Sir William Douglas, 4th Bt of Kelhead

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names

Sir William Douglas, 4th Bt of Kelhead    


Sir William Douglas of Kelhead, 4th Bt, (Abt 1730 - 16 MAY 1783) was a Member of Parliament.

The son of Sir John Douglas, 3rd Bt of Kelhead and his wife Christian Cunningham, daughter of Sir William Cunningham of Caprington, 2nd Bt., he was a descendant of William Douglas, 1st Earl of Queensberry.

He served as Member of Parliament for Dumfries Burghs between 1768 and 1780.


Educated Glasgow University 1745-47; succeeded uncle Charles Douglas, a wealthy East India Company merchant, in Breconwhat Estate, Dumfries 13 Dec. 1770; and fa. 13 Nov 1778. Lt. Scots Brigade in Holland 1747-58; cornet a Drag. 1759-64.

When there was no money left for William and his brothers' education, the family tutor, James Hogg, took his four pupils to Glasgow, supported them out of his own 'little patrimony' and sent the two eldest to university. This he continued when their father was in the Tower of London.

In June 1747, William obtained a commission in the regiment raised by Lord Drumlanrig and then, afterwards, served in the Scots Brigade; in about 1758, he received a commission in the 2nd Dragoons. At the end of the war, William apparently retired from the army and became a member of the Duke of Queensberry's household.  He went into Parliament in 1768. The Duke of Queensberry who died shortly before William's father, had long treated William as his eventual heir to the Marquessate of Queensberry, failing male issue by his immediate successor, Lord March.

Sir William's uncle, Sir Alexander Dick, recorded in his Memoranda:'The Duke, shortly before his death, having a warm attachment to my nephew, Sir William, whom he sincerely loved from his proper behaviour to him while in Parliament, and considering that he had (children).... to provide for, he left him 16,000 pounds in money on their behalf....On the worthy Dukes's death...this new unkindly and ungenerous Duke refused to pay the money...My nephew seeks my approbation for suing the Duke in the court of session.'At the general election of 1780, the Duke refused to return him to Parliament. William's action before the court of session for 20,000 pounds (16,000 pounds plus interest) was successful; on 30 April, 1783, Queensberry's appeal was dismissed by the Lords. Sir William was so overjoyed by the news that he had an apoplectic fit while playing with his children, and died on 16 May 1783.

(Original sources quoted in the House of Commons biographical entry: Memoranda by Sir. Alex Dick, Curiosities of a Scots Charter Chest ed. Forbes 223; Alex Carlyle. Autobiog; Sir Alex Dick's Memoranda, Scots Mag. 1747 p. 351; Scots Brigade in Holland (Sc. Hist. Soc.) ii 390-391-412,414;Jas. Charles Sholto Douglas to R. M. Keith 7 Dec. 1775. Add.35509 f. 274. Curiosities 270.)" Article from James Boswell site Biography William Douglas. (Ca. 1730-1784) (aka. 4th Bart of Kelhead) 4th Bart of Kelhead. Son of Sir John Douglas, 3rd of Kelhead (and son of Boswell's mother's half-sister Helen Erskine) and Christian Cunninghame (1710-1741). Married Grace Johnstone (d. 1836) in 1772.

A Captain in 1762.

He married Grace Johnstone in 1772 and had five sons and four daughters. The eldest, Charles, succeeded as Charles Douglas, 6th Marquess of Queensberry. Their third son, Lord John Douglas, granted the style and precedence of the younger son of a Marquess by Royal Warrant 4 May 1837, later became John Douglas, 7th Marquess of Queensberry. The youngest son, Lord William Douglas was Member of Parliament for Dumfries Burghs.

He was apparently a favourite of his relative the Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry, who bequeathed to him £16,000 upon his death in October 1778.

Life with James Boswell: Boswell possibly was in William Douglas' company on October 6, 1762, when he visited Douglas' family at Kelhead. Boswell mentions a Mr. Douglas, son to Sir John, an officer in the Greys, an amiable young fellow whom I hope to see in the circumstances which he deserves. However, Sir John did have two other surviving sons, at least one of whom was in the army. Also, I rather doubt if Boswell would refer to a 32 year old as a young fellow.

JB also dined with Douglas and Captain Maxwell on 20/12-62.

He received a most bitter letter, dated 12 November 1779,  from his uncle, Stewart Douglas, regarding the proposed sale of the lands and contents of Hurkledale and Todholes to cover debts. The letter was addressed from St. Mary Le Bone. He questions "whether it is necessary in discharge of your debts to Strip me Naked or not; but then perhaps it may be necessary for you, or Some of my most active persecutors, to get something into Pocket for the Wages of their Sins" There is much more in this vein over some five pages. Stewart Douglas also provides an attachment outlining that the value of Hurkledale is sufficient to cover debts. He also accuses Sir William of even wanting to sell his uncle's breeches.




Lockerbie House was built for Sir William Douglas, 4th Baronet of Kelhead, his wife Dame Grace Johnstone and their
children, of whom the eldest, Charles, succeeded as 6th Marquess of Queensberry. Their third son, Lord John Douglas,
granted the style and precedence of the younger son of a Marquess by Royal Warrant 4 May 1837, later became 7th Marquess of Queensberry. The youngest son, Lord William Robert Keith Douglas was Member of Parliament for Dumfriesshire.



Beckwith monument 1. About sixty yards to the west of the Christ church in Mahabaleshwar is the Beckwith monument 4558 feet above sea level and reached by a bad stony path. It is a plain obelisk about thirty feet high and was erected from public subscription at a cost of Rs 3000. Sir Sidney Beckwith died here in 1831 while commander-in-chief. The subscribers put up an inscription and Lady Beckwith sent out another on a marble tablet. The influence of weather on marble rendered the second inscription almost illegible as early as 1843; the first inscription remains comparatively uninjured though the writing is much obliterated and blackened and can only be read with the greatest difficulty. For several years the monument has been regarded as sacred by the poorer classes, who resort to it for the purpose of obtaining answers to prayers. The first inscription on the west face runs :

"Sacred to the Memory of
Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Sidney Beckwith, K.C.B.,
Governor and Commander-in-chief of Bombay, and Colonel of
His Majesty's Rifle Brigade;
who, after along course of distinguished service, expired at his Residence on these Hills, on the 15th day of January
1831, aged 60 years.
Erected by a small circle of his friends in testimony of their admiration for his noble character and to perpetuate the memory of so good and amiable a man."

The other inscription on the east face runs :

"This Tablet is placed by Mary, Lady Beckwith, daughter of the late Sir William Douglas, of Kilhead, Bart as a memorial of the most devoted affection for her lamented husband, by whose sudden death she has been deprived of a most attached partner and friend and guide, in whom was combined every amiable quality by which the Christian character is adorned, and the intercourse of domestic life is endeared-a loss which can only be alleviated by the hope that looks beyond the grave. The sympathizing friends who erected this monument have kindly permitted a sorrowing widow to add her heartfelt tribute to their."



Sources for this article include:
  • Members of Parliament, Scotland, including the minor barons; Joseph Foster.

  • Any contributions will be gratefully accepted


    Back to top


    The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

    The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

    As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

    Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

    Contact Us

    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024