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James Douglas, 7th Laird of Drumlanrig






Sir James Douglas, 7th Baron of Drumlanrig, (1498-1578) was, in 1526, one of the barons who attempted to rescue King James V from the hands of the Earl of Angus, by whom he was kept in a state of thraldom. for which efforts, and his loyalty to Queen Mary, he was he was knighted by the regent Arran, Duke of Chatelherault.

He was the son of Sir William Douglas, 6th Baron Of Drumlanrig (b. Bef 1484, k. 9 Sep 1513, Battle Of Flodden) and Elizabeth Gordon of Lochinvar.


He was also Laird of Hawick and, in 1537, he gave the town of Hawick it's charter (See below).


In 1543, following the Battle of Solway Moss,  he seems to have held the office of 'Master Customar' of Carlisle.

The unhappy rout of Solway Moss on 24 November 1542 made a change in his prospects. He was quick to see the result of such a wholesale capture of prominent Scotsmen, as he said to Sir Thomas Wharton, 'There are now in your hands upon these marches those men with good order which may make peace or conquest of Scotland, at the King's will,' a remark which impressed itself upon the Warden, who seems to have taken him further into confidence. He made himself useful to many of the poorer Scottish prisoners by becoming surety for them and procuring their liberation ; and to such an extent did he do this, that the Earl of Hertford, acting on the unkind reports of his English creditors, wrote to Wharton on 8 December, that though he did not doubt Drumlanrig's honesty, it were wise to keep him safely in England till King Henry's pleasure were known.

He was, however, in Scotland again ere many days had passed, and was peaceably restored to his own estates. From that time he appears to have acted as what the English termed an ' espiel ' or 'spy,' or furnisher of intelligence from Scotland, but he does not appear to have transmitted any news that was not known in Scotland. Wharton and others seem to have put faith in his ' honestie,' and Henry viu. desired to see him personally, but it is not clear that he ever went south.


 In 1551, Mary, Queen of Scots, gave him a pardon for coming with the Earl of Lennox to besiege James V of Scotland at Linlithgow Palace in September 1526. In August 1526, James V had included Drumlanrig in a pardon for those who assisted in the murder of Thomas McClellan of Bomby in Edinburgh.


In 1552, he was one of the commissioners who negotiated a division of the contested territory between the two kingdoms, known as the Debateable Lands.  In 1554 the Queen made him Warden of the East Marches(1), with full powers of justiciary, an office he stayed in for many years until retiring at an old age.

He subscribed the Book of Discipline on 27th January 1561, and was one of the confederated barons who marched against Queen Mary, in 1567, when she surrendered at Carberry Hill.


Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig, who negotiated the division of the Debateable Lands, was appointed Warden of the West Marches from Annandale to Galloway on 31 August 1553.  The appointment was renewed on 23 October 1555. In 1568, as Warden, he held briefly Hoddam Castle.

Old Drumlanrig, as he was called, was with the forces under the earl of Morton at Leith, in 1571, and engaged in some of the skirmishes with the castle of Edinburgh, then held by the queen’s party. On the 23d of June the same year, he was taken prisoner as he was riding home, on some business betwixt him and Lord Herries, and others who were at variance. Lord Herries treacherously appointed to meet him where the laird of Wormeston lay in wait for him, and he was conveyed to the castle of Edinburgh. On this occasion his son, Sir William, narrowly escaped. Not being certain whether his son had been killed or not, he sent him the following curious epistle: “Willie, Thou sall wit that I am haill and feare. Send me word thairfoir how thow art, whether deid or livand? Gif thow be deid, I doubt not but freindis will let me know the treuth; and gif thow be weill, I desire na muir,” &c. He showed this letter to his captors, that they might be sure it contained no treason; and to save his purse, he sent it with the letter, desiring the messenger to deliver it to his son. (Calderwood, vol. iii. p. 105, note.) He was one of those who visited Knox on his deathbed, and died in 1578.

He rebuilt Drumlanrig Castle.

Although the father of 18-20 children through two marriages, Sir James sired only one son in wedlock, Sir William of Hawick. Sir William predeceased his father in 1572. Sir James died in 1578 and the family honours passed to his grandson.



  • Children
    1.  Janet Douglas = (1) Sir William Douglas of Cashogle = (2) William Charteris of Amisfield
    2.  Margaret Douglas = John Jardine of Applegirth
    3.  Nicholace Douglas = 1545 John Johnstone of that Ilk
    4. Patrick Douglas



    Mother: Unknown, or various

    1.     John Douglas of Ersmortoun = Grilis Irving
    2.     Robert Douglas, provost of Lincluden
    3.     Robert Douglas, legitimised 16 Aug 1546
    4.     John Douglas, Legitimised 16 Aug 1546
    5.     Adam Douglas, Legitimised 16 Aug 1546
    6.     Janet Douglas
    7.     Alison Douglas
    8.     Agnes Douglas
    9.     Margaret Douglas = William Maxwell
    10.     Marion Douglas = Andrew Cunnyngham of Birkshaw



Marriage 2 Christian Montgomery, dau of John, Master of Eglington and sister to 2nd Earl of Eglington. She died 9 Aug 1575

  • Married: 1540


  1.      Sir William Douglas of Hawick
  2.     Elizabeth Douglas = 18 feb 1556/7 Andrew Ker, son of Walter Ker of Cessford
  3.     Margaret Douglas = (1) Edward, Lord Crichton of Sanquhar = (2) William, 5th Earl of Menteith = (3) Robert Wauehope of Niddrie
  4.     Janet Douglas = 25 Jan 1559/60 James Twedy of Drummelzier = (2) 2 Mar 1563/4 Wiliam Ker, Younger of Cessford
  5.     Helen Douglas - 21 Apr 1566 Roger Grierson of Lag
  6.     Christian Douglas = 21 Apr 1574 Andrew Stewart of Garlies


1. Elsewhere, I have him as being appointed Guardian of the West Marches. On 31 August 1553 he was appointed Warden of the West Marches from Annandale to Galloway during pleasure, with full powers. He took up the office on the resignation of Sir John Maxwell of Terregles, who was incapacitated, 'being onder deidlie feid with the cuntre.' The appointment was renewed on 23 October 1555.


The Hawick Charter

The Town Charter of 1537, signed and sealed by Sir James Douglas, the seventh Baron of Hawick (c1498-1578) is the oldest document in Hawick. It is stored in the controlled environment of the Heritage Hub vaults. The fragile document states that this is a re-affirmation of the earlier Charter, probably given by Sir William Douglas, Sir James' father, which has been lost in times past "through hostile invasions of Englishmen and robbers". This Charter was confirmed in 1545 by the two year old Mary Queen of Scots (1542-87) and this document is also carefully preserved with the town's precious papers.

This Charter granted "particates" or small pieces of land to a large number of people who are mentioned by name It also granted the Common Moor of Hawick and the Common Haugh for the benefit and use of the town. There was rough ground for grazing, good land for pasture and peat for fuel.

"'Twas then Drumlanrig, generous donor,
Gave (immortal be his honour)
What might soothe Hawick's dire disaster,
Land for tillage, peats and pasture"

It is thought that Sir William is the "generous donor" mentioned in "Teribus" and Sir James Douglas may have granted his charter of 1537 to honour the memory of his father. He also wanted to relieve the poverty of the people of Hawick by confirming their ownership of the land. A toast to "The Memory of Drumlanrig" is made to this day.




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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024