Douglas of Spynie
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A collection of people of, associated with or from Spynie, and notes relating to them.
The genealogy of this branch has yet to be determined.
When Episcopacy was restored in 1606, Alexander Douglas, minister
at Elgin, was made Bishop, and held the See for 17 years. He seems
to have resided at Elgin, and but little at Spynie, which continued
under the management of Innes of Cotts, the Constable of the Palace
and Regality. He conveyed the lands of Spynie, as well as Morriston
and Burgh Briggs, to his son, Alexander Douglas, retaining for
himself and his successors only the precinct round the palace.
Alexander Douglas, the Bishop's son, is said to have married Mary
Innes, and died, when Provost of Banff, in 1669.
During the Commonwealth, Cromwell sent deputies into the islands of Orkney and Shetland, who committed great irregularities, particularly in the clandestine alteration of the weights and measures. Charles II. restored episcopacy, and commanded the rents of the church lands to be paid to the bishop. As the family of Morton was then in embarrassed circumstances, the possession of the crown lands was committed in trust for the family to George, Viscount Grandison, who appointed Alexander Douglas of Spynie as factor to receive the crown rents of the islands, and to grant feu charters. Spynie's mission to Shetland is well remembered ; for he was instructed to dispute the validity of all tenures which did not depend on confirmations from the crown; and as many of the recent settlers possessed only dispositions and sasines from the old udallers, which they expected would have been at least preferable to the despised .shynd-bill, they were likewise compelled to make up new titles as vassals to the king. From this period, then, may be dated the complete subversion of the ancient laws of the country. The udallers now abandoned for ever the open space of the lawting, where, beneath no other canopy than the sky, their fathers had met to legislate for at least six centuries. They were henceforward required, as vassals of the crown, to give suit and presence at the courts held within some covered hall at Kirkwall and Scalloway.
The right of representation in parliament, bestowed on the people of Orkney,—for, till the late Reform Act, those of Shetland were denied the privilege of sharing in the election of a member of the British senate, and which right was necessarily exercised under the Scottish law regulating freehold qualifications,—likewise entailed on the former, in the most complete manner, all the forms of feudal conveyancings, and thus caused them farther to seek an alteration of the usages of their forefathers.
In the reign of Queen Anne, the Morton family acquired still larger and less qualified grants of the islands, and especially their vice-admiralty, and the right of patronage to all the churches ; and, in 1742, the Earl of Morton obtained from parliament a discharge of the claim of reversion previously competent to the crown: but, in the year 1776, the earl found this property so troublesome to him, from the vexatious lawsuits in which it had involved him, that he sold his entire rights over Orkney and Shetland for the sum of £60,000 to Sir Lawrence Dundas. The Earl of Zetland, whose father, Lord Dundas (lately deceased), obtained this title, is now lord-lieutenant of the Stewartry. The islands pay their proportion of the land-tax, and in every other respect have become subject to British laws, their internal administration being committed to the sheriffs and justices of peace.
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Last modified: Friday, 12 September 2014