House of Douglas
Clan Douglas, sometimes referred to as the House of Douglas, is an ancient family from the Scottish Lowlands taking its name from Douglas, in South Lanarkshire, spreading through the Scottish Borderland, Angus, Lothian and beyond. The clan does not currently have a chief, therefore it is considered an Armigerous clan.
It was said of the Douglases, “Men have seen the stream, but who has seen the source?”
- Crest: See profile image
- Gaelic Name: Dubhghlas
- Motto: Jamais Arriere (Never behind)
- Origin of Tartan:In Gaelic, dubh means black, and glas means grey. The Douglas tartan uses these shades.
- Septs (sub-branches) of the Douglas clan include Drysdale, Lockerbie and Morton.
- Seat: Lanarkshire, Galloway, Dumfriesshire and Angus. The original seat was Douglas Castle in Lanarkshire, but they have spread to many properties throughout Southern and North-Eastern Scotland.
The chiefs held the titles of the Earl of Douglas, and following their forfeiture the chieftancy devolved upon the Earl of Angus. The 4th Earl of Morton held the chieftaincy during the 16th century, the Earldom of Morton was then a subsidiary title of the 8th Earl of Angus after the 4th Earl’s forfeiture and death in 1581.
Archibald Douglas, the first Duke of Douglas, was the last chief of the Clan Douglas. He died on June 21, 1761 and the title passed to James, the 7th Duke of Hamilton. The Dukes of Hamilton, whose family name is Douglas-Hamilton, are heir to the chiefdom of Clan Douglas, but cannot assume the title because the Lord Lyon King of Arms requires the duke to assume the single name Douglas.
Origins of the name
The name originates from the place name Douglas, Lanark ( Black stream)
In Gaelic, dubh means black, and glas means grey.
The Douglas tartan uses these shades.
The earliest recorded Douglas appears to be
whose name appears as a witness to charters between 1175 and 1211 around Lanarkshire.
William’s son was
founded the senior cadet branch of the Douglas family.
Sir William "le Hardi" Douglas, 3rd Lord of Douglas
who fought with William Wallace and died in the Tower of London,
was father of
The Good Sir James Douglas,
or Black Douglas, who was was a Captain under Robert the Bruce in the War of Independence and is held as the third of Scotland’s finest patriots after Bruce and William Wallace.
During these times the house of Douglas had expanded in its power and properties. Sir James Douglas was killed by the Moors of Spain in 1330 while attempting to reach the Holy Lands, where his King, Robert, had requested on his deathbed that his heart be buried.
The son of Sir James Douglas the Good,
William IV, Lord of Douglas was slain at the battle of Halidon Hill by the English in 1333, as was William IV, Lord of Douglas Sir Archibald "The Tyneman" Douglas.
So it was Archibald’s son Sir William "le Hardi" Douglas, 5th Lord of Douglas who became the first Earl of Douglas in 1358, and also Earl of Mar through marriage. When he was killed at Otterburn in 1388 the second proper line of the Black Douglases had ended.
Sir James had also left an illegitimate son, Archibald the Grim, who took his half-brother’s place and became the 3rd Earl of Douglas. He was well respected and died in 1400.
His son, Archibald Douglas, the 4th Earl, died fighting the English with France’s Charles VII and his young grandsons were tricked and murdered in Edinburgh Castle by family enemies.
James, the 7th Earl, was a violent man and created many enemies, to his sons’ cost. The 8th Earl was stabbed to death by King James II. Three years later the King accused the family of treason and the earldom and entire estates of the Black Douglases were decimated.
References, Sources and Further Reading