The name is said to be derived from the Gaelic "dubh glais" meaning "dark water" but the origins of the line are lost in time. It is thought that a Flemish nobleman may have accompanied King David I> on his return from England but the first documented Douglas was a William de Douglas in the 12th century in Morayshire>. In time, four main branches of the family evolved -The "Black" Douglases of Douglasdale in south Lanarkshire
The "Red" Douglases of Angus and Fife
The Douglas earls of Morton in Dumfriesshire> and
A branch in Drumlanrig in Nithsdale in the Scottish Borders who became the marquesses of Queensberry.
The first Douglas to stride across the stage of Scottish history was Sir William Douglas who fought and died for William Wallace>. His son, Sir James Douglas was a supporter and lifelong friend of Robert the Bruce>. "Good Sir James" died taking Bruce's heart> on a crusade to the Holy Land. The 2nd Earl of Douglas died at the Battle of Otterburn> in 1388 as his army defeated an English force led by Prince Henry "Hotspur". In 1402 the 4th Earl was defeated by the same Henry Hotspur at the Battle of Homildon Hill>.
The Douglas family grew in power and by the 15th century they were seen as a threat to the monarch. The 6th Earl Douglas and his brother was invited to the infamous "Black Dinner" at Edinburgh Castle with the 10-year-old King James II>. They were seized and beheaded. The 8th Earl suffered the same fate in 1452, this time at the hands of King James II himself.
William, the 11th Earl of Angus became 1st Marquess of Douglas and was a supporter of King Charles I> during the Civil War. A number of Douglas titles later devolved to the Dukes of Hamilton and the eldest son of the Duke is now given the title of Marquess of Douglas.
The Douglas clan motto is "Jamais arrière" which means "Never behind".
Surnames regarded as septs (sub-branch) of the Douglas clan include Drysdale, Lockerbie and Morton.
Douglas was the 89th most frequent surname at the General Register Office> in 1995.
There is a Douglas clan Web site here>.
Return to Index of Clans/Family Histories.
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