This page was last updated on 02 November 2019

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names

Sir John Douglas






Sir John Douglas (died 4 March 1814) was a British officer of the Royal Marines who, with his wife Charlotte, Lady Douglas(1) was involved in a scandal regarding an alleged illegitimate child born to the Princess of Wales, Caroline of Brunswick(2). He was Groom to the Bedchamber of the Earl of Sussex.


Sir John Douglas was born at Jean Fields, Dalkeith, near Edinburgh; he was the son of Louis Douglas, Esq.; his grandfather was a lord of Session. At the age of thirteen, the Duke of Athol procured him a Commission in the Marine corps. He served under Rodney in the West Indies; and afterwards in America. He was also with Lord Keith, at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope. He next sailed in the Tigre with Sir Sidney Smith, and was at the siege of St. Jean d'Acre. On the capture of El Arish, he was dispatched to England with an account of its surrender; on which occasion, his Majesty conferred on him the honour of knighthood; and bestowed on him a pension, during pleasure, of £433 per annum, as a remuneration for his services, and for the loss of property which he sustained by the blowing up of the Queen Charlotte, at Syracuse.

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Marines on 14 February 1776 and promoted to first lieutenant on 9 April 1778. While serving as on recruitment duties in Gloucester, he met Charlotte Hopkinson, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel George Caesar Hopkinson, late of the 15th Dragoons. Her family were acquaintances of antiquarian Samuel Lysons. Colonel Hopkinson bought the estate of Wotton in 1790.


Douglas married 17 June 1797, at Gloucester, Charoltte, daughter of a private soldier, named Hephinson or Hopkinson, who was soon made a Sergeant; later becoming an army agent and subsequently became a Colonel, wealthy with an estate near Gloucester. The fruits of this marriage were two daughters. One, named Charlotte Sidney, who was born in early 1801, a short time before they went to reside on Blackheath, and the other in 1802. Charlotte had her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Athol, and Sir Sidney Smith were sponsors.

Captain, 29 April 1783; Major in the Army, 1 March 1794
Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army, 1 January 1798
Mentioned In Despatches by Sydney Smith for actions at Acre (as temporary Colonel) Commanded British marines and Ottoman forces at the retaking of El-Arish
He was knighted on 2 April 1800. Equerry to Duke of Sussex 15 September 1802. Major and Captain Royal Marines, 19 July 1803; Lieutenant-Colonel Royal Marines, 15 August 1805
Colonel in the Army, 25 April 1808 On 4 June 1811 he was promoted from Colonel to Major-General in the Army.

More details about the Delicate Investigation from The Book of Spencer Perceval(3).

Sir John Douglas died at Maze Hill on 4 March 1814. According to The Gentleman's Magazine, "his death was occasioned by a complaint (from which he was never since been free) contracted whilst serving with the Turkish Army in the Deserts of El Arish, arising from the quantity of sand in the water which the army was constrained to use, in consequence of the Enemy having possession of the wells". His coffin, decorated with the flag under which he served at Acre and the sword of the French commandant who surrendered at El Arish, was transported in grand procession for burial at Charlton church on 11 March. Admiral Douglas was amongst te pall-bearers. A book of Verses to the Memory of Sir John Douglas was published, dedicated by permission to his widow.


1.  Of Lady Charlotte Douglas, the chief contriver of and actress in this extraordinary drama, the following biographical particulars have been obtained. Her grandfather was an attorney at Gloucester, whose name was Charles Barrow, and who was created a Baronet in consequence of his connexion with the Corporation of that city. Sir Charles acquired a large fortune; he was, however, never married, but he left several daughters, • one of whom, the mother of Lady Douglas, married a private soldier, named Hephinson or Hopkinson, who was soon made a Serjeant; and, afterwards, by the interest of Sir Charles, he obtained the situation of army agent; he subsequently became a Colonel, possessed of considerable wealth and a fine estate near Gloucester. Mr. Douglas, whilst on the recruiting service at Gloucester, being then a Lieutenant of Marines, became acquainted with Miss Hopkinson and married her; but at what period is not precisely known. According to Lady Douglas's statement their courtship must have been a long one, as she says that she waited for Sir John nine years.

The Douglases were confessedly poor; they kept no carriage. Sir Sidney Smith took not only his carriage and horses, but his footman, coachman and valet with him. These were at the service of the Douglases, whenever they pleased. And on one occasion, when Sir Sidney went abroad, he left his coach and horses, and his coachman for their use, he paying all the expenses of their maintenance during his absence. The attention of Lady Douglas to Sir Sidney Smith was unremitting. She very often took his breakfast to him herself, into his bed-room, at the same time neglecting similar attentions to Sir John. And not unfrequently, did she omit to sleep with her husband during the time that Sir Sidney Smith was an inmate with them at Montpellier-row. Other circumstances which prove her particular partiality for Sir Sidney have been mentioned, which it is not necessary should be repeated here. But it is indisputably clear that the intimacy between this gentleman and the Douglases, was of no ordinary kind. Whether that intimacy may serve to throw any light on the extraordinary conduct and statements of Lady Douglas, relative to the Princess of Wales, will be more fully seen in the sequel of this history.


2. Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (Caroline Amelia Elizabeth; later Queen Caroline; 17 May 1768 – 7 August 1821) was the Queen consort of King George IV of the United Kingdom from 29 January 1820 until her death. Between 1795 and 1820, she was Princess of Wales.

Her father was the ruler of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in modern-day Germany, and her mother, Princess Augusta, was the sister of George III. In 1794, she was engaged to George III's eldest son and heir apparent, George, Prince of Wales, although they had never met and George was already married illegally to Maria Fitzherbert. George and Caroline married the following year, and nine months later Caroline had a child, Princess Charlotte of Wales.

Shortly after Charlotte's birth, George and Caroline separated. By 1806, rumours that Caroline had taken lovers and had an illegitimate child led to an investigation into her private life. The dignitaries who led the investigation concluded that there was "no foundation" to the rumours, but Caroline's access to her daughter was restricted.
In 1814, Caroline left England and moved to Italy, where she employed Bartolomeo Pergami as a servant. Pergami soon became Caroline's closest companion, and it was widely assumed that they were lovers. In 1817, Caroline was devastated when her daughter Charlotte died in childbirth; she heard the news from a passing courier as George had refused to write and tell her. He was determined to divorce Caroline, and set up a second investigation to collect evidence of her adultery.

In 1820, George became King of the United Kingdom and Hanover, and Caroline returned to Britain to assert her position as Queen. She became the figurehead of a popular reform movement that opposed the unpopular George. On the basis of the evidence collected against her, George attempted to divorce her by introducing the Pains and Penalties Bill to Parliament, but George and the bill were so unpopular, and Caroline so popular with the masses, that it was withdrawn by the government. The following year, in July 1821, Caroline fell ill after she was barred from the coronation on the orders of her husband. She died three weeks later, and her body was buried in her native Brunswick.


3. The couple, George and Caroline, apparently only had sexual intercourses a few times in their marriage, but a child was managed to be produced. Princess Charlotte Augusta was born to George and Caroline on January 7, 1796. After the birth of Princess Charlotte, Charles and Caroline lived apart and appeared in at public occasions separate from one another. George made a new will and decided to leave everything to his true wife, Maria Fitzherbert and left Caroline only one shilling.

The couple continued on their separate ways. George continued on with his mistress, Lady Jersey while Caroline was reported to have had affairs or flirtations with Admiral Sidney Smith, Captain Thomas Manby, and George Canning. Caroline gained the love of the people of England for George's treatment of her and George became rather unpopular with the people.

Caroline was not allowed to raise Princess Charlotte who was raised by a governess so Caroline fulfilled her motherly needs by adopting eight or nine poor children and in particular a three-month old boy named William Austin. Caroline fell out with her neighbors Sir John and Lady Douglas with Lady Douglas accusing Caroline of infidelity and William Austin being her secret son.


A secret commission called the "Delicate Investigation" was started in 1806 to check the validity of Lady Douglas's claims and accusations of Caroline of Brunswick. Caroline was accused of infidelity, talking inappropriately of the royal family, and a list of crimes against her character. Nothing came of the secret commission, but Caroline's popularity decreased and there was damaging gossip about her.

The following information was collected by four Commissioners appointed by George III in 1806 – Erskine, Spencer, Grenville and Ellenborough in or about August 1813
Satirical cartoon showing Sir John and Lady Douglas being led to the pillory outside Montagu House, Blackheath, after being discredited in giving evidence against Queen Caroline.

The Prince of Wales is making preparations for divorce. All the Princess’ servants have been interviewed:

Sir John Douglas has a house at Blackheath called Montague House. Charlotte, Princess of Wales used to visit his wife there from 1801 to 1804. The Princess is a vivacious and exhilarating woman. Sir Sidney Smith was also living in the house from the end of 1801. He had his own key to the private entrance from the park and came and went without the servants knowing it. Douglas says the Princess actually came to see Smith.

That same year she was visited by the painter Lawrence. They were occasionally together in the late evenings and Lawrence stayed overnight 2-3 times.

In 1803 she was also visited by Captain Manby. They were seen kissing lips. By 1804 she was pregnant. She was angry and told Douglas she would never be Queen. In May 1804 she went to Southend and waited six weeks for the arrival of the ship Africain. When it arrived Captain Manby came frequently to visit the Princess and dine at her apartments on the Cliff. She had a child with her who can be identified by a mark on his left hand. The father is said to be a chap named Austin. She also has another child whom she occasionally brings to Montague House.


4.  John Douglas may have matriculated arms.




BOX: 1791/25
WARRANT GRANTED: 25 August 1791.
PETITION LODGED: 23 June 1791.
PETITIONER: William Caddel of Carron park, Thomas Eddington, iron manufacturer in Cramond, Capt. John Douglas, late of ye Marines, son of the deceased Mr Lewis Douglas of Garvalt [Garvald], John Biggar, linen manufacturer, James Thomson, and George Andrew, writer, Trust disponees of James Anderson, late merchant in Leith.
SITE: South Leith, Tolbooth Wynd, south side near the foot.
PROPOSAL: Complaint against John Crockat, slater in Leith.
NOTES: The property is owned by the late James Anderson and is presently possessed by Robert Brunton, merchant in Leith and others as tenants. Refers to the lowering of Tolbooth Wynd from about the middle down to the harbour in Spring or Summer 1790. Crockat removed earth from beneath his adjoining tenement on the west and has caused subsidence. Report here from Robert Burn, architect and he was asked to carry out the remedial work.


[The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 85, Part 1; Volume 117 F. Jefferies, 1815]
Sir John Douglas was born at Jean Fields Dalkeith near Edinburgh his father Louis Douglas esq his mother a Miss Hunter and his grandfather was a Lord of Sessions As a younger son at the age of 11 years he was sent to Russia it being intended that he should be educated in the diplomatic line That country disagreeing with his constitution he returned home where he soon shewed an ardent desire of enterprize that aspiration to run the career of glory in which he afterwards so highly distinguished himself In consequence of eliciting this military spirit the late Duke of Athol procured him when only 13 years of age a commission in the Marine Corps and our young hero happy in the profession he had chosen made his first debut in arms under Lord Rodney with whom be served in the West Indies and America seven years His next expedition was with Lord Keith in the Monarch destimed to Madras in proceeding to which place they took the Cape of Good Hope and upon their return captured the Dutch flee t in Saldanha Bay To finish the climax he sailed in the Tigre with the brave Sir Sidney Smith After stopping at Gibraltar and having delivered the presents sent to the Dey of Algiers the Tigre proceeded to Constantinople and from thence sat down before St Jean d Acre The Marines under Lieut Col Douglas were landed and their active exertions and usefulness were elicited during a siege which lasted 62 days Of the happy result we need not speak nor amplify upon the merits of the heroes that did indeed before the walls of Acre cover themselves with glory This object obtained Lieut col D who was made a Colonel to enable him to take the command of the British and Ottoman forces under the orders of the Grand Vizier proceeded to sit down before the fort of Fl Arish then occupied by the French Within its walls are inclosed the wells and it is denominated the Key of the Desert After a short siege it surrendered March 25 1798 to Col Douglas who after mounting the walls received the sword of th e French Com mander Monsieur Cazalet which ofttimes graced his side at the British Court lo 1799 Col Douglas sailed in the Tigre to Constantinople from whence he returned to England charged with the dispatches that contained the account of the capture of El Arish The courage skill aud military talents of Col Douglas were so well appreciated by the Grand Vizier that he wrote a letter himself to his Majesty recountnending him to his attention and favour This epistle was written in Arabic upon vellum and being translated the original was in the Foreign office On our Sovereign's perusing what did so justice to the character of Col Douglas he offered him Knighthood which gratefully accepted as a reward for services and a marked approval of conduct It having been represented the King that this enviable distinction been bestowed upon a soldier of fortune who had only his pay to support his rank having had the misfortune to lose value of 2000l in property by the up of the Queen Charlotte at Syracuse in which he had embarked the savings of a life spent in warfare his Majesty most bestowed upon him a pension as a for his losses and services and mark his approval of the Grand recommendation The military of Sir John Douglas his unshrinking valour amid contending armies his high sense of honour in the station which he filled gained him the esteem of all those Officers who were subordinate to his command in his public character Among his private friends he was kiud affectionate chearful hospitable and benevolent The high wrought blood of a Douglas floweu in his veins and animated his actions to all that was just praise worthy and honourable.



See also:
•  Douglas of Garvald


Any contributions will be gratefully accepted



Errors and Omissions

The Forum

What's new?

We are looking for your help to improve the accuracy of The Douglas Archives.

If you spot errors, or omissions, then please do let us know


Many articles are stubs which would benefit from re-writing. Can you help?


You are not authorized to add this page or any images from this page to (or its subsidiaries) or other fee-paying sites without our express permission and then, if given, only by including our copyright and a URL link to the web site.


If you have met a brick wall with your research, then posting a notice in the Douglas Archives Forum may be the answer. Or, it may help you find the answer!

You may also be able to help others answer their queries.

Visit the Douglas Archives Forum.


2 Minute Survey

To provide feedback on the website, please take a couple of minutes to complete our survey.


We try to keep everyone up to date with new entries, via our What's New section on the home page.

We also use the Community Network to keep researchers abreast of developments in the Douglas Archives.

Help with costs

Maintaining the three sections of the site has its costs.  Any contribution the defray them is very welcome



If you would like to receive a very occasional newsletter - Sign up!


Back to top


The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

Contact Us

Last modified: Thursday, 16 January 2020