Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus and Ormond


Archibald Douglas, styled earl of Angus and Ormond (c.1609–1655), nobleman, was the eldest son of William Douglas, eleventh earl of Angus and first marquess of Douglas (1589–1660), and his first wife, Margaret (1584/5–1623), daughter of Claude Hamilton, first Lord Paisley. In his early years he was known by the titles Lord Douglas and master of Angus, but after his father was promoted to the rank of marquess in 1633 he became known as earl of Angus. By contracts dated November 1629 and May 1630 he married Lady Anne (bap. 1614, d. 1646), daughter of Esmé Stuart, third duke of Lennox. In 1630 he received permission to travel abroad for two years, and on 4 May 1636 he was admitted as a member of the Scottish privy council.

When conflict broke out between Charles I and his Scottish subjects Angus acted indecisively, his inclination to support the king's opponents being countered by his father being a royalist and a Roman Catholic. He was present in the privy council in December 1636 when it approved the new Scottish prayer book, the introduction of which provoked the emergence of open opposition to the king, but he was one of those whom Robert Baillie hoped in September 1637 would ‘speik plaine Scottish’ (Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, 1.14) to the king's cousin, the fourth duke of Lennox, when he visited Scotland, indicating that Angus was considered to have sympathy for the opposition. In February 1638 he was one of the councillors who signed a royal proclamation demanding the submission of the Scots, but he then declared repentance for his rashness in doing so. In September 1638 he signed the king's covenant, the abortive rival of the national covenant, and in February 1639 the king appointed him one of the noble extraordinary lords of the court of session, no doubt hoping this would strengthen his loyalty. But in April 1639 he made clear his wish to avoid involvement in the approaching first bishops' war by seeking permission to leave Scotland.

In May 1639 the bishop of Bath and Wells investigated reports of two mysterious strangers whose speech was incomprehensible who had appeared in Wells. One of them—‘a tall man, black haired, having a little beard, with a visible blemish in one of his eyes’ (CSP dom., 1639, 200)—proved to be Angus. He explained with embarrassment that he had visited the royal court at York, gone to London, and was now sightseeing incognito. The inconclusive result of the bishops' war of 1639, leaving the king's covenanter enemies in control of Scotland, persuaded Angus that he now had to commit himself. It was clear that his father's support for the king would provoke the covenanters into occupying the family estates. After seeing the king again, Angus returned to Scotland and swore the national covenant. He presented what he had done as a necessity, writing to his father on 28 February, ‘I have now done that which I told you I should be necessitated to do’ (CSP dom., 1639–40, 495) and ‘I have done nothing else than what before my parting from Court I told his Majesty I would be necessitated to do.’ ‘What is done cannot be undone’ (CSP dom., 1640–41, 376). Taking over his father's lands, he raised men and led them in defence of the border against the threat of invasion by the king's army. His father bitterly denounced ‘the unnatural courses of my eldest son to denude me of my whole estate and people’ (CSP dom., 1640, 199), but received assurance from Charles that ‘I will not lay the follies of your son to your charge’ (Fotheringham, 2.602).

When the king reached a settlement with the covenanters in November 1641 Angus was reappointed a member of the privy council of Scotland. As intervention by the covenanters in the English civil war to assist parliament against the king approached he again gave his support. In August he sat as an elder in the general assembly which agreed the solemn league and covenant as the basis for alliance with the English parliament, and from 1643 to 1651 he was annually appointed a member of the commission of the general assembly. This, and the fact that he did not support the engagement whereby moderate covenanters and royalists allied to try to help Charles I in 1647–8, indicates real commitment to the covenanting cause, though he was not prominent in state affairs, perhaps being distrusted because of his father's continuing royalism. Relations between father and son remained bitter, as is indicated by a report by a French agent in August 1647: Douglas ‘named to me while in tears the Earl of Angus as the principal author of the hardships that he has been made to endure’ (Fotheringham, 2.226).

In 1647, on the death of his brother James, Angus was appointed colonel of the Scottish regiment the former had commanded in the French service, but although he retained the post until 1653 his only contributions to it were efforts in 1646–7 and 1650 to send recruits to France, some of them royalist prisoners of war. He supported the bringing of Charles II to Scotland in 1650, and at the coronation at Scone on 1 January 1651 he acted as ‘chamberlane appoynted by the King for that day’ (Nicoll, 42). On 3 April the king ordered that Angus be created earl of Ormond, so he would be an earl in substance as well as style during his father's lifetime but, with the administration collapsing in the face of the Cromwellian conquest, the grant never passed the great seal and was therefore never regarded as valid. Angus sat in the general assembly of July 1651, but the English advance forced the assembly to flee from St Andrews to Dundee, and thereafter he accepted English rule. His first wife having died in 1646, he had married on 2 January 1649 Lady Jean (d. 1715), daughter of David Wemyss, second earl of Wemyss, who was to outlive him for sixty years; their eldest son was Archibald Douglas, first earl of Forfar. He was probably ill in his final years: in February 1651 he referred to himself as ‘a creple man’ (Fraser, 4.258). Under the Cromwellian Act of Grace and Pardon of 1654 he was fined £1000 sterling, and his efforts to have this cancelled, by persuading the English authorities that he was a staunch protestant who had lived quietly in the Canongate for years, were thwarted by his death, which occurred in Edinburgh on 16 January 1655. He was buried at Douglas, Lanarkshire. In 1654 Robert Baillie, mourning the decline of the Scottish nobility, had remarked that ‘Dowglas and his sonne Angus are quyet men, of no respect’ (Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, 3.249).

  • Death: 16 APR 1655

Father: William (1st Marquess of Douglas) Douglas b: 1589
Mother: Margaret Hamilton b: 1594

Marriage 1 Anne Stuart b: 1614

  • Married: 1630
  1.  James (2nd Marquess of Douglas) Douglas b: 1646
  2.  Son B Douglas
  3.  Daughter A Douglas
  4.  Margaret (of Angus) Douglas

Marriage 2 Jean Wemyss
  • Married: 26 APR 1649
  1.  Archibald (Earl Forfar) Douglas


This page was last updated on 24 September 2023

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