The Black and Red Douglases

The Scottish family of Douglas was divided into two distinct factions as a result of the death of James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas at the battle of Otterburn in 1388. The title of Earl of Douglas passed to his cousin Archibald Douglas, the llegitimate son of the 'Good Sir James' Douglas, uncle of the 1st Earl, whose descendants became known as the Black Douglasses. Shortly afterwards the illegitimate son of the first Douglas earl (and half brother to the deceased James) was created Earl of Angus, whose descendants became known as the Red Douglasses.

The two Douglas lines came into conflict in the mid fifteenth century, when the Red Douglas line of Angus supported James II in his attempt to supress the infuence of the Black Douglasses. King James was succesful in this endeavour and after victory at the battle of Arkinholm on the 1st May 1455 the title Earl of Douglas became extinct. The dignity of Douglas thereafter remained vacant until the year 1633 when it was revived in favour of William Douglas, 11th Earl of Angus was created Marquess of Douglas by Charles I.

The title of Marquess of Douglas therefore represents a continuation of the dignity of Douglas, previously held by the Black Douglases and simultaneously a continuation of the Red Douglas line of the Earls of Angus.

The Marquesses of Douglas

William Douglas became the 11th Earl of Angus on the death of his father on the 3rd March 1611 and as a loyal and consistent supporter of both James I and Charles I was rewarded when he was created Lord Abernerthy and Jedburgh Forest, Earl of Angus (again) and Marquess of Douglas on the 14th June 1633. In 1644 William joined the Marquess of Montrose when he raised a Royalist 'rebellion' in the highlands against the Covenanters who had taken control of the Scottish government. He later fought at the battle of Philiphaugh, but escaped capture after that defeat, only to be later taken prisoner in April 1646. He was held at Edinburgh Castle, and was only released in the following year when he agreed to sign the Covenant. In 1654 he was fined £1,000 by Cromwell's Act of Grace but managed to live out the next few years fairly peacably before his death on the 19th February 1660.

The 1st Marquess was twice married, his first wife being Margaret Hamilton, daughter of Claud Hamilton, 1st Lord Paisley and his second Mary Gordon, daughter of George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly. Each of his two wives bore him two sons who survived infancy.

His eldest son of all, Archibald Douglas, known as the Earl of Angus until 1651 when he was created Earl of Ormond, predeceased his father on the 16th April 1655, whilst the younger of the two boys from his first marriage James Douglas had died some ten years previously on the 21st October 1645. As regards the sons from his second marriage; the oldest William Douglas was created Earl of Selkirk in 1646 and later became Duke of Hamilton as a result of his marriage in 1656 to the heiress and Anne Hamilton, whilst George Douglas, the youngest was created Earl of Dumbarton in 1675.

Despite his early death Archibald Douglas, 1st Earl of Ormond had sufficient time to marry and produce offspring and so it was Archibald's son James Douglas who succeeded his grandfather as Marquess in 1660.

James Douglas the 2nd Marquess, married Barbara Erskine a daughter of the 9th Lord Erskine who bore him a son named John Douglas. This John who was known under his courtesy title as the Earl of Angus, organised his own regiment which served under William III in the War of the Grand Alliance during which he was killed at the battle of Steinkirk on the 3rd August 1692. With the death of his eldest and at the time only son, James therefore took a second wife in Mary Kerr, daughter of William Kerr, 1st Marquess of Lothian on the 13th December 1692. Mary bore him two sons and a daughter and whilst William, the elder of the two boys, died in infancy, the younger named Archibald survived.

The Duke of Douglas

Therefore it was Archibald Douglas, known as the 'Earl of Angus' following the death of his older brother William in 1695, who succeeded to the title of Marquess of Douglas on his father's death on the 25th February 1700.

The 3rd Marquess Archibald was only five years old at the time of his succession but within another three years and on the 10th April 1703 he was created Duke of Douglas together with the additional titles of Marquess of Angus and Abernethy, Viscount of Jedburgh Forest and Lord Douglas of Bonkill, Prestoun and Robertoun. Since Archibald was only eight at the time this was scarcely a reward for any services provided by the young Marquess and more a case of purchasing the loyalty of the Douglases and steering them away from Jacobitism.

The point appears to have been taken as Archibald was a consistent supporter of the Hanoverian regime, fought at the battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715 and was later a staunch supporter of the government during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Although Archibald did marry, he left it rather late in life to do so, and it was not until the age of sixty-three that he finally married Margaret Douglas the daughter of James Douglas of Mains on the the 1st March 1758. As might be expected this marriage failed to produce any heirs, and so with Archibald's death on the 21st July 1761 the title of Duke of Douglas, together with all the subsidiary titles created in 1703 became extinct.

However all his inherited titles, namely those of the Marquess of Douglas, Earl of Angus and Lord Abernethy and Jedburgh Forest passed to the descendants of the aformentioned William Douglas, Earl of Selkirk specifically in the form of the young James George Douglas-Hamilton, 7th Duke of Hamilton. The 7th Duke of Hamilton was however to be disappointed as although he received his kinsman's titles he failed to receive his assets, as shortly before he died the Duke of Douglas altered his will in favour of his surviving nephew, Archibald James Edward Stewart.

This Archibald Stewart was the son of the Duke's sister Jane Douglas and a John Stewart of Grandtully. Or so it was said, as the precise ancestry of Archibald remains an open question. The Douglas-Hamiltons were not happy and attempted unsuccessfully to have this disposition overturned by law, but in the end Archibald Stewart got his money, became Archibald Douglas and obtained his own peerage title as the Baron Douglas of Douglas.

So the Duke of Hamilton had to be content with a few additions to his portfolio of peerage titles, and that of the Marquess of Douglas continues to be held by the Dukes of Hamilton to this day (The current and 15th Duke of Hamilton is also the 12th Marquess of Douglas.) Since the Dukes of Hamilton also hold the title of Marquess of Clydesdale, since inheriting the marquessate of Douglas they have become accustomed to adopting the style 'Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale' as the courtesy title for the eldest son and heir apparent. Thus the current son and heir of the Duke of Hamilton, Alexander Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, is known as the 'Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale'.

including one Duke of Douglas


As Marquess of Douglas

As Duke of Douglas


As Marquess of Douglas

Thereafter held as a subsidiary title by the Duke of Hamilton.


  • The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for DOUGLAS, EARLS OF
  • History of the Douglas Family at
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
  • A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at
  • Stirnet Genealogy at
  • The Peerages of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom at

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