Hugh "The Dull", Lord of Douglas

Hugh the Dull (1294 – d. after 1342 but before 1346) was Lord of Douglas, a Scottish nobleman and cleric.

The second son of William the Hardy, Lord of Douglas, William Wallace's companion in arms, and Eleanor Ferrers. Hugh's elder brother was Sir James Douglas, a hero of the Wars of Independence, and his younger was Sir Archibald Douglas, Guardian of the realm, and Scots commander at the Battle of Halidon Hill.

Hugh of Douglas is first heard of in 1296. Following the forfeiture of his father's English possessions, the two-year-old Hugh was taken into custody at Stebbing(1) in Essex, one of his father's manors.

Nothing further is heard of him until 1325 when he appeared by proxy as a canon of Glasgow Cathedral during a meeting of Chapter. He appears to have been at this time parish priest of Roxburgh.

The death of his nephew William, Lord of Douglas, and brother Sir Archibald at Halidon Hill left the succession of the patrimony of Douglas to Hugh. However, Scotland at this time was going through the paroxysms of the Second War of Independence, and Edward III and Edward Balliol controlled much of the south of the country. Balliol, having paid homage for his kingdom to Edward, had also ceded to the Crown of England in perpetuity, the Forests of Selkirk, Ettrick and Jedburgh, and the shires of Roxburgh, Peebles, Dumfries, Linlithgow, Edinburgh and Haddington - in essence, all the territories in which the Lord of Douglas held property. Edward had re-appointed Douglasdale to Robert de Clifford, 3rd Baron de Clifford, grandson of Robert de Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford, who had been granted it by Edward I of England following his dissolution of the Kingdom of Scots in 1296. Clifford never got to enjoy his new properties, by way of stout resistance from the men of Douglas led by William Douglas of Lothian.

Hugh the Dull had probably escaped to France to the court of David II at Château Gaillard in 1337. Here it was that his young nephews William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas and Archibald Douglas, 3rd Earl of Douglas had sought refuge. Certainly by that date, Edward III had appointed Andrew de Ormiston as prebend of Hugh's parish of Roxburgh.

By 1337, William Douglas of Lothian, using the same guerrilla tactics employed by Hugh's brother James, had carved out a power base in the Borders and had styled himself Lord of Liddesdale. It is assumed that the Lord of Douglas, no warrior, had given executive control of the Douglas territories in the south to him. In 1342, Liddesdale, hankering after formal power, coerced the Lord of Douglas into resigning the majority of the rest of the Douglas territories over to him with all administrative powers pertaining. Hugh of Douglas resigned his lordship in favour of his nephew William, still in France, making him Ward of Liddesdale.

Douglas dedicated a church to St John the Baptist at Crookboat, three miles south of Lanark, where the Douglas Water meets the Clyde. Amongst other endowments to this establishment, he granted the priest the right to the best cheese in every house on Douglas Moor. Hugh of Douglas retired to his parish duties at Roxburgh. He died in relative obscurity at some point before 1346; following the Battle of Durham that year, Edward III controlled southern Scotland once more, and his parish was given to one William de Emeldon.

Hugh, Lord of Douglas was a singular figure in the warlike tribe to which he belonged. His perhaps unfair epithet has probably more to do with his profession, which had him lead a more retiring life than the rest of his family. Certainly there were no clerics amongst the immediate families of the Chief of Douglas until the 1440s.

For further reading see Hugh Douglas, Lord of Douglas, by William Fraser [pdf; 755kb]



1.  In the late 13th century the manor of Woodham Ferrers passed briefly to the Scottish noble house of Douglas by virtue of the marriage of William Le Hardy, Lord of Douglas to Eleanor de Lovaine, the widow of William de Ferrers of Groby. Eleanor was a ward of Edward I, and had her late husband's manors of Stebbing and Woodham Ferrers made into a dowry for a future re-marriage.


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