Robert Douglas, 1st Viscount Belhaven

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names


This page is a stub, and requires help to complete, meanwhile  caveat lector
b. ABT 1572 'of Spott'
d. 1639 buried Chapel of Holyrood House, Edinburgh, Midlothian, SCOTLAND
Father: Douglas, Malcolm (8th Laird of Mains) 
Mother: Cunningham, Janet (Cuninghame) 
Marriage: MAY 1611(3)
Spouse: Moray, Nicola (see below) 
b. ABT 1585
d. NOV 1612
Marriage: AFT 1612 Never married.
Spouse: Whalley, Elizabeth (mistress) 
Douglas, Susanna Lady
Douglas, John - who presumably died before 1639

Elizabeth Whalley was the sister of Edward Whalley, the regicide. She was born c. 1601. Frances Cromwell, the mother of Elizabeth Whalley, was the daughter of Henry (Williams) Cromwell (1) c1538-1604 (a Knight of the Shire for Huntingdonshire) and Joan Warren c1540-1584 (daughter of Sir Ralph Warren, twice Lord Mayor of London). She was an aunt of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector. There is very little hard information about the family.

Sir Robert Douglas ( Viscount Belhaven in 1633) became a widower in 1613. Shortly afterwards about 1615, possibly, he met Elizabeth Whalley in London and she became his mistress at the tender age of 14, not unusual given the morals of the Jacobean court! She had a son John who was born in c.1615 and a daughter Susanna in c.1617. It seems that she was then married off to one William Tiffin a leading clothier and cloth merchant of London, which would explain Edward Whalley's connections with that trade. The marriage is recorded at St. Margaret's Westminster in 1619. I am convinced that this is what happened as the dates are such a tight fit !

Douglas was a leading member of Charles I court and would not have married the daughter of a merchant in dire financial straits, as Richard Whalley was at this time. However, he would have taken advantage of the situation for her to become his mistress, this was not uncommon. He would also have arranged a suitable marriage to her to one of her own standing. In other words Tiffin was in it for the money.

Apparently the Whalley family pulled some weight, the illegitimate child, Susanna was declared legitimate by an order of King Charles I. Then Susanna was married to Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstone at St. Andrews in Holborn, by none other than the Bishop of London himself.'


 Sir Robert Douglas of Spott in the county of Haddington was the son of Malcolm Douglas of Mains in the county of Dumbarton, a descendant, according to the Peerage lists, of Nicol Douglas of the Noble Family of Morton.

He was Page of Honour to Henry, Prince of Wales, eldest son of James L, afterwards his Master of the Horse, one of the Gentlemen of the Bed-Chamber to James I., and also to Charles I., by whom he was appointed Master of the Household, and nominated a Privy Councillor.

Sir Robert Douglas was created a Peer of Scotland by the title of Viscount Belhaven to himself and the heirs-male of his body on the 24th of June 1633.

Bishop Burnet relates an anecdote of this first and only Viscount Belhaven on the authority of Sir Archibald Primrose, father of the first Earl of Rosebery. It is connected with Charles I.'s revocation of the teinds (tithes) in Scotland in 1629, and illustrates the dangerous, lawless, and violent conduct of the Scottish Nobility in reference to that and other affairs. Sir Robert Douglas of Spott attended the conference held in Edinburgh to adjust the matter, the arrangement of which had been deputed by Charles I. to the Earl of Nithsdale. At a secret meeting of the Barons and the leaders of the Presbyterian party, it was settled that when the Earl appeared with his commission for the resumption of the Church lands and tithes, his " brains were to be knocked out after the good old Scottish manner" if he did not retire, and his supporters were to be murdered. One of those adherents was the first Viscount Ayr, created Earl of Dumfries in 1633. The future Viscount Belhaven, then blind, was as ferocious against the resumption of the Church lands as any of the others, and attended the conference. He resolved to sit close to one of the Earl of Nithsdale's party, of whom, notwithstanding his blindness, he said that he would make sure. He was placed beside Viscount Ayr, whom he firmly grasped by the hand during the meeting. When the Viscount asked him the meaning of this extraordinary civility, Belhaven replied that his Want of sight had made him apprehensive of falling from his seat, and he was obliged to hold fast to any who happened to be next him. His other hand, however, grasped a dagger, with which he intended to stab the Viscount if any discussion occurred.

The subsequent Lords or Barons Belhaven in the Peerage of Scotland—a branch of the Noble family of Hamilton—had no relationship to this Viscount Belhaven, who married Nicolas, eldest daughter of Robert Moray of Abercairney. One child, who died an infant, was the offspring of this marriage, and the lady died in 1612, having never recovered the birth of the infant. She was interred in the Savoy Chapel in the Strand, Westminster, where a monument, surmounted by a recumbent figure of her husband, was erected to her memory, with a long Latin inscription, which is inserted by Stow in his " Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster" (vol. ii. p. 108).

He died at Edinburgh on the 14th of January 1639, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, and the monument over his remains in the Chapel-Royal was erected by his nephews and heirs, Sir Archibald and Sir Robert Douglas. Engravings of Viscount Belhaven and his Lady may be seen in Pinkerton's " Iconographia Scotica."


Robert Douglas, Viscount Belhaven (1573/4–1639), politician, was the third son of Malcolm Douglas (d. 1585) of Main. 1585) of Mains, Dunbartonshire, and his wife, Janet, daughter of John Cunninghame of Drumquassle. His father was executed at Edinburgh Cross on 9 February 1585 for his alleged complicity in the plot of the banished lords to assassinate James VI. Having been page of honour to Prince Henry, he later became his master of horse. He was knighted by the king on 7 February 1609. On 12 January 1611 he married at St Mary Woolnoth, London, Nicola, the eldest daughter of Robert Moray of Abercairny. She died in November 1612(3) giving birth to their only child, who did not survive.

Following the death of Prince Henry the same month, Sir Robert was appointed one of the king's gentlemen of the bedchamber, and his wealth and standing increased. He had charters of an annual rent out of the lordship of Torthorwald (3 June 1613 and 11 September 1617) and Carlyle (3 June 1613), as well as the lands of Spott and the office of chamberlain (1622) and baillie of the lordship of Dunbar, which were united into the free barony of Spott (24 April 1624). In 1631 he also acquired a charter of annual rent of lands in the Dunbar lordship. Douglas continued as a gentleman of the bedchamber under Charles I and was appointed master of the household. However, Sir Archibald Primrose related to Gilbert Burnet a story which, if true, indicated that Douglas might be ruthless in opposing royal policy. When in the third year of Charles's reign Robert Maxwell, earl of Nithsdale, arrived in Scotland with a commission for the resumption of church lands and tithes, the interested parties agreed in Edinburgh, ‘if no other argument did prevail to make the earl of Nithisdale desist, they would fall upon him and all his party in the old Scotish manner, and knock them on the head’. Douglas, who was blind, asked to be placed next to one of the commissioners to ‘make sure of’ him. Sitting with the earl of Dumfries, ‘he was all the while holding him fast’, an action he put down, when challenged, to his blindness, but ‘he had all the while a poinard in his other hand, with which he had certainly stabbed Dumfrize, if any disorder had happened’ (Bishop Burnet's History, 1.36–7). Nithsdale and his party were duly intimidated, and temporarily abandoned their mission.

In the long term Douglas's career was not adversely affected. On 5 July 1631 he was admitted to the Scottish privy council. He was one of the many aspirants who were raised to the Scottish peerage during the period of the king's coronation visit to Scotland, being on 24 June 1633 created Viscount Belhaven in the county of Haddington. That he was a favourite of Charles I is apparent from the report of Sir Robert Pye in 1637, in which it is stated that Belhaven had:

received out of the exchequer since his majesty's accession, besides his pension of 666l. 13s. 14d. per annum and his fee for keeping his majesty's house and park at Richmond, 7000l. by virtue of two privy seals, one, dated 5 Aug 1625, being for 2000l. for acceptable services done to his majesty, and the other, dated 25 June 1630, for 5000l. in consideration of long and acceptable services. alic">CSP dom., 1637, 130)
On 22 September 1638On 22 September 1638 Belhaven signed the ‘king's covenant’, a royally approved alternative to the national covenant, in the presence of the Scottish privy council, and was appointed to superintend its subscription in the sheriffdom of Renfrew. Belhaven died at Edinburgh on 12 January 1639 and was buried in the abbey church of Holyrood, where a monument to him was erected by his nephews, Sir Archibald and Sir Robert Douglas. Since Belhaven was childless, the viscountcy became extinct.

Copyright: Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Museums
Main Street, Gorbals by William Simpson (1823-1899).

This watercolour provides a view of Main Street (later Gorbals Street) looking south. Sir George Elphinstone became MP for Glasgow in 1583 and Provost in 1605. He acquired land in the Gorbals in 1601 and built a mansion and chapel (left). He died in 1634 and his estate was sold to pay his debts. Robert Douglas, Vicount Belhaven, purchased the barony and added the square tower (middle distance) to the old baronial hall. Only the bases remain here, of the square turrets which once adorned each corner. The round tower in the street has also been reduced in height. By the 1840s the chapel had been converted into a pub, identifiable by the gilt board sign hanging outside. The Citizens' Theatre now occupies the site of the house and church.

Lady Douglas
Lady Douglas, from her Monument in the Savoy Chapel
Nicolaa Murray, afterwards wife of Sir Robert Douglas, was daughter of Sir Robert Murray of Abercairny. She died in November 1612 (3), as we learn from a long inscription, copied in Strype's edition of Stow's Survey of London. But the following curious part, apparently on a separate tablet, is not now legible.

Ecce pudicitia et pietas,
Coeli utraque proles,
Accingunt dextra haec,
Haec tibi leva latus.
Juro, salo, coluere polo†
Rapuere, nec usquam
Te, neque jam tumulum
Destituere tuum.
Da. Humius Theag. non delendae amicitiae sempiter num monumentum. (2 )

Children of Susanna and Sir Robert of Blackerstone:

  • John Douglas of Blythswood, arr Maryland 1655 (b c1636, d 1678, to America in 1654, Colonel) m. (17.08.1663) Sarah Bonner (Mrs. Bowles) had issue
  • Susannah Douglas (b 07.02.1647) m. (1672) _ Johnston of Hilton and Hutton
  • other issue:
  • Alexander, Robert, James, Elizabeth, Charles (b c22.02.1661


1.  Henry (Willi1.  Henry (Williams) Cromwell's great-grand-daughter, Robina Lockhart, married Archibald Douglas, 1st Earl of Forfar

2.  Here modesty and loyalty
Heaven both offspring;
Everyone prepared let this right hand,
This is your left This is your left hand side.
Juro, surf, occupy pole †
Snatched me away, nor do they evers already a heap,
Your tasks.
Give. Hume THEAGES. must not be destroyed, Shall I of friendship shall be an everlasting tomb.
(Translation by Google)

3November 1612 is a much quoted date of death, but there is some doubt about this.  In a long letter to Andrew of July 1612 (no actual date stated, alas), Mr James Melville writes of his merely getting by day by day, reduced to real poverty in his exile in Berwick, now that Nicolas Murray's death has dried up the torrent of liberality and Christian charity, as nothing has come from the court since her sad and lugubrious departure. She apparently died 18 months after her marriage, so a May 1311 wedding seems unlikely.

4.  Stuart Brown also writes '...daughter Susanna who, incidentally, married her cousin , Robert Douglas of Blackerstone.'

William Hill writes: 'daughter was named Susanna and she married Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstone and Blythswood.  He also states they had a son, Col John Douglas.


Lady Hamilton of Belhaven and Stenton
c1790 - 1873
nee Hamilton Campbell
Bust is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Included here because I like it!

Hamilton Campbell (about 1790-1873) became Lady Belhaven and Stenton through her marriage in 1815 to Sir Robert Montgomery Hamilton, 8th Lord Belhaven and Stenton. A marble bust of her husband is also in the Museum's collection.

She was the daughter of Walter Campbell, 9th of Skipness and 3rd of Shawfield and Mary Nisbet. 





Sources for this article include:
•  The old country houses of the old Glasgow gentry; John Oswald Mitchell, John Guthrie Smith (1878)
•  Melvini Epistolae, in EUL Spec Colls

Any contributions will be gratefully accepted


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: Monday, 25 March 2024