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Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus






Archibald, 6th earl of AngusArchibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus (c. 1489-1557), son of George, Master of Douglas, who was killed at Flodden, succeeded on his grandfather's death.

In 1509 he had married Margaret (d. 1513), daughter of Patrick Hepburn, 1st Earl of Bothwell; and in 1514 he married the queen dowager Margaret of Scotland, widow of James IV., and eldest sister of Henry VIII. By this latter act he stirred up the jealousy of the nobles and the opposition of the French party, and civil war broke out.

He was superseded in the government on the arrival of John Stewart, duke of Albany, who was made regent. Angus withdrew to his estates in Forfarshire, while Albany besieged the queen at Stirling and got possession of the royal children; then he joined Margaret after her flight at Morpeth, and on her departure for London returned and made his peace with Albany in 1516. He met her once more at Berwick in June 1517, when Margaret returned to Scotland on Albany's departure in vain hopes of regaining the regency. Meanwhile, during Margaret's absence, Angus had formed a connexion with a daughter of the laird of Traquair. Margaret avenged his neglect of her by refusing to support his claims for power and by secretly trying through Albany to get a divorce.

In Edinburgh, Angus held his own against the attempts of James Hamilton, 1st earl of Arran, to dislodge him. But the return of Albany in 1521, with whom Margaret now sided against her husband, deprived him of power. The regent took the government into his own hands; Angus was charged with high treason in December, and in March 1522 was sent practically a prisoner to France, whence he succeeded in escaping to London in 1524. He returned to Scotland in November with promises of support from Henry VIII., with whom he made a close alliance. Margaret, however, refused to have anything to do with her husband. On the 23rd, therefore, Angus forced his way into Edinburgh, but was fired upon by Margaret and retreated to Tantallon. He now organized a large party of nobles against Margaret with the support of Henry VIII., and in February 1525 they entered Edinburgh and called a parliament. Angus was made a lord of the articles, was included in the council of regency, bore the king's crown on the opening of the session, and with Archbishop Beaton held the chief power.

Margaret Tudor and Archibald Douglas.
Detail from a painted family tree of James I and VI of England and Scotland
In March he was appointed lieutenant of the marches, and suppressed the disorder and anarchy on the border. In July the guardianship of the king was entrusted to him for a fixed period till the 1st of November, but he refused at its close to retire, and advancing to Linlithgow put to flight Margaret and his opponents. He now with his followers engrossed all the power, succeeded in gaining over some of his antagonists, including Arran and the Hamiltons, and filled the public offices with Douglases, he himself becoming chancellor. "None that time durst strive against a Douglas nor Douglas's man." (Lindsay of Pitscottie (1814), ii. 314)

The young king James, now fourteen, was far from content under the tutelage of Angus, but he was closely guarded, and several attempts to effect his liberation were prevented, Angus completely defeating Lennox, who had advanced towards Edinburgh with 10,000 men in August, and subsequently taking Stirling. His successes were consummated by a pacification with Beaton, and in 1527 and 1528 he was busy in restoring order through the country. In the latter year, on the 11th of March, Margaret succeeded in obtaining her divorce from Angus, and about the end of the month she and her lover, Henry Stewart, were besieged at Stirling.

A few weeks later, however, James succeeded in escaping from Angus's custody, took refuge with Margaret and Arran at Stirling, and immediately proscribed Angus and all the Douglases, forbidding them to come within seven miles of his person. Angus, having fortified himself in Tantallon, was attainted and his lands confiscated (1). Repeated attempts of James to subdue the fortress failed, and on one occasion Angus captured the royal artillery, but at length it was given up as a condition of the truce between England and Scotland, and in May 1529 Angus took refuge with Henry, obtained a pension and took an oath of allegiance, Henry engaging to make his restoration a condition of peace. Angus had been chiefly guided in his intrigues with England by his brother, Sir George Douglas of Pittendriech (d. 1552), master of Angus, a far cleverer diplomatist than himself. His life and lands were also declared forfeit, as were those of his uncle, Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie (d. 1535), who had been a friend of James and was known by the nickname of "Greysteel." These took refuge in exile.

James avenged himself on such Douglases as lay within his power. Angus's third sister Janet, Lady Glamis, was summoned to answer the charge of communicating with her brothers, and on her failure to appear her estates were forfeited. In 1537 she was tried for conspiring against the king's life. She was found guilty and burnt on the Castle Hill, Edinburgh, on the 17th of July 1537. Her innocence has been generally assumed, but Tytler (Hist, of Scotland, iv. pp. 433, 434) considered her guilty. Angus remained in England till 1542, joining in the attacks upon his countrymen on the border, while James refused all demands from Henry VIII. for his restoration, and kept firm to his policy of suppressing and extirpating the Douglas faction. On James V.'s death in 1542 Angus returned to Scotland, with instructions from Henry to accomplish the marriage between Mary and Edward. His forfeiture was rescinded, his estates restored, and he was made a privy councillor and lieutenant-general. In 1543 he negotiated the treaty of peace and marriage, and the same year he himself married Margaret, daughter of Robert, Lord Maxwell.

Shortly afterwards strife between Angus and the regent Arran broke out, and in April 1544 Angus was taken prisoner. The same year Lord Hertford's marauding expedition, which did not spare the lands of Angus, made him join the anti-English party. He entered into a bond with Arran and others to maintain their allegiance to Mary, and gave his support to the mission sent to France to offer the latter's hand. In July 1544 he was appointed lieutenant of the south of Scotland, and distinguished himself on the 27th of February 1545 in the victory over the English at Ancrum Moor. He still corresponded with Henry VIII., but nevertheless signed in 1546 the act cancelling the marriage and peace treaty, and on the 10th of September commanded the van in the great defeat of Pinkie, when he again won fame. In 1548 the attempt by Lennox and Wharton to capture him and punish him for his duplicity failed, Angus escaping after his defeat to Edinburgh by sea, and Wharton being driven back to Carlisle. Under the regency of Mary of Lorraine his restless and ambitious character and the number of his retainers gave cause for frequent alarms to the government.

On the 31st of August 1547 he resigned his earldom, obtaining a regrant sibi et suis haeredibus masculis et suis assignatis quibuscumque. His career was a long struggle for power and for the interests of his family, to which national considerations were completely subordinate.

He died in January 1557. By Margaret Tudor he had Margaret, his only surviving legitimate child, who married Matthew, 4th earl of Lennox, and was mother of Lord Darnley. He was succeeded by his nephew David, son of Sir George Douglas of Pittendriech. Angus also had an illegitimate son, George Douglas, Bishop of Moray.


Margaret and Archibald signayures


Seal of Archibald, 6th Earl of Angus

Archibald, 6th Earl of Angus   6th earl
From a portrait in the Royal Collection - Note the heart jewel   Extract of panel in the Prince's Chamber, in the Palace of Westminster (Full image)
A minature portrait in the Royal Collection
Joseph Lee's copy, which shows the Earl of Angus wearing a red doublet with pleated ruff, black cloak, black cap, and a heart-shaped jewel on a black cord around his neck, is copied after a painting in the Royal Collection formerly attributed to François Clouet, now tentatively ascribed to an artist of the sixteenth-century French School (RCIN 402700). It was one of a group of four miniatures by Lee for which payment was recorded in Queen Victoria's private accounts in 1845: 'To J. Lee for Enamels of the King of Prussia [421688], Francis IId [421726], Earl of Angus, James Ist [421431 ] £73.10.' (70 guineas) (RA VIC/ADDT/231/88); it was later recorded in the inventories of miniatures in the Royal Library. Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus (?1489 – 1557), eldest son of George, Master of Angus, and Elizabeth, daughter of John Drummond, 1st Lord Drummond, succeeded as Earl of Angus on the death of his grandfather. He married firstly, in 1509, Margaret, daughter of the Earl of Bothwell, and secondly, in 1514, the dowager Queen Margaret, widow of James IV and sister of Henry VIII, King of England. His grandson, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, married Mary, Queen of Scots.
  Portraits of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland, her husband James IV of Scotland, left, and her second husband Archibald Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, each seen bust-length within an oval; copy of a 17th century print. 1794.

From an extra rare print in the Col. of the Rev. C. M. Cracherode", and publication line: "Pub. Nov. 1. 1794 by J. Thane, Spur street, Leicester Square", preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum.
Arms of Archibald Douglas
5th Earl of Angus (d.1593)
up until 1491“
by Newm30
licensed under
CC BY-SA 4.0

coat of arms





1. Archibald, Earl of Angus, was forfeited in the year 1528, and his extensive estates of Douglas were in 1534 provided to James Stewart of Tynninghame, who assumed the designation of James, Lord Douglas.


See also:

Ballad of Archibald Douglas

Skirmish at Drumlanrig, 1541



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