Sir William Douglas, Knight of Liddesdale


Frieze from National Portrait GalleryEldest son of Sir James of Lothian, Sir William was highly regarded as a military tactician and would became renown as the "Knight of Liddesdale." Through the forfeiture of the Soulises and Lovels, he acquired the Lordship of Dalkeith, the Barony of Aberdour, lands in Tweedsdale, and large holdings in Liddesdale. 

On July 18, 1341 Sir William was granted the Earldom of Atholl in recognition of his valor in resisting Edward Balliol. Preferring to focus his attentions on his lands in the Borders, he resigned the Earldom, on February 16, 1342, In favor of the Lordship of Liddesdale. 

During his lifetime, Sir William was considered the "Flower of Chivalry." Sir William was murdered in 1353 by his kinsman, William, 1st Earl of Douglas, and the family possessions passed to the son of his younger brother, Sir John Douglas, who had been assassinated, by order of Sir David Barclay, between 1346 aand 1350.

Douglas and Ramsey

Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie was a great military leader and for his exemplary services was granted by King David of Scotland the post of governor or Roxburgh Castle and Sheriff of Teviotdale. 

Sir William Douglas, Knight of Liddesdale, had distinguished himself for his bravery and military skills during many a siege and engagement with the enemy. Both men had been brothers in arms in numerous campaigns, and had both shared many victories and accolades.  They were, in fact, outstanding in a brilliant array of valiant knights which thronged the court of King David. But Douglas was outraged when Ramsay was appointed by the young king, David, as Sheriff of Teviotdale, a post he had held himself and directed his wrath, not on the king who made the appointment, but on Ramsay himself. Ramsay, in carrying out his official duties, was holding court in the church at Hawick when Douglas burst in. Ramsay rose to greet his old friend and comrade, but he was seized by Douglas's men, who bound him and bore him off to Hermitage Castle in Liddesdale. There he was hurled into the castle's dungeon and left to starve to death.

This brave knight, it is said, prolonged his life by eating particles of corn which had fallen through the roof from the grain store above. King David was appalled when he was told of the dreadful crime but his authority was so weak that he was unable to take any action against Douglas.

There is a record that he married Margaret Graham of Dalkeith, explaining how the lands of Dalkeith came to the Douglases, however it is recorded elsewhere that his wife was called Elizabeth. Source: Robert Douglas' Peerage of Scotland

In Chris Brown's excellent book, 'Scottish Battlefields' (2008), he refers to battles/skirmishes at Blacksollings (circa 1335-1340), Crags o' Craigie (1336 or 1338) and Crichtondene (1338). All involved Sir William Douglas of Lothian.  This type of guerrilla warfare and engagements helped the Scots recover after disastrous reverses at Halidon Hill and Dupplin Moor and maintain independence.  It is assumed that this 'William of Lothian' is one and the same as the Knight of Liddesdale.  You can view a discussion here>>>

See also Battle of Culblean

This page was last updated on 23 July 2018

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