June 1455 Arkinholm (but see below)
Erkinholme on R Esk s Langholm, Dumfries
Earl of Angus bt Earl Douglas
The Battle of Arkinholm was fought on May 1, 1455, at Arkinholm
near Langholm in Scotland, during the reign of King James II of Scotland.
Although a small action, involving only a few hundred troops, it was the
decisive battle in a civil war between the king and the Black Douglases, the
most powerful aristocratic family in the country. As the king's supporters
won it was a significant step in the struggle to establish a relatively
strong centralised monarchy in Scotland during the Late Middle Ages.
The Black Douglases had already suffered some losses before the battle.
The king's supporters had taken their castle at
Abercorn, and some
allies such as the Hamiltons had defected. The head of the family,
James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas, had gone to England to rally
support, but his three younger brothers were at the battle.
There is some uncertainty about the leadership of the royal army. By some
accounts it was led by
George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus, head of the Red Douglas family, a
senior aristocrat, and third cousin to the Earl of Douglas. However other
accounts describe it as a force of local Border families, Johnstones,
Maxwells, and Scotts, who had previously been dominated by the Black
Douglases but now rebelled against them, led by the Laird John Johnstone of
Johnstone in Annandale, who succeeded his father 1455.
Of the three Douglas brothers:
Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray was killed in the battle and his head
presented to the king, Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde was captured and
executed shortly afterwards, and John Douglas, Lord of Balvenie escaped to
The result was the
end of the Black Douglases. After the battle an act of parliament gave Angus the
lordship of Douglas with the original possessions of his ancestors in
The defeat of the Black Douglases by the Red Douglases at
Arkinholm gave rise to the following verse,
"Pompey by Caesar only was undone,
None but a Roman soldier conquered Rome;
A Douglas could not have been brought so low,
Had not a Douglas wrought his overthrow."
The 9th Earl had made a futile attempt to regain his power a number of years
after the Battle of Arkinholm, but he was captured and banished to
Lindores Abbey where he died in 1488.
The capture of the Earl of Ormonde, Image by
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