Clan Douglas
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Douglas Clan Crest
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Douglas Clan

Douglas Clan Crest: On a chapeau, a green salamander surrounded by fire.

Douglas Clan Motto: Jamais Arriere (Never behind).

Douglas Clan History:

This is a family which became, next to the Royal House of Stewart, the most powerful and influential dynasty in Scotland. The first of the name to be recorded is William de Douglas, who lived in the 12th century and witnessed a Charter by the Bishop of Glasgow, and a second Charter from William the Lion, around the year 1200. In 1263, two sons of Sir William de Douglas fought for Alexander III against the Norse at the Battle of Largs.

Having been held prisoner by the English, William Douglas, Governor of Berwick, was a follower of Sir William Wallace in the ongoing conflict for Scottish independence.  Sir James 'The Good' Douglas, son of William and Founder of the Black Douglas Dynasty, was a supporter of Robert the Bruce and was knighted on the eve of the Battle of Bannockburn. It was he who led the group of nobles who carried the Bruce's heart on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was killed at the Battle of Teba in Spain in 1330.

Sir James's younger brother, Sir Archibald, was Guardian of the Realm in the minority of David II, and Sir James's nephew, Sir William, was created 1st Earl of Douglas in 1358. The 2nd Earl of Douglas married Isabel Stewart, daughter of Robert II, and died at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388. He left no legitimate male heir, and his natural sons, William and Archibald, became the ancestors of the families of Douglas of Drumlanrig and Douglas of Cavers. Meanwhile, the earldom and entailed estates of Douglas reverted to Archibald "The Grim" Douglas, cousin of the 1st Earl. Archibald, 4th Earl of Douglas, married Margaret Stewart, James I's sister, and on the King's death became Lieutenant General of the Kingdom.  He fought against the English in France and in 1424, was made Duke of Touraine. Both he and his son were killed in that country at the Battle of Verneuil in August 1424.
By this stage, however, the seemingly limitless power of the Douglas family in Scotland was causing concern to supporters of their Stewart cousins. In 1440, the young 6th Earl of Douglas and his brother were invited to dine with the 10-year-old James II at Edinburgh Castle, whereupon they were accused of treason and executed. Twelve years later, the 8th Earl was invited to Stirling Castle by the King and he too was murdered.
Another of Sir James 'The Good' Douglas's nephews was George, 1st Earl of Angus, founder of the Red Douglas Dynasty. In 1397, he married Mary Stewart, daughter of Robert III. In 1482, Archibald, 5th Earl of Angus, achieved notoriety for murdering the favourites of James II in an incident at Lauder, thereafter earning himself the title of 'Bell the Cat.' He was subsequently was appointed Lord Chancellor of Scotland, and his grandson, the 6th Earl of Angus, became Guardian of James V, when he married the King's mother, Queen Margaret, widow of James IV. Their daughter was Lady Margaret Douglas, who married the Earl of Lennox. Their grandson, Lord Darnley, married Mary Queen of Scots and was the father of James VI of Scotland, I of England.

William, 11th Earl of Angus, a loyal supporter of Charles I, and was created Marquis of Douglas in 1633 by Charles II. Archibald, 3rd Marquis, was created Duke of Douglas in 1703, but having no children, the marquisate and earldom devolved to the Duke of Hamilton, while the Douglas estates, following the notorious Douglas Cause law suit, passed to his nephew and heir of line, Archibald Steuart, to whom the armorial bearings and Douglas Chiefship were awarded by Lyon Decree in 1771. Archibald was created Lord Douglas of Douglas in 1790, but on the death of the 4th Lord Douglas in 1857, the estates devolved upon Lady Elizabeth Douglas, Countess of Home, whose descendants carry the feudal Barony of Douglas.
The earldom of Morton was created in 1456 for James Douglas, Lord of Dalkeith, sharing a common ancestry with the earls of Douglas. James, 4th Earl of Morton (c1516 – 81), was Chancellor to Mary Queen of Scots, but dismissed for his role in the murder of the Queen's secretary, David Rizzio. He was Regent from 1572, but later executed for having had foreknowledge of the murder of Lord Darnley.

John Douglas (1494-1574) was born in Pittenweem and, in 1572, became the first Protestant Archibishop of St Andrews. David Douglas (1798-1834) was born in Perthshire and, in his extensive travels as a botanist, gave his name to the Douglas Spruce.  He was killed by a wild bull in the Sandwich Islands.  Sir William Douglas Bt. (d.1809) amassed a fortune trading with Virginia, USA, and had the town of Carlingwark erected into a Burgh of Barony as Castle Douglas.  Sir William Fettes Douglas (1822-91), himself  an accomplished painter, was Curator of the National Gallery of Scotland.

Places of Interest:

Blackhouse Tower, on the Douglas Burn of the Yarrow Water, Selkirkshire.  Stronghold of Sir James 'The Good' Douglas, friend of Robert the Bruce. Today a ruin.

Hermitage Castle, Newcastleton, Roxburghshire. Fourteenth century stronghold of Douglas family; later owned by Earl of Bothwell.

Drochil Castle, near Biggar, Lanarkshire.  Built for the Regent Morton in 1570. Now a ruin.

Drumlanrig, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire. Lands confirmed on the Douglas family in 1412 by James I. Douglas of Drumlanrig rose to become Duke of Queensberry, but on the death of the 3rd Duke, the ducal title passed to the earls of March and, in 1810, to the dukes of Buccleuch.  

Threave Castle, Castle Douglas, Dumfriesshire. Built during 14th century by Archibald 'The Grim', 3rd Earl of Douglas, Lord of Galloway.

Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife. Fourteenth century castle held by Douglas earls of Morton. Accidentally burned in 18th century.

Tantallon Castle, North Berwick, East Lothian. An almost impregnable cliff-top castle held by Douglas earls of Angus. Oliver Cromwell's General Monck was the first to take Tantallon in 1651 after twelve days of bombardment. It fell into decay in 1699, but is now in the care of Historic Scotland.

Loch Leven Castle, Loch Leven, Kinross. Property of Sir William Douglas of Loch Leven when Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner here 1567-68.

Bothwell Castle, between Bothwell and Uddingston, South Lanarkshire. This mighty thirteenth century Moray stronghold was rebuilt by the Black Douglases. The magnificent Douglas constructed great hall and chapel survive to this day. Bothwell castle is now cared for by Historic Scotland.

Associated family names (Septs): Cavers, Dick, Dickey, Dickie, Douglass, Drysdale, Forest, Forrest, Glendinning, Inglis, Kirkpatrick, Lockerby, MacGuffie, MacGuffock, Morton, Sandilands.

Surname distribution in Scotland: The Douglas surname is most commonly found in Highland (Caithness, Inverness-shire, Nairnshire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and small areas of Argyllshire and Morayshire), the Scottish Borders (Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and part of Midlothian) and Dumfries and Galloway (Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire).

Clan Douglas membership certificates.


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