Captain Alexander Douglas, RN

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Alexander Douglas, born 17 Nov. 1756, baptized at Witham 25 Nov. 1756, was 3rd son of Lt.-General Archibald Douglas.  A Captain in the Royal Navy he occurs as Lieutenant R.N. 1780. Passing Certificate (Navy Board Lt. Passing Certificate 8/27) dated 2 March 1780. It certifies that he was then over 21 years and had gone to sea more than six years in ships, viz., Hazard as A.B. 3 years; Barfleur as A.B. 3 months; Barfleur (Mid.) 2 weeks; Unicom A.B. 3 months; Unicorn (Mid.) 2 years 9 months; and produces journals, kept by himself in the Unicom and certificates from Captains Ford and Totty. As a matter of fact he was promoted to Lieutenant on the 28th June 1777, Master and Commander 22nd November 1790; and Captain in 1791 (in command of the cruiser “ Helena ” 14 guns, in 1791 and 1792.)

He served then, in H.M.S. “ Hazard,” “ Unicom,” " Barfleur,” and “ Helena,” and perhaps other ships.

Captain John Orrock Ford was Captain of the Hazard in 1777, and of the Unicom in 1778. Captain Thomas Totty does not appear to have been connected with either of those ships, he was a Post Captain in 1781, and Rear Admiral in 1801. Capt. Ford became Vice Admiral in 1795. H.M.S. “ Barfleur,” second of the name, had had many officers in command of note, and had seen some engagements; launched at Chatham in 1768, she was of 1947 tons, 98 guns, and carried a crew of 750 men. She was broken up at Chatham in 1819.

In the action off the Dogger Bank, 5 August, 1781, with Vice Admiral Hyde-Parker in command of the British Squadron, against the Dutch; Alexander Douglas as a Lieutenant, distinguished himself.

He married Miss Margaret Maxwell, and had issue two daughters, both of whom died unmarried:
1. Margaret, died 20 May 1806.
2. Sarah, died 24 June 1812.

The portrait of Captain Douglas is a miniature, which, according to Sir Hercules Read, Mr. Emery Walker (Official Photographer to the National Portrait Gallery), Lt.-Col. Croft Lyons, and Mr. W. H. Quarrel, all F.S.A., is one of the finest specimens of the work of John Smart, who is generally considered the most famous English miniature painter, after Cooper. It is reproduced above It was probably painted before 1784 when that painter went to India for a time.

Captain Douglas died in June 1793, and was buried at S. Andrew’s, Plymouth 13 June, and his widow, Margaret, was buried in the same Churchyard on the 27 April 1808. Administration of his effects was granted to Margaret Douglas of Plymouth, in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 13 Dec. 1793, while the administration of the estate of his widow was granted to the only surviving daughter, Sarah Douglas of Plymouth, on the 7th November 1808. In the register the mother is described as Mrs. Margaret Douglas, and the two girls have each the prefix Miss, which is unusual for the period in the Plymouth register.


Sources for this article include:

  • Douglas of Morton; Percy Adams

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    Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024