William Douglas, 7th Earl of Morton

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names

William Duchess of Argyll   


William Douglas, 7th Earl of Morton (1582 – 7 August 1648) was a grandson of the 6th Earl of Morton.  (His father, Robert Douglas, Master of Morton, had disappeared whilst travelling c1585) He was Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, and a zealous Royalist, who, on the outbreak of the Great Rebellion in 1642, provided £100,000 for the cause by selling his Dalkeith estates to the Earl of Buccleuch. He also expanded his other seat, Aberdour Castle in Fife, with a Renaissance-style east wing.

He succeeded to the Earldom on the death of his grandfather in 1606, soon afterwards he was made Privy Councillor and a Gentleman of the Chamber to James VI, in which office he was continued by Charles I. He commanded the Scots regiment of three thousand men in the Rochelle expedition of the Duke of Buckingham in 1627. On the demission of the Earl of Mar in 12 April 1630 he was made Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, and when he resigned it in 1635, he was made 23rd Captain of The Sovereign's Body Guard - 1635-1643 (Yeoman of the Guard), invested with the Order of the Garter, and sworn a Privy Councillor in England.

He accompanied King Charles on his visit to Edinburgh in 1633, devoting himself to the King’s interests, and humouring his Scottish policy, he enjoyed his confidence in regard to Scottish affairs, even after he had demitted the office of Lord High Treasurer. He was one of the commissioners who accompanied the Lyon King-at-Arms to the Scottish camp in 1639, to witness the declaration of the King’s proclamation and was also appointed to assist in arranging the treaty at Ripon in October 1640. When the King opened the Scottish parliament Morton accompanied him in the procession to the house but as he had not signed the covenant he was one of the noblemen excluded from entering the room. On the 18 October however, he subscribed to the covenant and took his seat.

On 20 September the King nominated him for the chancellorship but his nomination was vehemently objected to by his son-in-law, the Earl of Argyll, afterwards Marquis, on the grounds that such an office might shelter him from his creditors, that he was a contemptuous rebel and often at the horn (a drinker), that he deserted his country in her greatest need and the he was ‘decrepit and unable’. On the outbreak of the civil war he aided the King by the advance of large sums of money, disposing for this purpose of the castle of Dalkeith to the Buccleuch family. On this account he had a charter 15 June 1643, of the islands of Orkney and Shetland, with the regalities belonging to them redeemable by the crown on the payment to him of £30,000 sterling. In 1644 a commission of judiciary was granted to him by parliament for Orkney and Shetland for three years from 1 August. He went to wait on Charles I in 1646 when he took refuge with the Scotch army, and after Charles was given up to parliament he retired to Orkney.

On 28 March 1604, he married Lady Anne Keith, a daughter of the George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal and they had ten children:

Lady Margaret Douglas (1610–1678), married the 1st Marquess of Argyll and had issue.
Lady Anne Douglas (d. 1667), married the 2nd Earl of Kinnoull and had issue.
Robert Douglas, 8th Earl of Morton (d. 1649)
Lady Mary Douglas, married the 2nd Earl of Dunfermline and had issue.
James Douglas, 10th Earl of Morton (d. 1686)
Lady Isabel Douglas (d. 1650), married the 2nd Marquess of Montrose and had issue.
Nicholas Douglas (d.1686), married
Jean Douglas, married James (3rd Earl Home) Home, parents of the 4th, 5th and 6th Earls.
Agnes Douglas, married George (2nd Earl of Kinnoull) Hay

He died at the castle of Kirkwall in March 1649-50, his Countess, Agnes Keith dying on the 30 May. Both were buried at Kirkwall.

•  William Douglas was the 7th or 8th Earl of Morton and Lord High Treasurer of Scotland and the only son of Robert Douglas the 6th or 7th Earl. This uncertainty can occur when the current hold of the title and his heir die together, generally in battle. Uncertainty as to whom died before whom creates this dilemma, eg father and eldest son are on the battlefield; father is the 5th Earl and is killed; automatically his eldest son becomes the 6th Earl, but he too is killed; so long as their deaths have occurred in that order there is a natural progression and the title carries on to the 7th Earl. The problem arises where it is uncertain who died first. The next in line for the title may well become the 6th Earl if it was his elder brother that died before his father....confused? Well how do you think William Douglas felt not knowing if he was the 7th or 8th Earl!)
•  John Maxwell, 9th Lord Maxwell (c. 1586–1613), a descendant of the 3rd Earl, also claimed the earldom of Morton, but was attainted in 1609 and his rights then failed, his titles and estates being restored in 1618 to his brother Robert, with the title of Earl of Nithsdale (1620) in lieu of Morton.



Sources for this article include:
  • The Genealogy of the Existing British Peerage, Edmund Lodge, 1832

    Any contributions will be gratefully accepted

    Back to top


    The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

    The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

    As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

    Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

    Contact Us

    Last modified: Thursday, 16 January 2020