George Douglas of Lochleven

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 Mary, Queen of Scots escaping from Lochleven Castle Mary Queen of Scots Mourning over the Dying Douglas 


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 Sir George Douglas of Helenhill and Rumgawye (Rungallie). He assisted Queen Mary to escape from Lochleven Castle in 1567. He was married, and left an only daughter. According to Bishop Burnet, he had a son by Queen Mary, who was named George Douglas.  George Douglas of Rungallie, usher to the king in 1580, is described as 'brother german of William Douglas of Lochleven'. 

George appears also to have had a son, Robert who married as his first wife Margaret Kirkcaldy, and had issue James, of Earnslaw 

George, was only two years older than Willie Douglas, a boy of 16, a natural son of William Douglas, 6th Earl of Morton, but brought up as a gentleman and acknowledged as a member of the family. The lads became infatuated with the beauty and grace of the imprisoned Queen, and began to make plans for her liberation from Lochleven Castle.

George had nearly succeeded in affecting Mary's escape, disguised as the castle laundress, but half way across the Loch the rowers, noticing her white, ringed hands, turned the boat back to the castle. For this offence, George was driven from his home by the angry governor and forbidden to return.


Mary's second attempt was successful, with George waiting at the lochside to escort her to safety, although this was to prove but a temporary situation.

Death of George Douglas at Langside a myth?

Several versions of the depiction of the death of Douglas at the Battle of Langside exist.

One is "Mary of Scotland mourning over the dying Douglas at the Battle of Langside, 1568; a priest administers last rites, a bishop stands to the left behind the fallen soldier; painted by F. Hartwich", whilst the one above is a "Picture embroidered by Jane Brumlen depicting the painting 'Mary Queen of Scots Mourning over the Dying Douglas at the Battle of Langside' by Charles Landseer, ca. 1870 (Said to be George Douglas of Lochleven.)"  However, Douglas did not die at that battle. Charles Landseer based many of his paintings on the novels of Sir Walter Scott, and in his book entitled The Abbot, Douglas does die at the Battle of Langside. Scott was writing historical fiction and so he could have Douglas die whenever and wherever he wanted him to.

A letter has recently (2022) come to light that proves the point

Featuring the handwriting of Mary Queen of Scots, a letter has sold for £32,500 at auction (in 2022), more than double the asking price.Mary Queen of Scots letter sale

Auction house Lyon and Turnbull said there was international interest in the document, signed with a message in French, as it went under the hammer live and online on Wednesday.

The letter is an appeal from Mary Queen of Scots to the French ambassador in England to allow the safe passage of Scottish nobleman, George Douglas, to France.

It was written in Carlisle Castle two months after her escape from Lochleven Castle in Perthshire on May 2 1568, where she had been imprisoned for nearly a year following a forced abdication in favour of her infant son, James VI.

Mary hoped that by helping to ensure a safe journey to France for George Douglas, he would intercede with the French king on her behalf to help secure her freedom.

Cathy Marsden, rare books, manuscripts and maps specialist at Lyon & Turnbull, which has its headquarters in Edinburgh, said: “There was international interest in this letter, the sum achieved at auction reflecting the enduring fascination with one of the best known monarchs in history.

“There are 12 lines written by a secretary, and an additional six lines in Mary’s own hand. The letter is signed, ‘Votre bien bonne amye, Marie,’ which translates as ‘Your very good friend, Mary.’

“A letter bearing her personal mark is rare and we’re delighted to have been involved in the sale of such an important text.”

The letter sold for more than double the asking price of £14,000.

The document asks the French ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I to lend George Douglas, the bearer, 300 ecus (gold coins) and to negotiate with the French royal family to secure George’s trouble-free passage.

Mary’s escape from Lochleven had been helped by George Douglas and his cousin, William Douglas.

She was apprehended by Richard Lowther, deputy governor of Cumberland, and escorted to Carlisle Castle.

Mary was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I for 19 years before she was beheaded in Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on February 8 1587 at the age of 44.




See also:
•  Sir George Douglas of Rumgally, who may be the one and the same person.



Sources for this article include:
  • The Scotsman

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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024