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Douglases of Moray

The Douglas family (per. c.1170–c.1300), barons, was of Flemish origin, possibly part of the marked Flemish settlement in upper Clydesdale, found in the reign of Malcolm IV (1153–1165). But William Douglas, the earliest known member of the Douglas family, is attested only in the last quarter of the twelfth century. None the less, he was brother (less probably brother-in-law) of a Freskin of Kerdale, a Moray landowner, and both must have been related to the Freskin who was given land in Moray by David I, confirmed to his son William by Malcolm IV. The recurrence of these names and also of Hugh and Archibald in both families attests to their common ancestry, so that when a branch of the Moray family inherited the lordship of Bothwell in Lanarkshire in the 1240s, their near neighbours, the lords of Douglas, were distant kin. The senior line in Moray presumably procured the nomination of Brice Douglas (d. 1222), a son of William Douglas and prior of Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire, as bishop of Moray in 1203; the Brice (not a common name) who was a parson and dean of Christianity in Moray between 1188 and 1203 would be a Moray cousin. Bishop Brice brought his brother Freskin, parson of Douglas, to be dean, and three other brothers to be canons, of the cathedral chapter which he established in 1206–8 at Spynie, with the customs of Lincoln; hitherto the see had been peripatetic.

In November 1215 Brice was one of the Scottish bishops at the Fourth Lateran Council, and he had to visit the curia again in 1218 to seek absolution for ignoring the recent interdict on Scotland. In the same year his archdeacon and cathedral chancellor accused him at the curia of extortion of an eighth, or even a third, from his flock, of taking procurations without visitation, and of demanding money from ordinands and to grant divorces, money which he spent on women of ill fame. The truth of these allegations is unknown. Brice died in 1222. brother, Archibald Douglas, had two sons: William and Andrew. From the latter descended the Douglases ‘of Lothian’, or ‘of Dalkeith’, later earls of Morton. The former, William, lord of Douglas, died c.1270–74, when the lordship of Douglas, with the manor of Fawdon in Northumberland which he had bought, passed to his son (possibly second son) William Douglas, 1298).



John Dunbar married King Eobert 11. 's daughter, who, March 2nd 1372, gave the Earldom of Moray (except Badenoch, Lochaber, and the castle of Urquhart) dilecto filio nostro Joanni de Dunbar and Mariotas Sponsse ejus filiae nostras charissimae " f (Publ. Archiv.). Their sons were. Earl Thomas and Alexander of Frenderet. Earl Thomas, leaving no male issue, was succeeded by his nephew Earl James son of Frenderet, who married, 1st, Isabel, daughter of Sir "Walter Innes of Innes, who brought him a son Alexander; and, 2ndly, Janet Gordon, daughter of Huntley, by whom he had Janet, married to James second Lord Crichton, Lord Chamberlain of Scotland ;and Elizabeth, married to Archibald brother to the Earl of Douglas. Earl James died about anno 1446, and his son ought to have succeeded him ; but because his mother Isabel Innes (who stood in the 4th degree to her husband) died before a dispensation was obtained, the power of the Douglasses got Alexander declared illegitimate, made his eldest sister renounce her right, and Archibald Douglas, husband of the younger sister, was made Earl of Moray anno 1446. Thus was Alexander, son of Earl James, unjustly deprived.

But, to make some compensation to him he was knighted, made heritable sheriff of Moray, and got an opulent estate. And Archibald Douglas, having joined in his brother's rebellion, was slain in the field of battle, and the Earldom of Moray was forfeited, and annexed to the Crovm anno 1455, where it remained, till King James lY. bestowed it on his bastard son James, by Jean daughter of John Lord Kennedy in the year 1501 ; Who, dying in the year 1544, without male issue, it again reverted to the Crown, where it remained till the 10th of February, 1562, when Queen Mary conferred it on her base brother James, afterwards Eegent; whose eldest daughter, Lady Elizabeth, conveyed it to her husband James Lord Down, whose issue at present enjoy it, as will be more fully shown afterwards.

Item, Ane tack of the teinds of Plewlandis and Hogstoune, given be George Douglasse, Bishope of Murraye, "with consent of the Dean and Chapter, to Robert Innes of Innermarkie, father to Robert Innes, now of Balveny, daitit at Spyny, the first and last of Maij, 1585.

Item, Ane tack of the teind sheaves of Hogstoune and Plewlandis, sett be Allexander Douglass, Bischope of Murraye, to Robert Innes, now of Balveny, and to Barbra Burnet, his spouse, in lyfrent, and nynteen yeir thereafter, daitit at Elgin, 10th Marche, 1607.


William Douglas, Treasurer of Moray, described as son of William Douglas of Whittinghame, in 1600 and 1605 (Great Seal Register).  He was MP for Haddington in 1605.  According to the Great Seal Register of 1628, he is described as William Douglas of Stanypath and brother of Archibald Douglas of Whittinghame.  Elizabeth Cranston is named as his widow.


Sir James Douglas of Spott was, lay Prior (and  Commendator?) of Pluscarden.  He was knighted about 1607.


I have collected some details of Douglases who lived in Moray in my 'work in progress' file on the Douglases of Pittendreich page.



See also:

  • Freskin the Fleming
  • Douglases of Elgin
  • Douglases in Nairn
  • Douglases of Spynie

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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024