Le Hardi's son, SIR JAMES Of DOUGLAS (c1286—1330), lord of Douglas,
called the,” Good,” whose exploits are among the most romantic in
Scottish, history, ,was educated in Paris(3). On his return he found an
Englishman., Robert de Clifford, in possession of his estates. His offer
of allegiance to Edward I. being refused, he cast in his lot with Robert
Bruce, whom he joined before his coronation at Scone in 1306. From the
battle of Methven he escaped with Bruce and the remnant of his followers,
and accompanied him in his wanderings in the Highlands. In the next year
they returned to the south of Scotland. He twice outwitted the English
garrison. of Douglas and destroyed the castle.
|The 'Good Sir James' throws Bruce's heart at
during the Battle of Teba, Spain, 1330
Image courtesy of Andrew Spratt
One of these exploits, carried out on Palm Sunday, the 19th of March
1307, with barbarities excessive even in those days, is known as the”
Larder.” Douglas routed Sir John de Mowbray at Ederford Bridge, near
Kilmarnock, and was entrusted with the conduct of the war in the south,
while Bruce turned to the Highlands. In 1308 he captured Thomas Randolph
(afterwards earl of Moray), soon to become one of Bruce’s firm
supporters, and a friendly rival of Douglas, whose exploits he shared. He
made many successful raids on tile English border, which won for him the
dreaded name of the “Black Douglas” in English households.
In 1312 the Scots, under Sir James Douglas, (as a pay-back) penetrated to
Hartlepool carrying off much spoil, and many prisoners of both
sexes...” Two years later they again ravaged the county plundering
and destroying villages. The frightened inhabitants of Hartlepool
took to the sea in ships for safety.
Through the capture of Roxburgh
Castle in 1314 by stratagem, the assailants being disguised as black
oxen, he secured Teviotdale; and at Bannockburn,
received the singular honour of being created a
Knight banneret by the king, Robert the Bruce, a distinction only ever
conferred on the battlefield.
He commanded the left wing with
Walter the Steward. During the thirteen years of intermittent warfare
followed he repeatedly raided England. He slew Sir Robert de Nevill, the
‘ Peacock of the North,” in. single combat in 1316, and in 1319 be
invaded Yorkshire, in company with, Randolph, defeating an army assembled
by William do Melton, archbishop of York, at Mitton-on-Swale (September
20), in a fight known as “The Chapter of Myton.”
In 1322 he captured the pass of Byland in Yorkshire, and forced the
English army to retreat. He was rewarded by the “Emerald Charter,”
granted by Bruce, which gave him criminal’~ jurisdiction over the family
estates, and released the lords of Douglas from various feudal
The emerald ring which Bruce gave Douglas in ratification of the
charter is lost, but another of the king’s gifts, a large two-handed
sword (bearing, however, a later inscription), exists at
Castle(1). In a daring night attack on the English camp in
1327 Douglas came near capturing Edward III. himself.
After laying waste the northern counties he retreated, without giving
battle to the English. Before his death in 1329 Bruce desired Douglas to
carry his heart to Palestine in redemption of his unfulfilled vow to go on
crusade. Accordingly Sir James set out in 1330, bearing with him a silver
casket containing the embalmed heart of Bruce. He fell fighting with the
Moors in Spain on. the 25th of August of that year, and was buried in
Bride’s Church, Douglas. Since his day the Douglases have borne a
human heart in their coat of arms. Sir James was said to have fought in
seventy battles and to have conquered in fifty-seven.
His exploits, as told in Froissart’s Chronicles and in John Barbour's
Bruce> are familiar from Scott's Tales of a Grandfather and Castle
Dangerous. His half-brother, Sir Archibald, defeated Edward Baliol at
Annan in 1332, and had just been appointed regent of Scotland for David
II. when he risked a pitched battle at Halidon
Hill, where he was defeated and killed (1333), with his nephew
William, lord of Douglas. The inheritance fell to his brother, a
churchman, Hugh the
"Dull" (b. 1294), who surrendered his lands to David II.;
and a re-grant was made to William Douglas, next referred to.
Douglas, James (Sir) "Good James (Sir)/Black Douglas" b.
1286. d. August 25, 1330.
James of Douglas was the friend and ablest lieutenant of Robert the Bruce.
Known as the Black Douglas to the English and as the Good James (Sir) to
the Scots, Douglas was a brilliant fighter and master of guerrilla
warfare. He commanded the left wing of Bruce's army at the battle of
Before his death, Bruce asked Douglas to take his heart on a crusade to
the Holy Land. Douglas set out bearing Bruce's heart in a silver casket,
but on the way fell
fighting the Moors in Spain. The Scottish knights who survived brought
back Douglas's body which was entombed in the town of Douglas and Bruce's
heart which was buried in Melrose Abbey.
Kirk, Douglas, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Cause of Death: killed in battle with the Moors."
(le Hardi) 5th of Douglas
Mother: Elizabeth Steward
Marriage 1 Spouse Unknown
the Grim (3rd Earl of Douglas) Douglas b: ABT. 1320
He was amongst the SIGNATORIES OF THE DECLARATION OF ARBROATH (1320)
all his deeds was Douglas true
nothing would he have to do
treachery, nor with a lie
heart was set on honour high
things did he so nobly do
he was loved by all he knew
he was not so fair that we
praise his looks in high degree
visage he was rather grey;
hair was black, so I heard say
limbs were finely made and long
bones were large, his shoulders strong
body was well knit and slim
those say that set eyes on him
happy, lovable was he
meek and sweet in company
those with him in battle saw
countenance he wore!
speech a little lisp had he
suited him right wondrously.......
|(a part of the translation
from the book "The Bruce" by John Barbour - the
Archdeacon of Aberdeen, which was written in 1375)
This pewter model is part of Nigel Tranter's Bannockburn Limited
Edition Chess Set. This specially devised and commissioned by Morag
and John Morgan exclusively for
old and interesting armorial monument is that of Sir James Douglas— the
good Sir James— in St Bride's, Douglas, though its date is nothing like so
ancient as Sir Alan Swinton's.
Sir James, as we all know, was killed in Spain, on his way to the Holy
Land with the heart of Robert the Bruce. In commemoration of this event,
the Douglases have ever after borne a heart in their shield under the
three stars in chief.
But the arms which appear above the tomb of the good Sir James could
never have been borne by him, because the heart is there along with the
stars, which, of course, it could not have been before the incident
occurred, which the heart was intended to commemorate.
This, then, is a warning to the heraldic archaeologist to be careful
before accepting as absolute fact the testimony of monumental tombs — in
other respects also notoriously untrustworthy — as to what the arms of any
particular individual were.
Text and image from: Heraldry in
relation to Scottish history and art-1898
1. Presumably no longer at Douglas
Castle, considering it is now a ruin.
2. Bruce made
Douglas a ‘knight banneret’ (a knight who could lead men in battle under
his own banner) on the morning of 24 June,
a distinction only ever conferred on the battlefield.
James was sent to France by his father to avoid his being held as hostage
for his father's good behaviour following the
Capitulations of Irvine.
See also:Article on a painting of the Black Douglas
Enlarged image of statue at
Sword presented to Sir
James by Robert the Bruce