Earls of Selkirk



crest Earl of selkirkWilliam Douglas (1634-1694), younger son of the 1st Marquess of Douglas was created Earl of Selkirk and Lord Daer and Shortcleuch in the peerage of Scotland on 4 August 1646. He married Anne Hamilton, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton 29 April 1656. In 1660 he legally changed his name surname to Douglas-Hamilton and received his wife's titles becoming the 3rd Duke of Hamilton. 


The Earl of Selkirk is a title in the Peerage of Scotland, created on the 4th August 1646 and awarded to a William Douglas the younger son of William Douglas, 1st Marquess of Douglas. Since the younger William Douglas was only twelve at the time this award of the earldom (together with the subsidiary title of Lord Daer and Shortcleuch) had little to do with his specific accomplishments and a great deal to do with generally encouraging the loyalty of the Douglases to the crown.

Our William later hit the jackpot in the seventeenth century marriage game when he married Anne Hamilton in 1656. Not only was Anne Hamilton a wealthy heiress but also Duchess of Hamilton in her own right. Duke of Hamilton by virtue of this marriage, on the 20th September 1660 William was additionally created Duke of Hamilton for life and adopted the surname of Douglas-Hamilton to reflect his new status. It later occurred to William that since he was now a duke and that his eldest son would inevitably inherit that title, that his own title of Selkirk was surplus to requirements. Therefore on the 6th October 1688 William surrendered the titles of Earl of Selkirk and Lord Daer and Shortcleuch in order that they might be regranted to his second surviving son Charles.

The particularly notable feature of this recreation of the dignity of Selkirk in 1688 was the special remainder that defined the course of descent for the title. It specified that in the event of the failure of the male line by Charles or his descendants, that the title should pass to the Duke's younger sons or their heirs male. And should the lines of all the younger sons fail, then the title should pass back to the senior line of the Dukes of Hamilton, but only until such time as the reigning Duke could produce a younger son, who would then inherit and start a new line of Earls of Selkirk. (Technically what is known as a shifting limitation and afterwards generally disapproved of by the House of Lords when it was given the opportunity.)


He abdicated as Earl of Selkirk and Lord Daer and Shortcleuch on 6 October 1688 leaving the titles to his younger son Charles Douglas (1663-1739) (Charles had been christened as Charles Hamilton, but changed his name to Charles Douglas upon receiving his titles.


Charles Douglas died childless and the title of 3rd Earl of Selkirk passed to his younger brother John Hamilton (c.1664-1744) who on 14 April 1697 had been created Earl of Ruglen, Viscount of Riccartoun and Lord Hillhouse. He outlived his son and heir and the titles created with the Earl of Ruglen was passed onto his daughter Anne Hamilton, 2nd Countess of Ruglen and through her marriage to the families of the Earl of March and the Duke of Queensberry. 


The Earldom of Selkirk passed back to Charles' and John's great nephew Dunbar Hamilton (1722-1799). He was the great grandson of the 1st Earl of Selkirk through Basil Hamilton (1671-1701) youngest brother of the 2nd and 3rd earls) and his son Basil Hamilton (1696-1742) (Dunbar Hamilton's father). 


Upon acceeding to the title, Dunbar changed surname to Douglas and became Dunbar Douglas, 4th Earl of Selkirk. His son Thomas Douglas (1771-1820) and grandson Dunbar James Douglas (1809-1885) succeeded him but upon the 6th Earl's death the title Earl of Selkirk devolved upon the 12th Duke of Hamilton, given special remainder this meant that the title was inherited by the 12th Duke's younger brother, Charles George Douglas-Hamilton (1847-1886). 


The 7th earl died childless and the title passed back to the 12th Duke. When he died without a male issue his distant cousin Alfred Douglas Douglas-Hamilton (1862-1940) inherited the earldom of Selkrik along with the dukedom. Upon his death the dukedom went to his eldest son whilst the earldom of Selkirk (as per the remainder) went to his younger son George Nigel Douglas-Hamilton (1906-1994). 

Upon the death of the 10th duke the younger brother of the 15th Duke of Hamilton, James Alexander Douglas-Hamilton became the 13th Earl. He renounced the title Earl of Selkirk in order to remain in the House of Commons, he was later elevated to the House of Lords with a life peerage as Baron Selkirk of Douglas. 


His heir is John Andrew Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Daer.


Date title held
1st Earl of Selkirk William Douglas-Hamilton, 3rd Duke of Hamilton, (1634-1694)
2nd Earl of Selkirk Charles Douglas-Hamilton, (1663-1739) 
3rd Earl of Selkirk John Douglas-Hamilton, (1664-1744)
4th Earl of Selkirk Dunbar Douglas, (1722-1799)
5th Earl of Selkirk Thomas Douglas, (1771-1820) 1799 = 
6th Earl of Selkirk Dunbar James Douglas,  (1809-1885)
7th Earl of Selkirk Lord Charles George Archibald Douglas-Hamilton, (1847-1886) (younger brother of 12th Duke of Hamilton)
William Alexander Louis Stephen Douglas-Hamilton, 12th Duke of Hamilton (1845-1895)
Alfred Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 13th Duke of Hamilton (1862-1940)
10th Earl of Selkirk George Nigel Douglas-Hamilton, (1906-1994) (younger brother of the 14th Duke of Hamilton) 1906 - 1944
11th Earl of Selkirk James Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, b. 1942 (younger brother of the 15th Duke of Hamilton; disclaimed 1994) 
The Selkirk Arms hotel, Kirkcudbright

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