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Index of first names

The Scottish Clan System - Our Guide

The Search For a Clan Chief




List of Chiefs, or Head, of Clan Douglas

William, Laird of Douglas (1174-1213)
Archibald, Laird of Douglas (1213-1240)
Sir William "Longleg" Douglas, Laird of Douglas (1240-1274)
Hugh Douglas, Laird of Douglas († 1289)
Sir William "le Hardi" Douglas, Laird of Douglas († 1298)
Sir James "the Good" Douglas, Laird of Douglas (1286-1330) (black line)
William Douglas, Laird of Douglas († 1333)
Hugh "the Dull" Douglas, Laird of Douglas (1294-1347)
William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas (around 1330-1384)
James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas (around 1358-1388)
Archibald "the Grim" Douglas, 3rd Earl of Douglas (around 1325-1400)
Archibald "the Tyneman" 4th Earl of Douglas (1369-1424)
Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas (around 1390-1439)
William Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas (around 1424-1440)
James "the Gross", 7th Earl of Douglas (1371-1443)
William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas (1425-1452)
James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas (1426-1491)
Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus (1453-1514) (red line)
Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus (1490-1557)
Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus (1556-1588)
William Douglas, 9th Earl of Angus (1533-1591)
William Douglas, 10th Earl of Angus (1552-1611)
William Douglas, 1st Marquess of Douglas (1589-1660)
James Douglas, 2nd Marquess of Douglas (1646-1700)
Archibald Douglas, 1st Duke of Douglas (1694-1761)

Thereafter, there has been no clear head of the family.
Clans Section
  • What is a clan?
  • Who can be a member of a clan?
  • Septs
  • The search for a clan chief
  • Crests
  • Tartans
  • Border clans

    The revival of interest in Scottish ancestry over the last 50 years has encouraged many clans and families, who had not previously done so, to look for a leader. For many clans this has involved searching for the person most directly descended from the last known chief of the clan.


    A large number of clans who had had chiefs in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries went into decline after 1745. In many cases it has been possible for genealogical research to establish the identity of the last chiefs descendants and thus to find the person with the closest blood link back to the last chief. In other cases this research is either still being conducted or is now being embarked upon.


    Once genealogical evidence has been found to identify the person most directly descended from the last chief, application may be made to the Lord Lyon for confirmation that the chiefly Coat of Arms, enjoyed by the last chief, should be confirmed to such a person.


    The Lord Lyon reviews the genealogical evidence and must be satisfied that the applicant’s descent is correctly proved. If the Lord Lyon is satisfied he recognises the applicant as chief of the clan and confirms him in the chiefly Arms.


    All those who were chiefs prior to 1745 had Arms, although they have not all been recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland which was only started in 1672. The Scottish clan and heraldic systems have always been closely interlinked. Thus a clan which existed in the past will find its chief in the person entitled, under heraldic law, to bear the historic Arms enjoyed by the last known chief.


    But the increasing interest in Scottish ancestry has led many families, who had not in the past been regarded as clans in their own right, to look for a leader who could rally the family as a group. While content historically to owe their allegiance as a sept or cadet to a particular clan, such families may now wish to have a distinct identity of their own.


    Where such a family is able to prove that it has existed historically as an independent family group, then the Lord Lyon may be prepared to recognise them as a distinct clan or name.


    If a person is able to prove descent from an individual who was historically accepted as the head of the main family within this group, then such a descendant might be confirmed in the Arms and recognised by the Lord Lyon as Representer of the name concerned.


    The situation may, however, be that a family group has no clear historical evidence of its existence as a group in the distant past. In such a case it may be possible for a group to move towards being treated as a clan or name by various stages.


    Since the clan and heraldic systems are so closely linked, the first stage would be for there to be a number of individuals using the same surname to record their own Arms. Once there was a significant number of armigers within the group it would be possible for a derbhfine of the group to convene and make a proposal to the Lord Lyon for the appointment of one of the group as Commander. Regulations have been laid down as to the procedure to be followed in the conduct of such a derbhfine.


    If the Lord Lyon is so minded a Commander will be appointed. Once that has happened a 10 year period must then elapse before any question of a chief can be considered.


    After the 10 year period a further derbhfine could, if the group desire, be held. This derbhfine could then make a proposal to the Lord Lyon for the appointment of a chief. Again regulations exist for the way in which such a derbhfine should proceed.


    There is a claim that the Douglas-Hamiltons are the heirs to the house of Douglas but cannot assume their titles since the Lord Lyon requires them to assume the single name Douglas. Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, the 16th Duke has his seat at Lennoxlove near Haddington.  Some would make a case for Stewart Douglas, 22nd Earl of Morton to be the clan chief.

    The Chieftainship of the House of Douglas is a paper written by Norman Douglas at the time of the Douglas Clan Gathering, July 2014


    First published in the Clan Douglas Society of North America newsletter, this series of articles by Harold Edrington titled: Who Do You Think Should be the Chief of House of Douglas looks at the various possible 'claimants' and compares their potential entitlement. (Revised:31 Dec 2018)
    This article was provided by the author to help raise funds for the maintenance and improvement of the Douglas Archives.  You can help here>>>


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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024