Earl of Douglas

Undifferenced arms of the Lord of Douglas, post 1330
Hermitage Castle, stone castle built by 1st Earl, and held by the Douglases from the mid-14th until the late 15th century
Tantallon Castle, built by the 1st Earl of Douglas, and held by the Red Douglases from 1389 until 1699
"Earl Douglas" redirects here; for the American radio personality see Earl Douglas (radio)

This page is concerned with the holders of the forfeit title Earl of Douglas and the preceding feudal barons of Douglas, South Lanarkshire. The title was created in the Peerage of Scotland in 1358 for William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, son of Sir Archibald Douglas, Guardian of Scotland. The Earldom was forfeited by James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas in 1455.

Origins

Mythic beginnings

The Earls of Douglas, chiefs of Clan Douglas, and their successors claimed descent from Sholto Douglas, a mythical figure dated by Godscroft to 767 AD.[1] However, it is more likely that they were descendants of Flemish immigrants to Scotland, during the reign of David I.[2] Through the marriage of William the Hardy, grandfather of the 1st Earl, to Eleanor de Lovaine, the Earls of Douglas could trace their ancestry to the Landgraves of Brabant. In the story of Sholto Douglas, his son William Douglas is a commander of forces sent by the mythical Scottish king Achaius (Eochaid?), to the court of Charlemagne to aid him in his wars against Desiderius, King of the Lombards. William Douglas is said to have settled in Piacenza where his descendants became powerful local magnates under the name Scotti/Scoto, and eventual leaders of the Guelf faction of that city.[3]

Historicity

Comparison between pre-1330 Douglas (L) and Moray (R) Arms
The arms of the Earl of Douglas stained glass in the King's Old Building, Stirling Castle

The first Douglas on record in Scotland is William I, Lord of Douglas (c. 1174-1214), where he was witness to a charter of bishop Jocelin of Glasgow in 1198, where he signed "Will. de Dufglas" in what can only be a territorial designation.[4] It can be deduced however, that there was a connection to the House of Moray and its progenitor, Freskin, Lord of Duffus, insofar as the later blazon of both Houses both contained three stars argent on a field azure; further in a document pertaining to Bricius de Douglas, William of Douglas's son and Bishop of Moray, he refers to his avunculus Freskin of Kerdal, an unusual name for the time in Scotland.[5] This connection with the Morays can be later attested in a rhyme penned by Andrew of Wyntoun around the time of the marriage of Archibald the Grim to Johanna de Moravia the Moray heiress, of which further below:

"Of Murrawe and the Douglas,
How that thare begynnyng was,
Syn syndry spekis syndryly
I can put that in na story.
But in thare armeyis bath thai bere
The sternys[stars] set in lyke manere;
Til mony men it is yhit sene
Apperand lyk that had bene
Of kyn be descens lyneale
Or be branchys collaterele[6]