The Douglas Family in France

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Steeped in the intricate tapestry of French history, the Douglas family stands as an enduring testament to resilience, legacy, and the fusion of cultures. With roots tracing back centuries, their narrative intertwines with pivotal moments in France's rich heritage, weaving a story of nobility, influence, and adaptation.

Originating from Scotland, the Douglas family found a new home and purpose within the borders of France, entwining their fate with the country's tumultuous yet captivating past. Their journey traverses epochs, marked by alliances with French monarchs, valiant exploits in war, and the embrace of French culture and society.

From the medieval bFrom the medieval battlegrounds where their valorous acts earned honor and acclaim to the opulent salons of Parisian high society, the Douglas family navigated the intricate web of aristocratic life. Their presence echoed through the grand halls of châteaux and estates, leaving an indelible imprint on the landscapes they inhabited.

Despite the winds of change that swept across the country, the Douglas family adapted and endured, preserving a heritage that melds Scottish roots with the essence of France. Their story epitomizes the ebb and flow of history, a testament to the enduring allure of a family steeped in tradition, loyalty, and the ever-evolving fabric of French society.

Join us on an exploration of the Douglas family's journey through time, unraveling the threads of their legacy woven intricately into the vibrant tapestry of France's past. Delve into the tales of triumphs and challenges, the cultural fusion, and the lasting impact of a family whose history echoes through the annals of both Scottish and French heritage.
Charlemagne and the Lombardy Campaign in 773
During Charlemagne's campaign against the Lombards in 773, there's no historical evidence to suggest that the Scots directly joined his army. At that time, Scotland was a separate kingdom, and Charlemagne's military endeavors primarily involved forces from within his own Frankish Kingdom and its neighboring regions, such as the Franks, Bavarians, Saxons, and other allies within the Frankish Empire. However, family lore states that he asked for help from king of Dál Riata (Western Scotland) Eochaid IV. The latter asked his cousin 'Count William of Douglas' to recruit and bring to France a brigade of 4,000 men, which he did.

These men would have passed through France as they made their way to Italy, and, again, family lore suggests that there was time for the Douglases to father children along the way.

100 Years War (1337–1453)
More certainly, the arrival in France of the Scots to fight in the 100 Years war resulted in the Douglases making their mark.

The involvement of Scots in the Hundred Years' War was significant. While Scotland was often entangled in its own conflicts, many Scots fought in France during this prolonged conflict between England and France (1337–1453). One of the most notable figures was Sir William Douglas, known as the "Flower of Chivalry," who fought for the French against the English. The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France also influenced Scottish participation. The alliance, a longstanding agreement between the two countries, meant that when France was at war with England, Scots were often called upon to aid their ally. Scottish involvement wasn’t uniform, though. While many fought for the French, some Scottish mercenaries also served in English armies, like the White Company led by Sir John Hawkwood. Overall, the Scots’ involvement in the Hundred Years' War was multifaceted, with individuals fighting on both sides, primarily influenced by political alliances and personal ambitions.
The Earl of Douglas, Duke of Touraine
The leader of the Scottish expeditionary force was Archibald Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas (called Archambault Douglas in French texts). Obviously, Charles VII had little money with which to reward his supporters, although his supporters were few. One way to express his gratitude was to bestow honours; and giving fiefs was a way to help them support the costs of war far from home.

The earl of Douglas was made Constable of France in 1421. By Letters Patent of April 19, 1424, he was given the duchy of Touraine to hold in peerage by him and his heirs male of the body (Père Anselme 3:231), and gave homage the same day. The earl was killed at the battle of Verneuil on August 17, 1424. His only son Archibald, who had been made count of Longueville, succeeded as 5th earl of Douglas; he had left France for Scotland in 1423, and at the time of his father's death a rumor reached France that he had died without children; the king assumed the title extinct and gave the duchy to Louis d'Anjou on Nov. 21, 1424. When the news were disproved, the 5th earl was allowed to retain the title of duke of Touraine (Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. Archibald Douglas, Père Anselme, 3:231). He died in 1439. His only two sons, William and David, were executed for treason in 1440 in Edinburgh and the descent of the 4th earl was extinct.


George Douglas, Earl of Dunbarton

The family that possessed an estate and castle at Montréal-en-Bugey, in France, it is claimed, is descended from George Douglas, Earl of Dunbarton, Knight of the Order of St. Andrew, Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the British King and Lieutenant-General in the Royal Armies, who appears to have followed James II into exile. The Gazette de France says that he died at Saint-Germain-en-Laye on the 21st of March, 1692/79)

Several others were granted titles and their associated lordships. Most, if not all, are documented in the Douglas Archives.

For more, see the Early History of the Douglas family in France.


Some of the Douglas families matriculated arms in France.  Some, such as the 4th earl of Douglas, incorporated their French arms into their Scottish arms.


Plants: image 1 0f 4 thumb armorial - Picardie Philippe Douglas
 Lord of Arrancy Douglas armorial

The 4th earl of Douglas used two arms on his seals: one was Quarterly Douglas and Galloway, en surtout Murray of Rothwell (Stevenson and Wood), another was Quarterly Douglas, Galloway, Murray and Annandale (Catalogue of Seals, 16054). One seal, attributed to him, shows a modified version: Quarterly France, Douglas, Annandale, Galloway with the title of duke of Touraine, earl of Douglas and of Longueville in the legend. However, both Laing (suppl. 282) and the catalogue of the British Museum (16055) date it to 1421, which is impossible; moreover, the title of count of Longueville was given to the 4th earl's son. I suspect that the latter seal belonged to Archibald, 5th earl. In any event, the 4th earl did use those arms with a French quarter, since a seal of his widow Margret, daughter of Robert III king of Scots, shows Quarterly France, Douglas, Annandale, Galloway impaling Scotland, and the title of duchess of Touraine (on a document dated 1425; Laing).

Both the 5th and 6th earls used the same shield with a quarter of France and the title of duke of Touraine (Stevenson and Wood). No other earl of Douglas did so.

It is not clear where the escutcheon comes from. This was the first time that a French king conferred a peerage on someone who was not of royal blood. Hitherto, the differenced arms of France became associated with the peerage, so that the arms of Touraine, Burgundy modern, Anjou, Berry, Alençon, as provinces, are all differenced versions of the arms of France. In other words, there were no arms of Touraine proper to be borne by a non-royal.

Although there is no evidence to that effect, I suspect that the reason for the escutcheon is the same as that for the escutcheon of the Stuarts of Darnley, which is well documented, and for the quarter of the Kennedy of Bargany. Thus, the escutcheon of France is not a mark of peerage, and does not represent the duchy of Touraine (or the seigneurie of Aubigny in the case of the Darnley), but a special augmentation conferred by the king independently of any fief.

This page forms part of the France section of the Douglas Archives.

See also:

•  People in France
 Places in France
•  Titles in France
•  Douglas heraldry in France

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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024