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Douglas of Lochleven



Sir William Douglas of LochlevenThe Douglas lairds of Lochleven



 Sir William's son, Archibald Douglas of Glenbervie, married Lady Agnes Keith, daughter of William, 2nd Earl Marischal, who bore the subject of this memoir about 1532, the only son among nine daughters. On St. Valentine's Day, 1552, William was contracted in marriage to Egidia or Gelis Graham, daughter of Robert Graham of Morphie,- and the marriage was celebrated shortly afterwards. Like the rest of his house, he was a Protestant, and fought in the battle of Corrichie, where the Earl of Huntly, head of the Romish faction, was slain in 1562. In 1570 he succeeded to Glenbervie on his father's death, and five years later he was retoured heir to his grandfather. Sir William, who perished at Flodden in 1513. He took little part after this in public affairs, both he and his wife being invalids, as appears from a licence granted to them in 1578 by King James to eat flesh in Lent " als oft as thai pleis," by reason that they were " subiect to seiknes and diseiss of body." *

Ten years later, when the Sth earl lay dying at Smeaton, he sent twice for the laird of Glenbervie to confer with him about the succession. Glenbervie's eldest son was a Roman Catholic, a sore distress to his father, all the more so because Angus seemed disposed to alter the succession upon that account. But the dying earl, though a staunch Presbyterian, and deeply concerned for the establishment of that form of religion in Scotland, was of too liberal a spirit to cause any man to suffer for his honest opinion : therefore, after questioning Glenbervie's son closely about the grounds of his faith, he declared that he would not meddle with the existing entail, made in 1547, whereby he had devised the earldom of Angus to Glenbervie, and the earldom of Morton to Douglas of Lochleven.


Lochleven ceased to be a royal castle in 1390 when Robert II granted it to Sir Henry Douglas, the husband of his niece, Marjory.  The Douglases already had an association with the castle for Henry's father, Sir John Douglas, had been among the garrison during the 1335 siege.  The Douglases remained lords of the island stronghold up to the seventeenth century.

John Douglas of Dalkeith d bef 1356
Henry, dc 1392, married Marjory Stewart
William, c 1392-1421
Henry, 1421-c 1469
Robert, c 1469-1513
Robert, 1513-c 1540
(Thomas, d bef 1540)
Robert, c 1540-1547
William, 1547-1606, who became 6th Earl of Morton
(Robert, dc 1600)
William. 7th Earl of Morton, 1606-1648
Robert, 8th Earl of Morton, 1648-1649
William, 9th Earl of Morton, 1649-1681, who sold Lochleven Castle in 1672

1. Sir Henry Douglas of Lugton & Lochleven + Marjory Stewart of Ralston d: 1438

Lady Douglas
17th C portrait said to be
Lady Douglas of Lochleven

2 Sir William Douglas of Lochleven d: 1421 + Elizabeth Lindsay of Crawford

3 Sir Henry Douglas of Lochleven d: AFT. 1469 + Elizabeth Erskine

4 Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven d: 9 SEP 1513 + Elizabeth Boswell

5 Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven + Margaret Balfour + Margaret Hay of Erroll b: ABT. 1453

6 Thomas Douglas + Elizabeth Boyd

7 Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven d: 10 SEP 1547 + Margaret Erskine of Mar d: 5 MAY 1572

8 William Douglas, 6th Earl of Morton b: 1540 d: 27 SEP 1606 + Agnes Leslie of Rothes

 James Douglas of Lochleven was Commendator of Melrose Abbey 1569-1620

William Douglas was the owner of the island Loch Leven Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots had met John Knox in April 1563. Since 1546, he and his mother had built the "Newhouse of Lochleven" on the shore of Loch Leven where Kinross House now stands. The "Newhouse" eventually replaced the island castle as the centre of the estate.

In June 1567, Queen Mary was imprisoned in the island castle following her surrender at the Battle of Carberry Hill. On 24 July she was forced to sign abdication papers at Lochleven in favour of her infant son James VI. William Douglas had a legal paper drawn up on 28 July 1567, which stated that he was not present when the Queen signed her "demission" of the crown and did not know of it, and that he offered to convey her to Stirling Castle for her son's coronation which was the following day, which offer she refused. Mary also signed that paper.  However, in 1581 Mary wrote that William was one of her few remaining enemies in Scotland, and should have witnessed that she was compelled to assent to her resignation. The Scottish government directed by his half-brother paid William Douglas £1,289-12d for keeping the Queen.

William's wife, Lady Agnes Leslie, became the Queen's chief female companion during her ten and a half months of imprisonment, accompanying her throughout the day and often sleeping in her bedchamber. Queen Mary had an opportunity of greater liberty following the birth of Agnes's child when she was recovering from her pregnancy. She chose to escape on 2 May 1568 from Lochleven with the aid of Sir William's brother George, and a young orphaned cousin named William Douglas who also lived at the castle and may or may not have been the earl's illegitimate son. When Sir William learned of his royal captive's escape, he was so distressed that he attempted to stab himself with his own dagger.

In April 1570 John Wood, the former secretary of Regent Moray visited Lochleven. He found that that Sir William had left for Stirling, so he followed him and caught up with him after four miles. At Lochleven Castle, Wood spoke to Margret Erskine, Lady Lochleven. She was looking after the daughter of Agnes Keith, Countess of Moray. The child was "merry and very lusty". Her nurse was pregnant and wanted go home. In Edinburgh Sir William helped Wood check the coffers containing Agnes Keith's clothes at Holyrood Palace.

In October 1570 William Douglas was the keeper of the Earl of Northumberland at Lochleven castle and wrote to the English diplomat Thomas Randolph mentioning that Loch Leven was liable to freeze.


Research Note:
1. In his account of the murder of David Rizzio in 1566, Patrick Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven, himself one of the conspirators, mentions William Douglas of Loch Leven. 

See also:

  • Lochleven
  • Lochleven castle

  • Heraldry - external link




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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024