James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas

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James Douglas

Also Known As: "Bishop of Aberdeen", "3rd Earl of Avondale"
Birthplace: Scotland
Death: July 14, 1488 (61-62)
Lindores Abbey, Newburgh, Fife, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Immediate Family:

Son of Sir James "The Gross" Douglas, VII Earl of Douglas, Earl of Balvany & I Earl of Avondalea and Beatrix (Bethoc) Sinclair, Countess of Douglas
Husband of Anne de Holland, Lady Neville and Margaret Stewart, Fair Maid of Galloway
Brother of Elizabeth Douglas; Janet Douglas; William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas; Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray; Beatrice Douglas, Countess of Erroll and 3 others

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About James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas


James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas, 3rd Earl of Avondale KG (1426–1488) was a Scottish nobleman, last of the 'Black' earls of Douglas. He was a twin, the older by a few minutes, the younger was Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray.

He succeeded to the earldom on the murder of his brother William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas by King James II and his entourage. He denounced his brother's murderers and took up arms against the king, and he and his brothers attacked Stirling, driving a horse through the town with the safe conduct given to William attached to its tail. He was forced to back down when some allies deserted him.

He obtained a papal dispensation to marry his brother's widow, Margaret Douglas, Fair Maid of Galloway, in order to keep the family estates together. (It is not entirely clear that this marriage ever took place, but it was certainly planned.) He was involved in intrigues with the English court, and in 1455 rebelled against James II once more.

Meanwhile another branch of the Douglas family, known as the Red Douglases, had risen into importance, and George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus, great-grandson of the first earl of Douglas, took sides with the king against the Earl of Douglas. Douglas, again deserted by his chief allies, fled to England, and his three younger brothers, Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde, Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray, and John Douglas, Lord of Balvenie, were defeated at the Battle of Arkinholm, near Langholm on the Esk, possibly by Angus. Moray was killed, Ormonde taken prisoner and executed, and Balvenie escaped to England. Their last stronghold, Threave Castle in Galloway, fell. James Douglas was attainted in 1455, and his lands and estates were forfeit to the crown. The lands of the Douglases were divided among their rivals, the lordship of Douglas falling to the Red Douglas 4th earl of Angus.

From England, the earl of Douglas continued to intrigue against James III of Scotland; he was employed by Edward IV in 1461 to negotiate a league at Ardtornish with the western highlanders to take the nine-year old's kingdom for England.

At some point he was made a Knight of the Garter. Following his attainder his first wife divorced him (if they ever married) so he married again to Anne Holland, daughter of John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter.

In 1484 he was taken prisoner at the battle of Lochmaben Fair, and was relegated to Lindores Abbey, where he died in 1488.

Biographical Summary

"James, ninth Earl of Douglas, was a twin with his brother Archibald, and the latter appears to have been for a time treated as the elder ; but in 1447 Beatrix, Countess of Douglas, made a formal attestation, declaring James to be the elder, and from that time he was styled Master of Douglas...

...The date of the Earl's decease has been assigned to 15 April 1488, but Godscroft has it that he survived the death of King James III. on 11 June 1488, and this is proved by the fact that as James Douglas, Knight, he had in Scotland a pension of 200 yearly from King James IV., which was paid at least until Whitsunday 1491, and soon after that date the Earl died.

The ninth Earl of Douglas had two wives, but had issue by neither. He married, first, his kinswoman, Margaret Douglas, daughter of the fifth Earl of Douglas, and also widow of his brother the eighth Earl. A dispensation was issued from Rome on 26 February 1452-53, and though doubt has been cast on the reality of the marriage, she is described as his Countess in various charters and other writs. She had with her mother-in-law, and John Douglas of Balvany, a safe-conduct to England 26 June 1454 or 1455. After her husband's forfeiture she appears to have been with him in England until 1459, when they separated, probably in terms of a divorce, and she came to Scotland with letters to King James II., which obtained for her a favourable reception. In 1460 she married the King's half-brother, John Stewart, Earl of Atholl, and was dead or divorced before 1476.

The Earl married, secondly, Anne, daughter of John Holland, Duke of Exeter, relict to two John Nevills, nephew and uncle, and mother of Ralph Nevill, third Earl of Westmorland. Her second husband died in 1461, but when she married Douglas is uncertain. She predeceased him, dying on 26 December 1486."

SOURCE: The Scots peerage, Vol. III, page 178


Father James "The Gross" Douglas, 7th Earl of Douglas, Earl of Avondale, d. 24 Mar 1443

Mother Beatrix Sinclair, d. Yes, date unknown

Family 1 Margaret (Beatrix) "Fair Maid Of Galloway" Douglas, b. 1430, d. Bef 19 Apr 1475 (Age 45 years)

Family 2 Anne Holland,


   Upon the murder of his brother, William, the 8th Earl of Douglas, James left his duties as Bishop of Aberdeen to assume the Earldom and avenge his brother. He rode, with a column of several hundred, to Stirling and burned the town. King James II gave chase with an army of thirty thousand. The 9th Earl recognized the futility of his situation and surrendered to the King. He was obliged to formally forgive James II, but nursed his animosity until 1455 when he again marched on Stirling with an army of forty thousand. The King's army, ironically led by George, 4th Earl of Angus, a Douglas kinsmen from the Red Douglas line, took the field against him with a numerically equal force. On the eve of the battle the Lord Hamilton defected with his troops to the King's cause, tilting the advantage away from Douglas. In the resultant Battle of Arkinholm the power of the Black Douglases was broken. The Earl escaped capture and fled to England with one brother, Balveny. His other brothers did not fare as well. Moray fell in the battle, and Ormond was captured and executed. All Douglas holdings were declared forfeit and Douglas strongholds were besieged with heavy gun and ultimately taken. Tradition holds that King James II employed his most prized weapon, Mons Meg, to reduce the Douglas strongholds at Albecorn and Threave.
   The 9th Earl made a futile attempt to regain his power a number of years later, but he was captured and banished to Lindores Abbey where he died in 1488. With the passing of the 9th Earl, the line of the Black Earls of Douglas failed.
   Douglases, however, continued to be influential in Scottish history in the lines of the Red Douglases , Douglases of Morton, and the Douglases of Queensberry.
   2 - in 1461, Edward IV of England negotiated with John Macdonald, successor to Alexander as Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross, to attack from the north, while the     attainted Earl of Douglas backed by English forces attacked from the south.
   The attempt failed when Douglas was defeated in 1463 by a force led by   Bishop Kennedy.


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James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas's Timeline

July 14, 1488
Age 62
Lindores Abbey, Newburgh, Fife, Scotland (United Kingdom)