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Sir Archibald Douglas, of Kilspindie






Sir Archibald Douglas, of Kilspindie (b. c.1490, d. before 1540), administrator, was the fourth son of Archibald Douglas, fifth earl of Angus (c.1449–1513), and his first wife, Elizabeth Boyd (d. 1498). Old enough to witness charters in 1509, he was probably born about 1490. His principal seat was Kilspindie Castle and estate in Perthshire, but he was not a major landowner, and his advancement resulted mainly from political influence and from his having property in Edinburgh, some of which he acquired through his marriage to Isobel Janet Hoppringle, widow of John Murray, which had taken place before 27 May 1519. Kilspindie owed his political career to his nephew Archibald Douglas, sixth earl of Angus, who in the confusion of James V's minority won control of Edinburgh in 1519. Angus failed to secure the castle, where the young king was in the keeping of Lord Ruthven, but his grip on the town was strengthened by the election of his uncle Douglas of Kilspindie to the office of provost. However, this proved unacceptable to Angus's rival, James Hamilton, first earl of Arran, who demanded that Kilspindie relinquish the office. In 1520 the regent, John Stewart, duke of Albany, attempted to solve the tension by barring either a Douglas or a Hamilton from holding the provostship, and Kilspindie duly ceded office to a neutral burgess, Robert Logan of Coitfield. The arrival of Albany in Scotland in 1521 led to several years in the political wilderness for the Angus faction, including Kilspindie.

The trust placed in Kilspindie by his nephew is demonstrated by the positions of influence afforded to him on the restoration in 1525 of Angus, following Albany's departure for France the previous year. Douglas dominance was based on control, principally within that family, of offices of state and patronage, and Kilspindie was at the heart of this strategy. On 21 June 1526 he was one of the lords appointed to be a member of the royal council and he had acquired the office of treasurer by 15 October. By November he had regained the provostship of Edinburgh and held the important office of keeper of the privy seal. He appears to have formed a close relationship with the young king, in the light of the legend (first related by Hume of Godscroft in 1644) that James V called him Greysteil. The nickname derives from an epic poem, known to have been popular at court no later than 1498, whose hero, Sir Greysteil, is a powerful, almost invincible, swordsman, and points to James's youthful admiration for the man who was at the centre of court administration. Kilspindie sat continuously upon the session of lords of council; that the government was under severe financial strain is suggested by the substantial debt of £3654 8s. 1d. which appeared in the account which he submitted as treasurer for the period October 1526 to August 1527.

Political ascendancy could be personally lucrative, however; Kilspindie received 1000 merks from Archbishop Beaton and shared in the profits from the forfeiture of Patrick, Lord Lindsay of the Byres. But dissatisfaction with the Douglases—with Angus's former wife, Queen Margaret, prominent among the malcontents—was never far beneath the surface of political life, and the escape of James V from Angus-controlled Edinburgh to Stirling in early June 1528 caught the Douglases off guard. According to John Law's contemporary account, the king's flight occurred while Angus was absent from court and Kilspindie was visiting his mistress in Dundee. The Observantine friar Adam Abell adds the opinion that the overbearing pride of Kilspindie's wife, Isobel, referred to scathingly as ‘my lady thesaurer’ (NL Scot., Add. MS 1746, fol. 116v), had also alienated support from the Douglases.

With the effective commencement of James V's personal rule in 1528 Kilspindie lost the keepership of the privy seal to George Crichton, bishop of Dunkeld, and as Kilspindie's accounts for the Edinburgh customs were being audited in July, Lyon king, unable to find Kilspindie in person, proclaimed a summons against him from Haddington market cross. On 19 July Robert Cairncross, provost of the collegiate church of Corstorphine, was appointed treasurer in place of Kilspindie, who had ignored instructions to enter into ward at Edinburgh Castle, and in August Robert, fifth Lord Maxwell, was appointed provost of Edinburgh. Roger Lascelles, the English captain of Norham Castle, describes Maxwell arriving in Edinburgh and proceeding to surround the provost's house where Kilspindie was hosting dinner for his nephews George and William, suggesting that the king's control of Edinburgh was still not secure. The Douglases retreated to Tantallon (according to Lascelles, accommodation at Norham had been offered to the Douglases, including Kilspindie and his wife). On 5 September 1528 sentence of forfeiture of life, lands, and goods was passed against Kilspindie, his possessions being divided between Hugh Montgomery, first earl of Eglinton, and Robert Cairncross. His stepson, Andrew Murray of Blackbarony, Peeblesshire, bailie of Ballencrieff, had to seek remission for association with his stepfather after the latter's forfeiture, although he was sufficiently in favour to have secured the office of sheriff of Edinburgh by 1536.

A period of exile in England followed. In February 1529 Kilspindie was involved in tentative negotiations with Sir James Hamilton of Finnart at Cockburnspath, possibly aimed at seeking political rehabilitation. Nothing came of these discussions, and in 1540 charges were brought against Hamilton which included the accusation that in 1529 he had plotted with Kilspindie and others to kill the king at Holyrood. Kilspindie joined Northumberland's raid on Haddingtonshire and the Merse on 11 December 1532, but he appears to have approached Thomas Erskine, secretary to James V, while Erskine was on business at the English court, with a view to sounding him out on the possibility of returning to Scotland. An undated letter to Erskine from the king warns him against association with the Douglases, probably in response to these encounters, yet Kilspindie, encouraged by the peace treaty between Scotland and England, risked returning to seek clemency in August 1534. While he had a cold reception from the king, he did not suffer imprisonment. Instead James V commanded that he should be conveyed overseas, probably to France, which amounted to effective banishment, as Kilspindie seems to have died abroad before 1540.


After John Murray's death at Flodden, Isobel Hoppar was described as a "rich widow of Edinburgh" in 1515 by Baron Dacre. Isobel's second husband was Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie, called Greysteil, brother and advisor of the Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. By the King's gift in 1526, Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie and Isobel Hoppar were given another property on the south side of the High Street, when Kilspindie was Lord High Treasurer and Provost of Edinburgh. The house had belonged to Isobel's former husband and to James Forstar or Forrester, son of Jonet Halyburton and a grandson of Sir Duncan Forrester of Garden. She was given rights of the property of James, Lord Carlyle of Torthorwald in January 1527.

In 1527 Isobel as "executrice" of her husband received £100 for an old royal debt owed to Murray.   When James V reached his majority and escaped from the Douglases in 1528, he began to take revenge on the Douglas family. Archibald and Isobel lost the Forrester house, and the lands she held near Peebles.   In February 1529 Isobel's lands at Staneburn near Linlithgow were given to Gavin Hamilton, and her rents, crops, and livestock at Blackbarony and 'Puro' (which she held conjointly with her husband) were given to Patrick Hepburn of Wauchtoun.


His son, also Archibald, succeeded to Kilspindie in 1543, upon the lifting of the sentence of forfeiture.  His son, Alexander became bishop designate in Moray



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