The Earls of Angus Part 1

George Douglas b. 1378 was the first Douglas Earl of Angus, but the title goes back well before then, and is indeed one of the oldest titles in Scotland.


From Robert Maxwell’s “The History of the House of Douglas”, ‘ the modern county of Forfar corresponds pretty closely with the ancient Earldoms of Angus. In the 13th century Scotland, there were seven earls who ruled over provinces forming part of the constitution of Scotland.



Malcolm was the last Celtic Earl of Angus. His succession was passed down to John Comyn , the husband of his heiress daughter Matilda, and when John Comyn died in 1242, Matilda married Sir Gilbert de Umfraville ,an English baron of Norman lineage, and he became the Earl of Angus. He died in 1244 and was succeeded by three of his line. The third forfeited the title by supporting Edward Baliol to take the Scottish throne.

King Robert the Bruce then bestowed the Angus Earldom on Sir John Stewart of Boncle. Sir John died in 1331, leaving the Earldom to his infant son Thomas by his wife Margaret, who was the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Alexander de Abernethy. By this marriage the Lordshiip of Abernethy an d other lands came into the possession of the Earls of Angus.


Thomas Stewart, Earl of Angus married in 1353 Margaret, the daughter of Sir William St. Clair of Roslyn. Thomas Stewart having died of the plague and in disgrace, a prisoner in Dumbarton Castle he left two daughters. When Margaret, the elder, married Thomas, the 13th Earl of Mar, she became the Countess of Mar, but Mar died in 1374 and in 1379 King Robert 11 granted confirmation of her title of Countess of Angus, ( after her sister Elizabeth had surrended her claim) She was then known as the Countess of Angus and Mar.


And this is where the Douglas line of the Earls of Angus begins and where we learn what an interesting, beautiful, powerful and persuasive woman Margaret Stewart became.


Before the year 1357, the sister of Thomas, 13th Earl of Mar married William the 1st Earl of Douglas. (She was also named Margaret) and after 1374, when Thomas died, his widow, Margaret Stewart went to live at Tantallon Castle with her sister-in-law and William Douglas. It soon became a ‘menage a trios” as she bore a son to William, the 1st Earl of Douglas, George Douglas b. 1378 (1stEarl of Angus)

‘there remains no record that the church remonstrated or interfered in the irregular private life of the Countess of Angus’


‘The Countess of Angus and Mar died before 23rd March 1418. Whatever may have been her moral delinquency, nothing could have been more exemplary and successful than her exertions to establish her son in an honourable position.

On 9th April, 1389 she resigned, in his favour, the Earldom of Angus.However, he did not assume the title until after his betrothal in 1397 to Mary, the Princess second daughter of King Robert 111. A marriage planned and managed no doubt by the persuasiveness of his mother. She had arranged with the King the terms of the marriage contract on 24th May 1397 and these were most favourable to her son.

In all this may be traced the hand of a very clever woman, not devoid of ambition, and probably possessed of great personal charm.


George, the 1st Douglas Earl of Angus was indeed the 10th Earl of Angus since the Celtic Malcolm –and who knows how many preceded Malcolm?


George took no great interest in public affairs, but in 1402 he was dispatched by the Duke of Albany and Earl of Moray to re-enforce the 4th Earl of Douglas in his invasion of Northumberland. That ended on the disastrous field of Homildon where Douglas, Moray Murdoch and Angus were captured. Moray and Angus died of the plague in captivity c 1403. He was only about 24 years of age. He left a son, William b.c.1398 who succeeded as 2nd Earl of Angus and a daughter Elizabeth who married (1) Sir Alexander Forbes (after Lord Forbes) (2) Sir David Hay of Yester, ancestor of the Marquess of Tweddale.


His widow, the Princess Mary went on to marry three more husbands.


( continued in The Earls of Angus Part II )