William Douglas, 7th Earl of Morton

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William Douglas, 7th Earl of Morton (1582 – 7 August 1648) was a grandson of the 6th Earl of Morton.  (His father, Robert Douglas, Master of Morton, had disappeared whilst travelling c1585) He was Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, and a zealous Royalist, who, on the outbreak of the Great Rebellion in 1642, provided £100,000 for the cause by selling his Dalkeith estates to the Earl of Buccleuch. He also expanded his other seat, Aberdour Castle in Fife, with a Renaissance-style east wing.

He succeeded to the Earldom on the death of his grandfather in 1606, soon afterwards he was made Privy Councillor and a Gentleman of the Chamber to James VI, in which office he was continued by Charles I. He commanded the Scots regiment of three thousand men in the Rochelle expedition of the Duke of Buckingham in 1627. On the demission of the Earl of Mar in 12 April 1630 he was made Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, and when he resigned it in 1635, he was made 23rd Captain of The Sovereign's Body Guard - 1635-1643 (Yeoman of the Guard), invested with the Order of the Garter, and sworn a Privy Councillor in England.

In 1638, Aberdour was erected into a burgh of Barony, and his title was altered to Earl of Morton, and Lord Aberdour.

He accompanied King Charles on his visit to Edinburgh in 1633, devoting himself to the King’s interests, and humouring his Scottish policy, he enjoyed his confidence in regard to Scottish affairs, even after he had demitted the office of Lord High Treasurer. He was one of the commissioners who accompanied the Lyon King-at-Arms to the Scottish camp in 1639, to witness the declaration of the King’s proclamation and was also appointed to assist in arranging the treaty at Ripon in October 1640. When the King opened the Scottish parliament Morton accompanied him in the procession to the house but as he had not signed the covenant he was one of the noblemen excluded from entering the room. On the 18 October however, he subscribed to the covenant and took his seat.

On 20 September the King nominated him for the chancellorship but his nomination was vehemently objected to by his son-in-law, the Earl of Argyll, afterwards Marquis, on the grounds that such an office might shelter him from his creditors, that he was a contemptuous rebel and often at the horn (a drinker), that he deserted his country in her greatest need and the he was ‘decrepit and unable’. On the outbreak of the civil war he aided the King by the advance of large sums of money, disposing for this purpose of the castle of Dalkeith to the Buccleuch family. On this account he had a charter 15 June 1643, of the islands of Orkney and Shetland, with the regalities belonging to them redeemable by the crown on the payment to him of £30,000 sterling. In 1644 a commission of judiciary was granted to him by parliament for Orkney and Shetland for three years from 1 August. He went to wait on Charles I in 1646 when he took refuge with the Scotch army, and after Charles was given up to parliament he retired to Orkney.

On 28 March 1604, he married Lady Anne Keith, a daughter of the George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal and they had ten children:

Lady Margaret Douglas (1610–1678), married the 1st Marquess of Argyll and had issue.
Lady Anne Douglas (d. 1667), married the 2nd Earl of Kinnoull and had issue.
Robert Douglas, 8th Earl of Morton (d. 1649)
Lady Mary Douglas, married the 2nd Earl of Dunfermline and had issue.
James Douglas, 10th Earl of Morton (d. 1686)
Lady Isabel Douglas (d. 1650), married the 2nd Marquess of Montrose and had issue.
Nicholas Douglas (d.1686), married
Jean Douglas, married James (3rd Earl Home) Home, parents of the 4th, 5th and 6th Earls.
Agnes Douglas, married George (2nd Earl of Kinnoull) Hay

He died at the castle of Kirkwall in March 1649-50, his Countess, Agnes Keith dying on the 30 May. Both were buried at Kirkwall.

•  William Douglas was the 7th or 8th Earl of Morton and Lord High Treasurer of Scotland and the only son of Robert Douglas the 6th or 7th Earl. This uncertainty can occur when the current holder of the title and his heir die together, generally in battle. Uncertainty as to whom died before whom creates this dilemma, eg father and eldest son are on the battlefield; father is the 5th Earl and is killed; automatically his eldest son becomes the 6th Earl, but he too is killed; so long as their deaths have occurred in that order there is a natural progression and the title carries on to the 7th Earl. The problem arises where it is uncertain who died first. The next in line for the title may well become the 6th Earl if it was his elder brother that died before his father....confused? Well how do you think William Douglas felt not knowing if he was the 7th or 8th Earl!)
•  John Maxwell, 9th Lord Maxwell (c. 1586–1613), a descendant of the 3rd Earl, also claimed the earldom of Morton, but was attainted in 1609 and his rights then failed, his titles and estates being restored in 1618 to his brother Robert, with the title of Earl of Nithsdale (1620) in lieu of Morton.

William Douglas, Earl of Morton - 10th April 1622.



WILLIAM DOUGLAS, eighth EARL OF MORTON, was the son of ROBERT DOUGLAS of Lochleven, and JEAN LYON, daughter of JOHN, eighth LORD GLAMIS. His grandfather was that WILLIAM DOUGLAS of Lochleven who had charge of QUEEN MARY whilst imprisoned in Lochleven Castle, and who, after a life of strange vicissitudes, had become seventh EARL OF MORTON. The latter was succeeded in 1606 by his grandson, whose name is here enrolled. The eighth EARL OF MORTON was one of the foremost politicians of his time, and held the elevated position of Lord High Treasurer of Scotland.

It is stated that before the Civil War broke out he was (one of the richest and greatest subjects in the Kingdom. "Unfortunately for himself he cast in his lot with the Royalist party, and was repeatedly applied to for money to enable them to carry on the war. For this purpose he disposed of his extensive and valuable property of Dalkeith, together with several of his minor estates, thus depriving himself of an annual rental estimated at 100,000 pounds Scots. As an offset for this great sacrifice on his part, he received a Royal charter, dated 15th June, 1643, granting him the Islands of Orkney and Shetland in absolute right, with all their jurisdictions, redeemable only by the Crown upon payment of £30,000 sterling.

This charter, though apparently exact in all its terms, was ultimately repudiated by CHARLES II, and the Islands were once more annexed to the Crown by special Act of Parliament, in 1669. The EARL OF MORTON died in 1648, and was succeeded by his eldest son ROBERT, the issue of his marriage with LADY ANN KEITH, daughter of GEORGE, fifth EARL MARISCHAL (vide page 65). This son was the "ROBERT, LORD OF DALIKEITH," whose name appears on the Burgess Roll beside that of his father, and who became ninth EARL OF MORTON on the death of his father. This dignity he only enjoyed for one year, as he died in 1649, leaving a son, WILLIAM, who succeeded him, and who was made a Burgess of Dundee on 7th March, 1663.
Siege of La Rochelle, 1627-28

The siege of La Rochelle (French: Le Siège de La Rochelle, or sometimes Le Grand Siège de La Rochelle) was a result of a war between the French royal forces of Louis XIII of France and the Huguenots of La Rochelle in 1627–28. The siege marked the height of the struggle between the Catholics and the Protestants in France, and ended with a complete victory for King Louis XIII and the Catholics.

Losses: La Rochelle, 14,000 dead and 5,000 fled of 25,000 citizens and sailors; Buckingham, 4,000 of 7,000; French Royalist, negligible of 30,000.

William Douglas, Earl of Morton, was the elder half brother of Alexander, Second Earl of Spynie. Christian IV asked Charles I for permission to engage Douglas with his troops. Some of these were to be led by a member of Clanranald, but apparently this company never sailed. Rather, Morton raised 2000 men and led the Scottish contingent of 6000 men who sailed with the Duke of Buckingham to participate in the campaign in 1627. Upon the failure of that expedition, Christian IV once more tried to recruit Morton's levies, but with no success. Nevertheless, Morton appears on the various lists of officers in Danish service at this period, but it is unlikely he ever actually saw service for Christian IV.

Note:  Back bond by John McRannald of Ilandtyrum, Captain of Clanranald for levying 150 men to go under William Earl of Morton, 10 August 1627.



Sources for this article include:
  • The Genealogy of the Existing British Peerage, Edmund Lodge, 1832

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