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Index of first names

Catherine Douglas

 

 

 

Catherine Douglas, later Catherine "Kate" spelled Katherine) was a historical figure involved in the assassination of King James I of Scotland on February 20, 1437. She was a lady-in-waiting to his queen, Joan Beaufort.

Legend has it that during the King's stay at a Dominican chapterhouse in Perth, a group of men led by Sir Robert Graham came to the door searching for the King in order to kill him. The King's Chamberlain, Robert Stuart, aware of the plot against his life, had taken the precaution of removing the bolt from the door of the room in which James and his queen were staying.

Catherine sprang to the door and placed her arm through the staples to bar the assassins' entrance. However, they forced the door open anyway, breaking Catherine's arm, and discovered and killed the King. From that point on, according to the story, Catherine took the surname of "Barlass".

Dante Gabriel Rossetti recounted the story of Catherine Douglas in verse in 1881, under the title "The King's Tragedy". This poem contains the line "Catherine, keep the door!" - possibly the origin of the idiomatic phrase "Katy, bar the door!" (a warning of the approach of trouble). There are over 800 verses, so I have not included them here!

Catherine married to Alexander Lovell, and lived at the castle of Ballumbie.

 

Note:  The following is extracted from an unidentified source:

 

The account re: Elizabeth Douglas, sister of Sir James Douglas of Ralston (1), discusses her part in defending King James I during his assassination at Perth in Feb 1436/7. It also states,

' She afterwards married Richard Lovel of Ballumby, with whom, on 24 August 1438, she had a charter from Alexander Lindsay, second Earl of Crawford, of the lands of Muirhouse, co. Inverness.
In this charter she is styled neptis of the Earl, which shows that the commonly accepted marriage of her father to a daughter of Sir David Lindsay, first Earl of Crawford, is correct. '
[SP VI:366[1], cites Reg. Mag. Sig., 29 October 1463]

 

 

The event was commemorated in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem The King’s Tragedy, 1881. The full poem is 173 stanzas, but this selection shows the possible links with Katy bar the door:

Then the Queen cried, "Catherine, keep the door,
And I to this will suffice!"
At her word I rose all dazed to my feet,
And my heart was fire and ice.
...
Like iron felt my arm, as through
The staple I made it pass:-
Alack! it was flesh and bone - no more!
'Twas Catherine Douglas sprang to the door,
But I fell back Kate Barlass.

 

 

Notes:
1. Sir James Douglas of Ralston was the son of Sir William Douglas of Lochleven, who was killed In Battle 1421 in France. James was one of the protagonists in the famous Stirling tornament.

 

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Last modified: Saturday, 18 March 2017