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Francis Archibald Douglas, Viscount Drumlanrig










Francis Archibald Douglas, Viscount Drumlanrig (3 February 1867 – 18 October 1894), also 1st Baron Kelhead in his own right, was a Scottish nobleman and Liberal politician.

Born at 8 Chesterfield Street, Mayfair, London, Drumlanrig was the eldest son of John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, by his first wife Sibyl, daughter of Alfred Montgomery. As the heir apparent of the Marquess, he used the courtesy title Viscount Drumlanrig from 1856 until his death. He was educated at Harrow and at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and served as Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards from 1887 to 1893.

Drumlanrig later served as private secretary to the Liberal politician Lord Rosebery. Owing to Rosebery's patronage, on 22 June 1893 he was created Baron Kelhead, of Kelhead in the County of Dumfries, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. This gave him his own seat in the House of Lords, unlike his father, whose titles were all in the Peerage of Scotland. In July 1893 he was appointed a Lord-in-Waiting by Rosebery.

Lord Queensberry had served in Parliament from 1872 to 1880 as a representative peer, but in 1880 he refused, as an atheist, to take the religious oath of allegiance to the Queen. He was not allowed to take his seat and was never again chosen as representative peer by the Scottish nobles. Drumlanrig's accession to Parliament as the 1st Baron Kelhead precipitated a bitter dispute between him and Queensberry, and also between Queensberry and Rosebery, who became Prime Minister in 1894.

On October 18, 1894, sixteen months after his ennoblement, Drumlanrig died at Quantock Lodge, Bridgwater, Somerset from injuries received during a shooting party. The inquest returned a verdict of "accidental death", but it was also a rumoured suicide or homicide. He was buried in the family burial ground at Kinmount, Dumfriesshire. He was unmarried and his younger brother Lord Percy Douglas became heir to his father's titles. It was speculated at the time, and evidence suggests that Drumlanrig may have had a homosexual relationship with Rosebery. It has been further suggested that Queensberry had threatened to expose the Prime Minister's supposed proclivities if his government did not vigorously prosecute Oscar Wilde for Wilde's relationship with Drumlanrig's younger brother, Lord Alfred Douglas. Rosebery was, by most accounts, happily married until the death of his wife in 1890, though gossip that Rosebery was homosexual or bisexual was indeed widespread. Queensberry believed, as he put it in a letter, that "Snob Queers like Rosebery" had corrupted his sons, and he held Rosebery indirectly responsible for Drumlanrig's death.





The Roseberry affair


In 1892, William Gladstone became Prime Minister for the fourth and last time. The Foreign Secretary in his administration was Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery. Rumours abound as to Rosebery's sexuality; although married with four children, it was often rumoured that he was bisexual. Whatever the truth of these rumours, there is no doubt that he made Francis Douglas his protégé. He was introduced to Rosebery around 1892 and, in spite of any obvious qualifications, Rosebery appointed him to be his private secretary. Seeking to advance his young friend, Rosebery obtained for him the position of a Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria. To qualify for this role, Francis needed to be a peer in his own right and he was accordingly created Baron Kelhead in June 1893.

Francis' father, the hot-headed Marquess of Queensberry and later bane of Oscar Wilde, was furious when his son was given entry into the House of Lords. Because Queensberry held no English titles, he had to rely upon being elected as a representative peer of Scotland in order to sit in the Lords. Although he had been a representative peer between 1872 and 1880, his fellow peers declined to re-elect him in 1880, due to his publicly professed atheism. Between 1880 and 1893, Queensberry found himself embroiled in a number of scandals, further details of which can be found at the foot of the page containing details of his peerage. When he heard of Rosebery's plan to elevate his son to the House of Lords, his reaction was typically violent. He wrote angry letters to Gladstone and Rosebery. He even wrote to the Queen, complaining of Rosebery's 'bad influence' on his son, which was probably an oblique accusation of homosexuality.

Soon after Francis' promotion, the Marquess pursued Rosebery to Bad Homburg in Germany where Rosebery was holidaying with the Prince of Wales. Queensberry, armed with a dog whip, was found lurking near Rosebery's hotel and the next day the local police chief was able to report to Rosebery that Queensberry had 'found it advisable to depart this morning with the 7 o'clock train for Paris.' However, news of the attempted assault started tongues wagging about the nature of the relationship between Rosebery and Lord Kelhead.

During the summer of 1894, Francis became engaged to a young woman named Alix Ellis. In October of that year, he accepted an invitation for a weekend's shooting at Quantock Lodge, near Bridgwater, the home of Alix's uncle, Edward Stanley (MP for Somerset West 1882-1885 and Bridgwater 1885-1906). On 19 October, while out with his fellow shooters, he went into the next field. After a few minutes, his companions heard a shot and, hurrying into the field, found Francis dead from a gunshot wound. At the subsequent inquest, the coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death, although public opinion was widely in favour of suicide.

Having lost one son in circumstances surrounded by rumours of homosexuality, it is possible that Queensberry was determined not to lose another, which may explain his implacable persecution of Oscar Wilde six months later.



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