William, 6th Earl of Douglas




William, 6th earl of Douglas, 1423?1440, Scottish nobleman, eldest son of Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas


In answer to an invitation from the young James II, who was at that time controlled by Sir William Crichton and Sir Alexander Livingstone, Douglas and his brother visited the royal castle at Edinburgh and were there beheaded after the infamous Black Bull Dinner. The judicial murder achieved a temporary break in the wealth and power of the Douglas family. William had been 3rd Duke of Touraine, Lord of Galloway and Annandale, and Count of Longueville. 


Now the earldom passed to his uncle, James Douglas, son of Archibald Douglas, 3rd Earl of Douglas, who possibly connived in the murder, and Galloway went to Margaret, sister of the 6th Earl, who eventually married William Douglas, 8th Earl. The rest of the lands and titles were lost to the family.


2nd version

ARCHIBALD, 5TH EARL OF DOUGLAS (c. 1391-1439), succeeded to his father's English and Scottish honours, though he never touched the revenues of Touraine. He fought at Bauge in 1421, and was made count of Longueville in Normandy.


His two sons, WILLIAM, 6th EARL (1423 7-1440), and David, were little more than boys at the time of their father's death in 1439. They can hardly have been guilty of any real offence when, on the 24th of November 1440, they were summoned to court by Sir William Crichton, lord chancellor of Scotland, and, after a mock trial in the young king's presence, were beheaded forthwith in the courtyard of Edinburgh Castle. This murder broke up the dangerous power wielded by the Douglases. The lordships of Annandale and Bothwell fell to the crown; Galloway to the earl's sister Margaret, the " Fair Maid of Galloway"; while the Douglas lands passed to his great-uncle JAMES DOUGLAS, 7TH EARL OF DOUGLAS, called the " Gross," of Balvany (1371-1444), lord of Abercorn and Aberdour, earl of Avondale (cr. 1437), younger son of the 3rd earl.


The latter's sons, WILLIAM (c. 1425-1452) and JAMES (1426-1488), became 8th and 9th earls respectively; Archibald became earl of Moray by marriage with Elizabeth Dunbar, daughter and co-heiress of James, earl of Moray; Hugh was created earl of Ormond in 1445; John was lord of Balvany; Henry became bishop of Dunkeld.


The power of the Black Douglases was restored by the 8th earl, who recovered Wigtown, Galloway and Boti1well by marriage (by papal dispensation) with his cousin, the Fair Maid of Galloway. He was soon high in favour with James II., and procured the disgrace of Crichton, his kinsmen’s murderer, by an alliance with his rival, Sir Alexander Livingstone. In 14~o James raided the earl’s lands during his absence on a pilgrimage to Rome; but their relations seemed outwardly friendly until in 1452 the king invited Douglas to Stirling Castle under a safe-conduct, in itself, however, a proof of strained relations. There James demanded the dissolution of a league into which Douglas had entered with Alexander Lindsay, the ~‘ Tiger” earl (4th) of Crawford. On Douglas’s refusal the king murdered him (February 22) with his own hands, the courtiers helping to despatch him. The tales of the hanging of Sir Herbert Herries of Terregles and the murder of McLellan of Bombie by Douglas rest on no sure evidence.

Source: http://21.1911encyclopedia.org/D/DO/DOUGLAS_SIR_CHARLES.htm  (dead link)


Father: Archibald 5th Earl of Douglas b: ABT. 1390
Mother: Euphemia (Countess of Strathearn) Graham, who Married (2) James 1st Lord Hamilton b: 1415

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 Ancestry.com (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!
Temporarily withdrawn.