This page was last updated on 07 April 2022

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names

Catherine Douglas




Catherine Douglas, later Catherine "Kate" spelled Katherine) was a historical figure involved in the assassination of King James I of Scotland on February 20, 1437. She was a lady-in-waiting to his queen, Joan Beaufort.

Legend has it that during the King's stay at a Dominican chapterhouse in Perth, a group of men led by Sir Robert Graham came to the door searching for the King in order to kill him. The King's Chamberlain, Robert Stuart, aware of the plot against his life, had taken the precaution of removing the bolt from the door of the room in which James and his queen were staying.

Catherine sprang to the door and placed her arm through the staples to bar the assassins' entrance. However, they forced the door open anyway, breaking Catherine's arm, and discovered and killed the King. From that point on, according to the story, Catherine took the surname of "Barlass".

Dante Gabriel Rossetti recounted the story of Catherine Douglas in verse in 1881, under the title "The King's Tragedy". This poem contains the line "Catherine, keep the door!" - possibly the origin of the idiomatic phrase "Katy, bar the door!" (a warning of the approach of trouble). There are over 800 verses, so I have not included them here!

Catherine married to Alexander Lovell, and lived at the castle of Ballumbie.


Note:  The following is extracted from an unidentified source:


The account re: Elizabeth Douglas, sister of Sir James Douglas of Ralston (1), discusses her part in defending King James I during his assassination at Perth in Feb 1436/7. It also states,

' She afterwards married Richard Lovel of Ballumby, with whom, on 24 August 1438, she had a charter from Alexander Lindsay, second Earl of Crawford, of the lands of Muirhouse, co. Inverness.
In this charter she is styled neptis of the Earl, which shows that the commonly accepted marriage of her father to a daughter of Sir David Lindsay, first Earl of Crawford, is correct. '
[SP VI:366[1], cites Reg. Mag. Sig., 29 October 1463]



The event was commemorated in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem The King’s Tragedy, 1881. The full poem is 173 stanzas, but this selection shows the possible links with Katy bar the door:

Then the Queen cried, "Catherine, keep the door,
And I to this will suffice!"
At her word I rose all dazed to my feet,
And my heart was fire and ice.
Like iron felt my arm, as through
The staple I made it pass:-
Alack! it was flesh and bone - no more!
'Twas Catherine Douglas sprang to the door,
But I fell back Kate Barlass.



1. Sir James Douglas of Ralston was the son of Sir William Douglas of Lochleven, who was killed In Battle 1421, possibly Bauge, in France. James was one of the protagonists in the famous Stirling tournament.


Errors and Omissions

The Forum

What's new?

We are looking for your help to improve the accuracy of The Douglas Archives.

If you spot errors, or omissions, then please do let us know


Many articles are stubs which would benefit from re-writing. Can you help?


You are not authorized to add this page or any images from this page to (or its subsidiaries) or other fee-paying sites without our express permission and then, if given, only by including our copyright and a URL link to the web site.


If you have met a brick wall with your research, then posting a notice in the Douglas Archives Forum may be the answer. Or, it may help you find the answer!

You may also be able to help others answer their queries.

Visit the Douglas Archives Forum.


2 Minute Survey

To provide feedback on the website, please take a couple of minutes to complete our survey.


We try to keep everyone up to date with new entries, via our What's New section on the home page.

We also use the Community Network to keep researchers abreast of developments in the Douglas Archives.

Help with costs

Maintaining the three sections of the site has its costs.  Any contribution the defray them is very welcome



If you would like to receive a very occasional newsletter - Sign up!



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