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Lt Gen Archibald Douglas of Witham (1707-8 Nov 1778) ADC to King George II, Colonel of the 13th Dragoons, MP for Dumfries

Lt Gen Archibald Douglas was the eldest son of William Douglas of Fingland, Kirkcudbright, by Elizabeth (Betty) his wife, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Captain Alexander Clerk of Glendorth (Glendoick), Co. Lanark, and of Edinbugh where he was a merchant. He was was born in the year 1707.

Like his father, and cousins of Morton and Holmhill, he was to enter the army early in life. His commission as a lieutenant in the 3rd Dragoons is dated 10 May 1742. His next commission is dated 26 May 1745, when he is raised to the rank of captain. On 27 May 1756, he was made Lt Col of Foot, and ADC to HM King George II, and on 19 Jan 1761 he became a Lt General.

When a Lieutenant, he was present and served with distinction, at the Batlle of Dettigen, in Bavaria against the French, 26 Jun 1743 - having three horses shot under him, and one of his eye-brows shot away. The first brunt of the battle fell on the Horse, who were hard pressed by the French cavalry; but the infantry of the allies stood firm, and the battle was won for King George II.

When he was Colonel of the 13th Dragoons, he commanded that regiment at the Battle of Minden, 1 Aug 1759(1), and was gazetted Maj-general on 15 Sep following.

General Douglas was elected MP for Dumfries Burghs from 1754-1761, and for Dumfriesshire 1761-1768, and 1768-1774 (2). It is possible that he became MP through the influenece of his friend, Charles, 3rd duke of Queensberry, who seems always to have acknowledged the kinship, and addressed letters to him as 'My Dear Kinsman'.

General Douglas purchased, on 1st Jun 1763, from Milbourn Carter, Esq, a good, substantial country house at Witham, now called (in 1931) White Hall, in Essex, which he had previously leased. The house is situated in 'the present' (1931) Newland Street.

He married in Witham Church, Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Burchard (or Burcard) of Witham, by whom he had six sons and five daughters. His wife was born in Witham on 9 Jan 1727, and baptized there on 28 Jan 1727. It is possible that she was his econd wife, the first having been a 'grande dame' of rance.

Elizabeth (born 11 Jan 1754), a twin and the General's youngest daughter, on the death of her nephew Alexander Douglas, purchased her father's house at Witham from the family, and a year after her death on 25 Jan 1832, the property was sold to Mr William Henry Pattison, by the Westcombs, who inherited it from her.

As Aide-de-Camp to King George II, he was one of those who escorted the betrothed of the then Prince of Wales from the Continent to London, the route happening to be through Witham. The Princess Charlotte Sophia of Mechlenberg-streliz, as she was then, offered to make his daughters, who she saw there, Maids of Honour when she became Queen Consort. (1761).

 

A loyal supporter of Bute’s Administration, Douglas was equally faithful to Grenville. On a letter to Grenville from Douglas in February 1764, asking for a commission in the Guards for his son, Jenkinson wrote: ‘This is the request of a very good friend.’6 He was constantly in attendance during the debates on Wilkes and general warrants, and even when ill declined to absent himself without Grenville’s permission.7 When, overcome by illness and the fatigue of late sittings, he was obliged to go home to Witham on 24 Mar., he wrote to Jenkinson, offering to return after a few days rest, if his presence was required.8

At the change of Administration Douglas followed Grenville into opposition, voting against the Government on the repeal of the Stamp Act, 22 Feb. 1766. He voted against the Chatham Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767.

Re-elected in 1768, his military duties in Ireland prevented his close attendance in Parliament, but he returned to vote with the Administration in the divisions on Wilkes and Middlesex, 3 Feb., 15 Apr., and 8 May 1769. He supported the North Administration over the Middlesex election and on the royal marriage bill of 1772, but seems to have been absent from the division of 25 Feb. 1774 on the Grenville Election Act.

Douglas does not appear to have sought reelection in 1774

Lt General Archibald Douglas died in Dublin on 8 Nov 1778, and was buried at St Nicholas, Witham, where there is a memorial to him, his wife, daughters Charlotte and Hyde, and son, Charles. Elizabeth, his wife, had predeceased him on 9 Feb 1770, and is buried at Witham.

 

It may be that his death in Dublin is what led Ramage, in his book Drumlanrig and the Douglases to write that General Douglas was Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Ireland. This does not appear to be correct.

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:
1.  I have not been able to verify that the 13th Light Dragoons were at Minden.

2.  It seems he was known as Douglas of Kirkton (or Kirktoun) when an MP.

 

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