The House of Douglas

Douglas is a name well recorded in Scottish history and the bearers of this name be they of the 'Red' or 'Black', branch, were a force to be reckoned with by succeeding monarchs in the course of Scotland's turbulent history. Douglas means 'Black Water', which suggests the wildness of the region inwhich they settled. The first one mentioned in 767 AD in recorded history by David Hume of Godscroft, was Sholto Douglas who, it is generally believed, was descended from the 'House of Murray' - a belief due basically to the three Mullets or Stars, held in CHief on the Douglas Armorial Bearings.

In 1274 was recorded the death of Sir William Douglas, nick-named 'Long Leg' and in 1298 his son, Sir William Douglas 'Le Hardi', died in the Tower of London. It was this last Sir WIlliam whose son, the 'Good Sir James' was noted for his association with Robert the Bruce whose faithful lieutenant he became. It was he and he alone whom the English named 'The Black Douglas' and it was for his relentless pillaging and terrorising of the northern counties of England that he earned the name.

Historians over the centuries have tended to apply the term 'Black Douglas' to the main stem family. The splintering of the family group into various branches has tended to bring a little clarity to what would be otherwise an extremely confusing jungle of names, dates and places.

One branch - the Douglas of Angus, otherwise known as the 'Red Douglas', lived in the shadow of the parent line. At the Battle of Arkinholm in 1455 AD, they took the field with the 'Douglas of Morton' branch on the King's side against the parent body who wanted revenge for the murder of the 8th Earl of Douglas at Stirling. Angus was probably in a quandary as to whom he should support. Through his grandmother, a daughter of King Robert III, he was the King's cousin and to the 8th Earl of Douglas he was related through an illegitimate son of the 1st Earl. Therefore, Angus was more closely related to the King than he was to the 8th Earl of Douglas and politically it was prudent to join the King's side which eventually won the battle. However, the fact remains that the event in 1455 AD was the reason that the 'Red Douglas' succeeded to some of the 'Black Douglas' estates which were lost to them for all time.

As the 'Red Douglas' declined, so the 'Moreton' branch took over, and although the latter rarely hit the headlines of the day, they too had their moments of glory. So too, can this be said of the 'Drumlanrig' family who succeeded them. Little is written in history about everyday affairs, and it is only when one does something outstanding to warrant publicity that we hear of the name Douglas today. Even so, the contributions made to history by some of the family over the past 800 to 1200 years, takes some measuring up to.

The modern Douglas family consists of many branches world wide. Currently, there is no Chief of the House of Douglas. On the death of the 4th Lord Douglas in 1857, the estates devolved upon his niece, Lucy Elizabeth Douglas of Douglas, Countess Home. If a younger member of the Home family were to become Chief of the HOuse of Douglas, there would be only the prestige attached to the ceremonial title to inherit and a seat on the Council of Clan Chiefs. However, it is hoped that a Chief will emerge out of current negotiations with the Earldom of Home.

The Clan Douglas Association of Australia operates out of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Meetings are held regularly and a newsletter is sent to members four times a year. The Genealogical Coordinator is happy to help members with research and the Editor will assist with publishing articles of interest to Douglas or Sept members. The membership is $20.00 annually.

For information on eligibility please click here. For an application form, please click here.