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. However, it is more likely that they were descendants of Flemish immigrants to Scotland, during the reign of David I. 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.
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.
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. 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