his rank.’ Proud of his ancestry, his rank, vast estates, and numerous retainers, he assumed almost regal state and independence. His personal attendance, when he rode out, consisted of a thousand horse; his household was conducted on a scale of dazzling magnificence. He is said to have held within his domains a great council of his own, for directing his affairs, and to have dubbed knights with his own hand. His followers acknowledged no authority but the jurisdiction of their master, and secure in his protection, are said to have been guilty of numerous acts of grievous oppression. He gave no heed to the commands issued in the name of the young King, requiring his attendance and service, and spoke in scornful terms of the men who had usurped the functions of the government for their own selfish ends.

Livingston and Crichton saw clearly that their position would be insecure so long as this powerful and haughty noble lived, and they resolved to cut him off before he reached maturity. ‘But how shall they do with him?’ says Godscroft. ‘He is not easy to be dealt with; they must have muffles that would catch such a cat,’ and they adopted a plan to get him into their power, which displayed the vilest baseness and dishonesty. Crichton, in his own name, and that of Livingston, sent a message to the young Earl, professing the greatest esteem for him, and inviting him to the Court, in order that he might cultivate personal intercourse with his youthful sovereign. Douglas fell into the snare, and attended by a small retinue he set out for Edinburgh, along with his younger brother David, and his friend Malcolm Fleming. On the way he halted at Crichton Castle, the seat of the Chancellor, where a splendid entertainment had been provided for him, and accompanied by his host he resumed his journey to the capital. Before he entered the city some of his attendants observing that a number of private messages were passing between the Chancellor and Livingston, who was Governor of the Castle, reminded the Earl of the injunction of his father that he and his brother ‘should not come both together into one place where themselves were not masters, lest they should endanger their whole family at once,’ and urgently entreated them both to return; or if the Earl was bent on going forward, that he should at least send home his brother. This prudent counsel was unfortunately rejected by the unsuspecting youth, who seems to have placed unbounded confidence in the honour of Crichton and Livingston. He proceeded direct to the Castle, where he was received in state by the Governor and conducted to the presence of the King. Several days were spent in pleasing intercourse between James and the Douglases, who were greatly delighted with each other, but their enjoyment was speedily brought to a tragic termination.

During a banquet at the royal table Crichton and Livingston suddenly dropped the mask and assailed their unsuspecting guests with charges of treason. The oft-repeated tale that a bull’s head—the signal of death—was placed on the table towards the close of the entertainment, is purely fabulous, and in all probability originated in the fertile fancy of Hector Boece, which is responsible for other similar embellishments of Scottish history. But this much is certain, that the astonished youths, rendered defenceless by the absence of their attendants, were seized and bound by a body of armed men and hurried to an adjoining apartment, to undergo the formality of a mock trial. It is said that the young King clung to the Chancellor and entreated him with tears to spare the lives of the youthful nobles, but his interference was sternly rejected by Crichton; and the Earl and his brother were condemned to death, and straight-way beheaded in the back court of the Castle. Three days afterwards their friend Malcolm Fleming shared their fate.

The perpetrators of this foul deed soon discovered that they had not only been guilty of an atrocious crime, but had also committed a great blunder; the murder and its aggravation roused the fierce indignation of the numerous and powerful friends of the Douglas family, while the youth of the victims, and the cold-blooded treachery by which they had been entrapped and put to death, excited a general feeling of sympathy for them and abhorrence of their murderers, which found expression in a rude verse current at the time among the people

‘Edinburgh Castle, town, and tower,
God grant thou sink for sin;
And that even for the black dinner
Earl Douglas got therein.’

JAMES THE GROSS, as he was termed, Lord of Abercorn, the uncle of the two youths so foully done to death, succeeded as seventh Earl of Douglas. The title of Duke of Touraine and the estates conferred upon Archibald Tineman reverted to the crown of France, and the large unentailed property of the murdered Earl, comprehending Galjoway, Wigton, Balveny, Ormond, and Annandale, descended to his only sister, Margaret, who, from her great beauty, was commonly called the Fair Maid of Galloway. Greatly to the surprise of the country, at a time when revenge was sacred duty, no steps were taken by the new Earl to inflict merited vengeance on the murderers of his nephews. The historian of the house of Douglas supposes that the remarkable obesity of Earl James extinguished in him those quick feelings of honour which should have stimulated him to revenge. [‘In ane Addicioun of Scottis Chroniklis and Deidis,’ printed from a manuscript by the Bannatyne Club, his death is noticed, says Chambers, ‘in terms which will scarcely fail, in their naïveté and unconscious humour, to provoke a smile from the reader.’ ‘The xxv day of March, 1443, erl James Douglas deit at the castell of Abercorn, to the takin [token] they said he had in him four stane of talch [tallow] and mair.’ ] It has been conjectured, but with little probability, that the trial and execution of the young Earl and his brother were undertaken with the connivance, if not with the assistance, of his successor. James the Gross died after two years’ inglorious possession of the family honours and estates, and was succeeded by the eldest of his six sons— 

WILLIAM, eighth Earl of Douglas, who inherited all the courage, ambition, and energy of his family. He was born about the year 1425, and succeeded to the family title and estates in 1443. In the following year he obtained from Rome a dispensation to marry his kinswoman, Margaret Douglas, Lady of Galloway—a union which was greatly desired by his father. Thus the vast possessions of the family, which had been divided on the death of the sixth Earl, were united in the person of the eighth Earl. This increase of territory greatly augmented the power of the Earl and of his formidable house. He lost no time in maturing and carrying out his plans for the restoration of the political influence of his house, and securing that place in the administration of public affairs which he considered due to his ancient family and extensive estates. He first of all made his peace with the King, professing unbounded attachment to his person and crown. James, who was greatly delighted with his unexpected submission, made the Earl a member of the Privy Council, and soon after conferred on him the office of Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom. ‘The raising of new and mean men was the thing that he and his house did ever dislike very much,’ says Godscroft, a remark which, as Mr. Hannay observes, brings the Claudian family to mind, and shows us how great power bred great haughtiness, and the house became unfit to be quiet subjects. This feeling was, no doubt, at the root of the Earl’s dislike to Livingston and Crichton. Through his influence the former was deprived of his office; and Crichton, towards whom he cherished a deadly hatred, was in a Parliament held at Stirling, in 1445, found guilty of treason, and proclaimed a traitor and his estates confiscated.

The influence of Douglas was now paramount. Three of his brothers were raised to the peerage, and the chief offices in the administration were filled with his creatures. Bishop Kennedy, of St. Andrews, a prelate of great wisdom and integrity, set himself to thwart the designs of the Earl on the independence of the Crown, and in consequence his estates were laid waste with fire and sword by the partisans of the Earl. A treasonable league was formed between Douglas and the Earl of Crawford and Alexander Ross, Lord of the Isles, which menaced both the safety of the King and the peace of the country. The signal service which was rendered at this period by Hugh, Earl of Ormond, a brother of Douglas, in defeating, at Sark, a powerful English army which had invaded Scotland, tended not a little to strengthen the interest of the house. But the arrogant and lawless behaviour of its head gradually alienated the confidence and regard of the King. Indignant at the diminution of his influence, the Earl resolved to retire from the country for a season, and went to the Jubilee at Rome, in 1450, ‘as his enemies did interpret it,’ says Godscroft, ‘to show his greatness to foreign princes and nations. There went with him in company a great number of noblemen and gentlemen, such as the Lord Hamilton, Gray, Salton, Seton, Oliphant, and Forbes; also Calder, Urquhart, Campbell, Fraser, Lauders of Cromarty, Philorth, and Bass, knights, with many other gentlemen of great account.’ At Paris the Earl was joined by his brother James, his successor in the earldom, who appears to have been at this time prosecuting his studies at the University there. He was received by the French Court with the respect due to his rank and the eminent services to France of his grandfather and his uncle Earl Archibald; and even at Rome his reputation and ostentatious magnificence seem to have attracted no small notice. During his absence the turbulent conduct of his vassals disturbed the peace of the country and drew down upon them the vengeance of the Government. The King marched in person to the Borders, demolished Crag Douglas, a fortalice on the Yarrow, and inflicted summary punishment on the offenders. On his return the Earl sent a submissive message to the King, expressing his displeasure with the conduct of his vassals during his absence, and his resolution to observe the laws and to maintain order among his dependents. He was on this received into favour; but there is good reason to believe that he speedily resumed his treasonable designs, and that, while engaged as one of the Commissioners in negotiating a truce with England, he entered into a secret intrigue with the Yorkist faction against the authority of his sovereign.

Although the Earl had now been deprived of the office of Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom, James, unwilling to come to an open rupture with his too-powerful subject, appointed him Warden of the West and Middle Marches, and confirmed to him and his descendants, by deed of entail, the earldoms of Wigton and Douglas. But these acts of kindness, which he probably regarded as indications of weakness and fear, only emboldened the Earl to set at defiance both the restraints of law and the authority of his sovereign. He attempted to assassinate his old enemy Crichton, who had been restored to the Chancellorship; he hanged Sir John Herries of Terregles, who had refused to become his ally, in contempt of a positive order of the King requiring his release; and he beheaded Maclellan of Bomby, in circumstances shockingly cruel and aggravating. [See MACLELLAN.] With an evident view to an open insurrection against the royal authority, ‘he sought and persuaded all men under his opinion and servitude, and in special the gentlemen of Galloway, with Coile, Carrick, and Cunninghame, and all other parties that were near adjacent unto him, desyreing them daylie to ride and goe with him as his own household and servantis, and to assist him in all thingis whatsomevir he had to doe, whether it was ryght or wrong, with the King or against him.’

Matters were now evidently approaching a crisis; but the King was anxious to avert an open rupture, for he was well aware that Douglas and his two associates in a treasonable league could unitedly bring into the field a force superior to that of the Crown. He resolved, therefore, by the advice of Crichton and other experienced counsellors, to invite the Earl to Court, in order that he might try the effect of a personal remonstrance with him respecting his illegal and turbulent conduct. Douglas accepted the invitation, but took the precaution to obtain a letter of safe conduct under the great seal, and signed by the principal nobles of the Court. Trusting to this security, he repaired to Stirling with a small retinue, and upon Shrove Tuesday (13th February, 1452) received and accepted an invitation to dine at the royal table. He not only dined but supped at the Court. After supper the King conducted his guest apart into an inner room, and, informing him that he was aware of the league he had made with the Earls of Crawford and Ross, entreated him to withdraw from a confederacy which was both inconsistent with his allegiance and dangerous to the peace of the country. Douglas refused, however, to comply with the King’s request, and as James continued to urge him more earnestly he became more haughty and dogged in his refusal, and declared that he could not honourably renounce the engagement which he had made with Ross and Crawford, nor would he do so for any living man. The King, whose temper was naturally fiery and impetuous, lost all self-command at this insolent defiance, and passionately exclaiming, ‘If you will not break this league, I shall,’ drew his dagger and stabbed the Earl, first in the throat and then in the lower part of the body. Sir Patrick Gray, who was present, and had sworn to be revenged upon Douglas for the murder of his nephew, struck him on the head with his battleaxe, and the rest of the nobles rushing in stabbed the dying man in the most dastardly and disgraceful manner with their daggers and knives. The dead body of the murdered noble, pierced with twenty-six wounds, was cast out of the window into the open court, where it was buried. The Earl left no family.

JAMES, ninth Earl, and his other three brothers, who were in the town of Stirling at the time, instantly met, along with Lord Hamilton and other friends of their family; but as the castle was too strong to be assaulted at that moment with any hope of success, they resolved to meet in arms at Stirling on the 17th of March, to revenge the atrocious murder of the head of the house by the hand of his sovereign. The confederates accordingly met on the day appointed, and with the sound of horns and trumpets proclaimed King James a false and perjured man. They took the letter of safe conduct which had been granted to Earl William, and after exhibiting it publicly at the Cross, they nailed it to a board and dragged it in scorn through the streets at the tail of a cart-horse. They then pillaged and burnt the town, but finding themselves still unable to undertake the siege of the castle, they retired to their own estates.

Earl James, burning with resentment at the foul murder of his brother, now entered into a treasonable correspondence with the English Government, which was at this time in the hands of the Yorkists, and promised to swear allegiance to the English King as his lawful sovereign. On receiving intelligence of these intrigues, King James called a meeting of Parliament, which declared that it was lawful for the King to put the late Earl of Douglas to death as a rebel, and summoned his brothers and chief supporters to appear and answer for the crimes laid to their charge. The King then assembled a powerful army and marched in person against the rebellious baron, burning and ravaging his estates. When he appeared before the castle of Douglas, the Earl, by the advice of his chief vassals and supporters, laid down his arms, and the King readily pardoned the insurgent chief and his retainers on certain conditions. As might have been expected, the peace which was thus patched up between the sovereign and his too powerful subject was not of long continuance. The Earl speedily resumed his treasonable negotiations with the Yorkist party, who were now supreme in England, and received from them the promise of an immediate supply of money and troops, on condition that he and his chief supporters should take an oath of allegiance to the English crown. Encouraged by this powerful support, Douglas assembled a numerous army to strike a last blow for supremacy; and so formidable was the array of the barons who espoused his cause that the King is said to have hesitated whether he should abide the conflict or retire to France.

In this emergency James had recourse for advice to his old and sagacious counsellor, Bishop Kennedy, of St. Andrews. According to Lindsay of Pitscottie, the prelate first of all passed to his oratory and prayed to God for the King and the commonwealth of the realm while James was taking some refreshment. He then directed his Majesty to retire and pray ‘that God would grant him the upper hand of the Earl of Douglas and his complices.’ These devotions being finished, the Bishop brought the King into his study and by the familiar process of breaking singly each one in succession of a bundle of arrows which, combined, resisted his utmost efforts, impressed upon James the policy that he should follow in breaking up the combination of great nobles and barons arrayed against him. James followed this judicious advice and by liberal promises detached a number of the most powerful supporters of the Earl from his cause, and induced them to repair to the banner of their sovereign. He succeeded also in raising a numerous and well-appointed army, with which, after ravaging the estates of Douglas and Lord Hamilton, he laid siege to the strong castle of Abercorn, on the Firth of Forth, belonging to the Douglases. The Earl, with his kinsman and ally, Lord Hamilton, marched to the relief of the beleaguered fortress, and a decisive battle seemed to be imminent. But the Bishop of St. Andrews had meanwhile opened secret negotiations with the allies and vassals of Douglas, and his representations had produced a strong impression upon their minds, especially on Lord Hamilton, his most powerful supporter. The two armies were drawn up in battle array, waiting the signal to engage, when Douglas resolved to defer the engagement till next day, and led his troops back into the camp. Lord Hamilton expostulated with him on the impolicy of this step, and inquired whether it was the Earl’s intention to fight or not. Douglas answered contemptuously, ‘If you are tired you may depart when you please.’ Hamilton immediately took him at his word, and that night passed over to the King, with all the troops under his command. His example was so generally followed by the other insurgent leaders, that before morning the camp of Douglas was almost entirely deserted. The unfortunate noble, thus abandoned by his friends, broke up his encampment and fled to the wilds of Annandale.

James followed up his success by vigorous measures for the complete overthrow of the house of Douglas, and in a short time reduced and dismantled their strongholds—Douglas Castle itself, and the fortresses of Strathaven, Thrieve, Lochendorb, and Darnaway. Meanwhile the Earl himself had fled into England. But his three brothers, the Earls of Ormond and Moray and Lord Balveny, collected a numerous army on the Borders and plundered and laid waste the country. They were encountered at Arkinholme, near Langholm, by the Earl of Angus with a powerful force composed of the Scotts, Maxwells, and Johnstones, who until lately had been the vassals of Douglas. After a fierce conflict, the insurgents were totally routed. The Earl of Moray was killed, Ormond was wounded and taken prisoner and shortly after executed, and Balveny alone made his escape into England. At a meeting of Parliament, held in June, 1455, the Earl of Douglas and his mother and brothers were declared traitors; their estates were forfeited to the Crown, and were shortly afterwards distributed among the barons who had so opportunely deserted their side, and joined the King in this desperate struggle.

In the following year the Earl of Douglas succeeded in collecting a considerable force, and, along with the Earl of Northumberland, made an inroad into the Merse of Berwickshire. But he was encountered and defeated with great loss by the Earl of Angus. He again took refuge in England, where he remained in exile for nearly thirty years. He was cordially welcomed by the Duke of York, then Regent of the kingdom, and received from him a pension of five hundred pounds a year, ‘to be continued to him until he should be restored to his possessions, or the greater part of them, by the person who then called himself the King of the Scots.’

In 1483 the banished Earl, accompanied by the Duke of Albany, brother of James III., made a final effort to regain his lost power and position. Having made a vow that they would present an offering on the high altar of Lochmaben upon St. Magdalen’s day (July 2 2nd), Albany and he advanced to Burnswark, in the vicinity of that burgh, at the head of five hundred horse, expecting to be joined by the tenantry and vassals of the Douglas family in that district. In this, however, they were grievously disappointed, and after a stubborn conflict with a number of the Border barons and their retainers, they were defeated. Albany escaped by the swiftness of his horse, but the aged Earl of Douglas was taken prisoner by a son of Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, who had at one time been his own vassal. Kirkpatrick shed tears at the sight of his old master’s distress, and offered to set him at liberty and flee with him into England. But Douglas was weary of exile, and rejecting the generous offer, informed his captor that he was now resigned to his fate. The King (James III.) had offered a grant of a hundred-pound land for his person. ‘I have fought long against my fortune,’ said Douglas to his captor; ‘I will rather that ye, whom I knew to be faithful to me as long as I did anything that was likely for myself, should have the benefit thereby than any other; wherefore take me and deliver me to the King, according to his proclamation. But see thou beest sure he keep his word before thou deliver me.’ ‘Hereupon,’ says Godscroft, ‘Kirkpatrick conveyed him secretly out of the field and kept him some few days in a poor cottage until he had spoken with the King. James granted him the life of the Earl, and gave him the lands of Kirkmichael, in Dumfriesshire.’ When Douglas was brought into the royal presence, he turned his back upon the son of James II., the destroyer of his house. The years and misfortunes of the aged noble seem to have excited the compassion of the King, who merely commanded him to take up his residence in the Abbey of Lindores. The once-powerful head of the house of Douglas, who had undergone such strange alternations of fortune, submitted calmly to this sentence, only remarking, in the words of a popular proverb, ‘He that may no better be must be a monk.’ Towards the close of the reign of James an unsuccessful attempt was made by the malcontent nobles to induce the aged Earl to quit his monastic retreat to take part in another conflict with the regal power from which he had so long and so severely suffered, no doubt with the prospect held out to him of restoration to his honours and estates. But the infirmities of old age or the weariness of a broken spirit made him decline to leave the retirement in which he had now learned, it is said, to think less of time than of eternity. He even did all he could to dissuade them from taking up arms against the King. James himself, in his extremity, entreated Douglas to give him the benefit of his counsel and assistance in the contest with the disaffected nobles. The Earl, who was well aware that the King was accused of being ‘more diligent in conqueising money than the hearts of his subjects,’ replied to his sovereign’s solicitations, ‘You have kept me and your black coffer in Stirling too long under lock and key to be of use to you.’

After a residence of five years in Lindores Abbey, the Earl died there on the 15th of April, 1488, and with him expired the main line of that great house, whose rank and power, gained by the unwavering loyalty and invaluable services of its founders and early heads, were forfeited through the ambition and treasonable practices of its later chiefs. The earldom had lasted for ninety-eight years, making an average of only eleven years to each possessor of the title.

The vast estates of the family were forfeited to the Crown, and divided among the nobles who had contributed to the overthrow of this formidable house. Lord Hamilton was rewarded with large grants of land for his opportune desertion of his kinsman at Abercorn; Sir Walter Scott, of Kirkurd and Buccleuch, was similarly recompensed for his services at the battle of Arkinholme; but by far the greater share fell to the Earl of Angus, who, though the representative of one of the chief branches of the Douglas family, had sided with the King against its head. Hence arose the common saying, referring to the different complexion of the two branches of the house, that ‘the Red Douglas had put down the Black.’ The Angus Douglases very soon pursued the same ambitious policy as their kinsfolk of the elder branch, and became not much less formidable to the independence of the Crown and the tranquillity of the country.


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