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James, 9th Earl of Douglas 





Garter stall plate of James [Douglas], 9th Earl of Douglas, KG

The son of James the Gross, 7th Earl of Douglas, by his wife Lady Beatrice Sinclair, daughter to Henry II Sinclair, Earl of Orkney; Douglas was a twin, the older by a few minutes, the younger being Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray.

In February 1449, a tournament took place before King James at Stirling. The Scots were represented by James, who at the time liked to be known as James Douglas of Heriotmuir, another James, brother to the Laird of Lochleven, known as James Douglas of Ralstoin, and also of Lugton and Lochleven. The third Scot was John Ross of Hawkhead. The protaganists were three knights of Burgundy, one of whom, Jacques de Lalain, was the most celebrated knight-errant of the time. His brother, Simon was the second and Hervey de Meriadet the third. The king called a halt to the hard fought tournament before anyone was killed.

He succeeded to the earldom on the murder of his brother William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas by King James II and his entourage. He denounced his brother's murderers and took up arms against the king, and he and his brothers attacked Stirling, driving a horse through the town with the safe conduct given to William attached to its tail. He was forced to back down when some allies deserted him.

He obtained a papal dispensation to marry on 27 Feb 1451/52 his brother's widow, Margaret Douglas, Fair Maid of Galloway, in order to keep the family estates together. (It is not entirely clear that this marriage ever took place, but it was certainly planned.) He was involved in intrigues with the English court, and in 1455 rebelled against James II once more.

Meanwhile, another branch of the Douglas family, known as the Red Douglases, had risen into importance, and George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus, great-grandson of the first earl of Douglas, took sides with the king against the Earl of Douglas. Douglas, again deserted by his chief allies, fled to England, and his three younger brothers, Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde, Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray, and John Douglas, Lord of Balvenie, were defeated at the Battle of Arkinholm, near Langholm on the Esk, possibly by Angus. Moray was killed, Ormonde taken prisoner and executed, and Balvenie escaped to England. Their last stronghold, Threave Castle in Galloway, fell. James Douglas was attainted in 1455, and his lands and estates were forfeit to the crown. The lands of the Douglases were divided among their rivals, the lordship of Douglas falling to the Red Douglas 4th earl of Angus.

From England, the Earl of Douglas continued to intrigue against James III of Scotland; he was employed by Edward IV in 1461 to negotiate a league at Ardtornish with the western highlanders to take the nine-year old's kingdom for England.

At some point he was made a Knight of the Garter. Following his attainder his first wife divorced him (if they ever married) so he married again to Anne Holland, daughter of John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter.

In 1484 he was taken prisoner at the battle of Lochmaben Fair, and was relegated to Lindores Abbey, where he died in 1488.

James, 9th Earl of Douglas, had most of his lands taken from him.  Details here...


The last of the Black Douglas line, James Earl of Douglas and Avondale, Knight of the Garter, who died in 1488, had a salamander crest as can be seen from his Garter Stall Plate, above.

Now in the 18th stall, on the north side of the chapel. A large quadrangular plate of gilded copper, bearing within a cable border the shield of arms, with silver helm garnished gold and covered with a blue mantling sown with gold flowering branches and lined with ermine with red tassels, surmounted by the crest, on a cap of estate azure a gold salamander breathing fire. In base is a narrow panel with the inscription
“Mon . f’ le cot tamps . Dowglas”
This title being incorrect there has been fixed over it, a strip of gilt copper with the proper title
“mon . tamis . le . count . de . Dowglas”
The shield bears these arms, quarterly: 1, silver a heart gules and a chief azure with three mullets silver on the chief (for Douglas); 2, azure fretty gold (for the Lordship of Lauderdale); 3, azure three mullets silver within a double tressure gold (for Moray of Bothwell); 4, silver six piles sable (for Brechin); with an escutcheon of pretence azure a crowned lion silver (for Galloway).
Date of the plate c1461.


Quarterly: 1st, Argent a Heart Gules on a Chief azure three Mullets of the field (Douglas); 2nd, Azure fretty Or (Lordship of Lauderdale); 3rd, Azure three Mullets Or within a Double Tressure flory counterflory (Moray of Bothwell); 4th, Or six Piles Gules (Brechin or the Lordship of Ettrick Forest); on an escutcheon of pretence, Azure a Lion rampant crowned Argent (Galloway)


Any contributions will be gratefully accepted I would welcome help re-writing this biography.



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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024