Clan Douglas

Clan Douglas


Adapted from:

The Douglases are an ancient Scottish kindred from the Scottish Lowlands taking their name from Douglas, South Lanarkshire, and from there their chiefs gained vast territories throughout the Scottish Borderland, Angus, Lothian, Moray and France. The Douglases were the most prominent family in lowland Scotland during the Late Middle Ages, often holding the real power behind the throne of Kings. The heads of the House of Douglas held the titles of the Earl of Douglas (Black Douglas) and later the Earl of Angus (Red Douglas). The clan does not have a chief recognised by the Lyon Court, so therefore it is now considered an armigerous clan. 


The Douglases were considered to be the most influential and powerful of the Lowland families and who at the height of their powers were possibly the greatest family in Scotland. The first record of this name was in 1175 when William de Duglas ( pedigree) witnessed a charter by the Bishop of Glasgow to the monks of Kelso. Grants of the land were made to Sir James Douglas, one of Robert Bruce's chief lieutenants and famed for his many brave exploits. Unfortunately he was killed by the Moors in Granada, Spain, while attempting to carry Bruce's heart to the Holy Land. His nephew was created Earl of Douglas, later becoming Earl of Mar by marriage.

The strength and wealth of the Douglases were a constant threat to the Stewart Kings. At one time they formed an alliance with the English crown and the Lord of the Isles against the Scots crown, the failure of which meant that Lord Douglas had to flee to England. The Black Douglases were forfeited in 1455 and Threave Castle was bombarded by the famous cannon, Mons Meg. George, 4th Earl of Angus, chief of the Red Douglases, became head of the whole clan. His son, Archibald, "Bell-the Cat", led the nobles rebellion against James III which ended in the defeat and death of the King at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488. His grandson, also Archibald, married Margaret Tudor, widow of James IV, who had fallen at Flodden. Their daughter, Lady Margaret, married the Earl of Lennox; their son, Lord Darnley, married Mary, Queen of Scots and was father of James VI.

The Douglases continued to play an important role in the life of Scotland throughout the centuries and were ancestors of the Earls of Morton, Douglas, Annandale, Moray, Ormond, Angus, and Forfar, and the Dukes of Touraine, Queensberry, Buccleuch and Hamilton. It would appear that the senior representative of this house is at present Lord Home (ex-prime minister of Great Britain) but he cannot exercise the chiefship while he is also chief of Home, the heir male is the Duke of Hamilton. (


The original caput of the family was [[:Category:Douglas Castle|Douglas Castle]] in Lanarkshire. The Kirk of St Bride at Douglas, along with [ Melrose Abbey] and the [ Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés] holds the remains of many of the Earls of Douglas and Angus. [[ 1]]


Origins of the Name

The family's surname is derived from the village of Douglas, the name of which comes from the Gaelic elements dubh, meaning "dark, black"; and glas, meaning "stream" (in turn from Old Gaelic dub and glais). One old tradition is that the first chief of Douglas was Sholto Douglas who helped the king of Scotland win a battle in the year 767. This is unsubstantiated and is today considered pseudo-history.

The true progenitor of Clan Douglas was probably "Theobaldus Flammatius" (Theobald the Fleming), who received in 1147 the lands near Douglas Water in Lanarkshire in return for services for the Abbot of Kelso. The first certain record of the name Douglas is that of William de Dufglas who witnessed a charter between 1175 and 1199 by the Bishop of Glasgow to the monks of Kelso.

Although the Douglases were first recorded in the 1170s, the Douglas family names consisted of Arkenbald and Freskin, and were undoubtedly related to the Clan Murray, and to be of Flemish origin. The Clan Murray were descended from a Flemish knight called Freskin. Though the Flemish origin of the Douglases is not undisputed, it is often claimed that the Douglases were descended from a Flemish knight who was granted lands on the Douglas Water by the Abbot of Kelso, who held the barony and lordship of Holydean. However this is disputed, it has been claimed that the lands which were granted to this knight were not the lands which the Douglas family came from.

In 1179 William Douglas was Lord of Douglas and it seems likely that he was Theobald the Fleming's son and the first to take the surname Douglas. His grandson, also Sir William de Douglas had two sons who fought at the Battle of Largs in 1263 against the Norsemen


Clan Chief:  no chief, armigerous clan

Crest: On a chapeau, a green salamander surrounded by fire. [ crest]

Motto: Jamais Arriere (Never behind)

Slogan: "A Douglas! A Douglas!"

Region:  Lowlands         District:  Lanarkshire, Lothian, Scottish Marches, Angus, Moray, Galloway and Dumfriesshire

Plant badge:   Rue Dunbarton's Drums

Gaelic name:   Dubhghlas (dark river) from Gaelic dubh "dark" and glais (water, river)

Septs: Agnew, Blackett, Blacklock, Blackstock, Blackwood, Blalock, Breckinridge, Brown, Brownlee, Cavan, Cavers, Dickey, Drysdale, Forest, Forrester, Foster, Gilpatric, Glendinning, Glenn, Harkness, Inglis, Kidston, Kilgore, Kilpatrick, Kirkland, Kirkpatrick, Lockerby, Lockery, MacGuffey, MacGuffock , McKitrick, Morton, Sandilands, Sandlin, Soule, Sterrett, Symington, Troup, Young

Names associated with the clan: Dowglass, Dovglas, Dowglas, Dulglas, Douglace, Couglas, Douglass, Dogles, Dowglace, Dulglass, Dulglass, Douglis, Dowglasse, Doubles, Duglas, Douglles, Drysdale, Glen

Clan branches: Black Douglas, Red Douglas, Douglas of Morton, Douglas of Mains, Douglas of Queensbury, Douglas of Ormond and Forfar, Douglas of Selkirk

Allied Clans: Clan Hamilton, Clan Carmichael, Clan Kirkpatrick, Clan Forrester, Clan Maxwell (16th century)

Rival Clans: Clan Stewart, Clan Crichton, Clan Gordon, Clan Sandilands, Clan Charteris; Clan Johnstone, Clan Colville, Clan Scott, Clan MacLellan, Clan Ramsay, Clan Maxwell (17th century)

Research links:

* [ The heraldry of the Douglases : with notes on all the males of the family, descriptions of the arms, plates and pedigrees], Johnston, G. Harvey (George Harvey), 1860-1921

* [ The Great Historic Families of Scotland: The Douglases] -