The tenacious survival of the Douglases despite James V’s revenge plot

In the penultimate part of this short series on the powerful Clan Douglas, the largest of all purely plain clans, I will explain how the Douglases survived – despite the internal feuds that plagued the clan from the 15th century onwards. century.

These ‘quarrels’ came to a head at the Battle of Arkinholm on May 1, 1455. I showed last week how James, the 9th Earl and leader of the Black Douglases, rose in revolt against King James II – this which is understandable, as the King had murdered his brother William, the 8th Earl. James II was known as the “fiery face” because of his birthmark, but also possibly because of his legendary temper which led him to kill William Douglas at Stirling Castle in the most brutal way .

The 9th Earl traveled to England where he tried unsuccessfully to gain support for his uprising. His three brothers stayed behind and fought the king’s forces at Arkinholm, near Langholm. It remains unclear whether the leader of the Red Douglas side of the family, George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus, actually commanded the troops against his relatives, but with Borders families such as the Carruthers, Maxwells, Scotts and Johnstones as well eager to throw off the Black Douglas yoke, there was no doubt about the outcome.

READ MORE: The Douglas’ tenacious survival despite a king’s plot

Two brothers of the 9th Earl met gruesome ends. Archibald, Earl of Moray, was killed in the fighting and his head was removed and presented to King James. Hugh, Earl of Ormonde, was captured and executed shortly afterwards, while John Douglas, Lord of Balvenie, fled to England. The power of the Black Douglases was destroyed that day at Arkinholm.

The excellent site douglashistory.co.uk quotes a verse on this subject:

Pompey by Caesar alone was defeated,

Only a Roman soldier conquered Rome;

A Douglas could not have been brought so low,

Hadn’t a Douglas caused his overthrow?

With their fortress of Threave Castle captured, James II moved quickly to ensure the troublesome Black Douglases could not rise again – he had the Scottish Parliament pass an Act of Encroachment against the 9th Earl and his lands were forfeited to the Crown. James quickly rewarded the Earl of Angus for his loyalty by giving the leader of the Red Douglases much of the former Douglas territories – he was also given the title of Earl of Douglas.

James II was killed by an exploding cannon during the siege of Roxburgh Castle in 1460. The man who was wounded alongside the King and who took over the Scottish forces and succeeded in capturing the castle from its English occupants was George Douglas, Earl of Angus and Douglas.

The triumph of the Red Douglases was complete when the earl placed the crown on the head of the new king, James III, at his coronation at Kelso Abbey. He would have said, “There! Now that I’ve placed it on Your Grace’s head, let’s see who has the audacity to move it. The earl kept his word to the young king, but other members of the Douglas clan did not.

The Earl was appointed Lieutenant of the Realm by Queen Regent Mary of Guelders and served as Ambassador to England before her death in 1463. His son and heir Archibald has come down to us throughout history for his nickname, “Bell-the-cat “, although during his lifetime he was known as the Grand Count. As 5th Earl of Angus, he was appointed Warden of Eastfall by James III, which made him responsible for defending Scotland’s eastern border against the threat of invasion. English.

READ MORE: The most powerful of Scotland’s Lowland clans: How Douglas saw tragedy and triumph

A year later, in 1482, Angus joined a group of nobles who rebelled against James III. It was the earl who offered to “steele the cat”, that is, to capture and kill the king’s favourite, Thomas (or Robert, no one is sure which) Cochrane – whom the nobles despised because of of his low birth rate. Angus grabbed Cochrane by the gold chain around his neck, then hanged him and his associates at Lauder Bridge.

Angus also briefly joined the insurrection of Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany, but again sided with James III in 1483. It was a much more serious rebellion by the nobles in 1488, as they were joined by the own son of the King, James, Duke. of Rothesay. Angus fought James III at the Battle of Sauchieburn, which ended with the King’s mysterious murder and the Duke taking the throne as James IV.

Angus changed sides several times, including his treasonous dealings with England, and was in favor and out of favor with James IV – who eventually made him Lord of Bothwell, but took control of the Douglas castles at Tantallon and Hermitage. Otherwise, Angus seems to have led an enchanted life until the Battle of Flodden in September 1513, in which his son and heir, George, Master of Douglas, and his second son, Sir William Douglas, were killed. Angus was overcome with grief and died the following month.

His successor as earl and thus head of Clan Douglas was Archibald Douglas, about whom I will write at length in my next series on the men and women who shaped Scotland without ever being on the throne. Suffice to say that he was a schemer who married the widow of James IV, Margaret Tudor, sister of King Henry VIII, with whom Angus made an alliance. Margaret soon wanted a divorce, and she sided with the powerful Duke of Albany against her husband, who found himself accused of high treason and exiled to France and London. He survived this charge and his English allies, including Henry VIII against his own sister, supported his return to Scotland – where he served as regent for the young King James V.

The earl was a tough man and effectively imprisoned James V, who grew to hate the Douglases with a vengeance he demanded when he assumed full kingship in 1528. It didn’t matter that he was the son-in-law of the 6th Earl of Angus, although still a teenager, James V wanted to punish the entire Douglas family.

One of those he vented his considerable anger on was Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis (above), whose story illustrates the plight of many of those Douglases who were close to Scottish monarchs. In 1528 she was accused of treason but was not prosecuted for it – instead she was accused of poisoning her husband, John Lyon, 6th Lord Glamis. But the case never went to court, not least because the couple had been married until their death at the end of 1527. Their noble friends knew this and some simply refused to serve as jurors. .

Without her husband’s protection, she and her brothers became fair game for James V and his cronies. The king had banned her Douglas brothers and she was accused of giving them shelter and food, contrary to the royal decree. Lady Janet was summoned before parliament to answer charges of aiding the Earl of Douglas in an “insurrectionary design” against the king. The affair did not take place, due to lack of evidence, and the young and beautiful Lady Glamis was freed, which made the king and his crew more determined than ever to take all necessary measures against her.

She married her second husband, Archibald Campbell of Skipness, in 1532 – only to have the two implicated five years later in another alleged plot against James V. Campbell was thrown into a dungeon in Edinburgh Castle. With her family and servants tortured for evidence against her, Lady Glamis was duly convicted of planning to poison the king, who then accused her of witchcraft against his person.

A story by the Douglases calls it “one of the most debauched and atrocious outbursts of private revenge that anywhere defaces the records of genuine history”. It’s hard to disagree that Lady Glamis was entirely innocent and that James V simply went too far in his obsession with the Douglas clan. Even those who sat in judgment, knowing the terrible punishment for her crimes, asked King James to be merciful, but he was not for it and said that she should suffer death by being burned at the stake at Edinburgh Castle.

Douglas’s story relates: “Shortly after the sentence she was delivered into the hands of the executioner, to be led to suffer. The constancy and courage of this heroine are almost unbelievable, which amazed all the spectators. She heard the sentence pronounced against her without the slightest sign of concern; nor did she cry, moan, or shed a tear, though that kind of death is most frightening to human nature.

“When she was brought to suffer, people who looked at her could not hide their grief and compassion; some of them who knew her and knew her innocence, were meant to save her; but the presence of the king and his ministers restrained them. She seemed like the only carefree person there; and her beauty and charms never appeared with more advantage than when she was driven to the flames; and her soul being fortified with the support of heaven, and the feeling of her own innocence, she braved death, and her courage was equal in the fire, to what it was before her judges. She suffered these torments without the slightest noise, only she prayed with devotion to the divine assistance to support her in her sufferings. Thus died this famous lady with a courage not inferior to that of any of the heroes of antiquity.

His son John Lyon, 7th Lord Glamis, was only 15 or 16 at the time and he too had been arrested and imprisoned. James V ordered that he be forced to watch his mother burn. Her husband Archibald Campbell was killed trying to escape the castle.

As we will see in this promised future chronicle, the 6th Earl of Angus had a major influence on the events surrounding Mary, Queen of Scots, but chief among his actions was being the father of Lady Margaret Douglas, his only legitimate child from Margaret Tudor. She married Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, and their son was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, mother of James VI and I who brought about her personal union of the thrones of Scotland and from England.

The Red Douglases continued to thrive in royal service, although subsequent Earls of Angus had their disagreements with the Stuart monarchs. The religious upheavals of this time put them at risk at times, largely due to the conversion of the 10th Earl of Angus to Roman Catholicism which saw him placed under house arrest.

His son William spent several years on the Continent for health reasons, but returned to the court of King Charles I and appears to have become one of the king’s favourites, being made Marquess of Douglas when the king visited. in Scotland for its somewhat delayed delay. coronation in 1633. He fought for the Royalist side in the War of the Three Kingdoms, but ended up imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle and also paid huge fines to Oliver Cromwell. As his son and heir died while still alive, the Marquess was succeeded by his grandson, James Douglas, whose chief claim to fame is that he was a close associate and privy adviser to Charles II. and of James VII and II.

This brings us to the final part of next week’s series which will feature one of the most famous legal battles in Scottish history, the Douglas case, and show how this great clan was left without a leader .

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