1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Angus, Earls of

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ANGUS, EARLS OF. Angus was one of the seven original earldoms of the Pictish kingdom of Scotland, said to have been occupied by seven brothers of whom Angus was the eldest. The Celtic line ended with Matilda (fl. 1240), countess of Angus in her own right, who married in 1243 Gilbert de Umfravill and founded the Norman line of three earls, which ended in 1381, the then holder of the title being summoned to the English parliament. Meanwhile John Stewart of Bonkyl, co. Berwick, had been created earl of Angus in a new line. This third creation ended with Margaret Stewart, countess of Angus in her own right, and widow of Thomas, 13th earl of Mar. By an irregular connexion with William, 1st earl of Douglas, who had married Mar's sister, she became the mother of George Douglas, 1st earl of Angus (c. 1380-1403), and secured a charter of her estates for her son, to whom in 1389 the title was granted by King Robert II. He was taken prisoner at Homildon Hill and died in England. The 5th earl was his great-grandson.

Archibald Douglas, 5th earl of Angus (c. 1450-c. 1514), the famous “Bell the-Cat,” was born about 1450 and succeeded his father, George the 4th earl, in 1462 or 1463. In 1481 he was made warden of the east marches, but the next year he joined the league against James III. and his favourite Robert Cochrane at Lauder, where he earned his nickname by offering to bell the cat, i.e. to deal with the latter, beginning the attack upon him by pulling his gold chain off his neck and causing him with others of the king's favourites to be hanged. Subsequently he joined Alexander Stewart, duke of Albany, in league with Edward IV. of England, on the 11th of February 1483, signing the convention at Westminster which acknowledged the overlordship of the English king. In March however they returned, outwardly at least, to their allegiance, and received pardons for their treason. Later Angus was one of the leaders in the rebellion against James in 1487 and 1488, which ended in the latter's death. He was made one of the guardians of the young king James IV. but soon lost influence, being superseded by the Homes and Hepburns, and the wardenship of the marches was given to Alexander Home. Though outwardly on good terms with James, he treacherously made a treaty with Henry VII. about 1489 or 1491, by which he undertook to govern his relations with James according to instructions from England, and to hand over Hermitage Castle, commanding the pass through Liddesdale into Scotland, on the condition of receiving English estates in compensation. In October 1491 he fortified his castle of Tantallon against James, but was obliged to submit and exchange his Liddesdale estate and Hermitage Castle for the lordship of Bothwell. In 1493 he was again in favour, received various grants of lands, and was made chancellor, which office he retained till 1498. In 1501 he was once more in disgrace and confined to Dumbarton Castle. After the disaster at Flodden in 1513, at which he was not present, but at which he lost his two eldest sons, Angus was appointed one of the counsellors of the queen regent. He died at the close of this year, or in 1514. He was married three times, and by his first wife had four sons and several daughters. His third son, Gavin Douglas, bishop of Dunkeld, is separately noticed.

Archibald Douglas, the 6th earl (c. 1489-1557), son of George, master of Douglas, who was killed at Flodden, succeeded on his grandfather's death. In 1509 he had married Margaret (d. 1513), daughter of Patrick Hepburn, 1st earl of Bothwell; and in 1514 he married the queen dowager Margaret of Scotland, widow of James IV., and eldest sister of Henry VIII. By this latter act he stirred up the jealousy of the nobles and the opposition of the French party, and civil war broke out. He was superseded in the government on the arrival of John Stewart, duke of Albany, who was made regent. Angus withdrew to his estates in Forfarshire, while Albany besieged the queen at Stirling and got possession of the royal children; then he joined Margaret after her flight at Morpeth, and on her departure for London returned and made his peace with Albany in 1516. He met her once more at Berwick in June 1517, when Margaret returned to Scotland on Albany's departure in vain hopes of regaining the regency. Meanwhile, during Margaret's absence, Angus had formed a connexion with a daughter of the laird of Traquair. Margaret avenged his neglect of her by refusing to support his claims for power and by secretly trying through Albany to get a divorce. In Edinburgh Angus held his own against the attempts of James Hamilton, 1st earl of Arran, to dislodge him. But the return of Albany in 1521, with whom Margaret now sided against her husband, deprived him of power. The regent took the government into his own hands; Angus was charged with high treason in December, and in March 1522 was sent practically a prisoner to France, whence he succeeded in escaping to London in 1524. He returned to Scotland in November with promises of support from Henry VIII., with whom he made a close alliance. Margaret, however, refused to have anything to do with her husband. On the 23rd, therefore, Angus forced his way into Edinburgh, but was fired upon by Margaret and retreated to Tantallon. He now organized a large party of nobles against Margaret with the support of Henry VIII., and in February 1525 they entered Edinburgh and called a parliament. Angus was made a lord of the articles, was included in the council of regency, bore the king's crown on the opening of the session, and with Archbishop Beaton held the chief power. In March he was appointed lieutenant of the marches, and suppressed the disorder and anarchy on the border. In July the guardianship of the king was entrusted to him for a fixed period till the 1st of November, but he refused at its close to retire, and advancing to Linlithgow put to flight Margaret and his opponents. He now with his followers engrossed all the power, succeeded in gaining over some of his antagonists, including Arran and the Hamiltons, and filled the public offices with Douglases, he himself becoming chancellor. “None that time durst strive against a Douglas nor Douglas's man.”[1] The young king James, now fourteen, was far from content under the tutelage of Angus, but he was closely guarded, and several attempts to effect his liberation were prevented, Angus completely defeating Lennox, who had advanced towards Edinburgh with 10,000 men in August, and subsequently taking Stirling. His successes were consummated by a pacification with Beaton, and in 1527 and 1528 he was busy in restoring order through the country. In the latter year, on the 11th of March, Margaret succeeded in obtaining her divorce from Angus, and about the end of the month she and her lover, Henry Stewart, were besieged at Stirling. A few weeks later, however, James succeeded in escaping from Angus's custody, took refuge with Margaret and Arran at Stirling, and immediately proscribed Angus and all the Douglases, forbidding them to come within seven miles of his person. Angus, having fortified himself in Tantallon, was attainted and his lands confiscated. Repeated attempts of James to subdue the fortress failed, and on one occasion Angus captured the royal artillery, but at length it was given up as a condition of the truce between England and Scotland, and in May 1529 Angus took refuge with Henry, obtained a pension and took an oath of allegiance, Henry engaging to make his restoration a condition of peace. Angus had been chiefly guided in his intrigues with England by his brother, Sir George Douglas of Pittendriech (d. 1552), master of Angus, a far cleverer diplomatist than himself. His life and lands were also declared forfeit, as were those of his uncle, Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie (d. 1535), who had been a friend of James and was known by the nickname of “Greysteel.” These took refuge in exile. James avenged himself on such Douglases as lay within his power. Angus's third sister Janet, Lady Glamis, was summoned to answer the charge of communicating with her brothers, and on her failure to appear her estates were forfeited. In 1537 she was tried for conspiring against the king's life. She was found guilty and burnt on the Castle Hill, Edinburgh, on the 17th of July 1537. Her innocence has been generally assumed, but Tytler (Hist. of Scotland, iv. pp. 433, 434) considered her guilty. Angus remained in England till 1542, joining in the attacks upon his countrymen on the border, while James refused all demands from Henry VIII. for his restoration, and kept firm to his policy of suppressing and extirpating the Douglas faction. On James V.'s death in 1542 Angus returned to Scotland, with instructions from Henry to accomplish the marriage between Mary and Edward. His forfeiture was rescinded, his estates restored, and he was made a privy councillor and lieutenant-general. In 1543 he negotiated the treaty of peace and marriage, and the same year he himself married Margaret, daughter of Robert, Lord Maxwell. Shortly afterwards strife between Angus and the regent Arran broke out, and in April 1544 Angus was taken prisoner. The same year Lord Hertford's marauding expedition, which did not spare the lands of Angus, made him join the anti-English party. He entered into a bond with Arran and others to maintain their allegiance to Mary, and gave his support to the mission sent to France to offer the latter's hand. In July 1544 he was appointed lieutenant of the south of Scotland, and distinguished himself on the 27th of February 1545 in the victory over the English at Ancrum Moor. He still corresponded with Henry VIII., but nevertheless signed in 1546 the act cancelling the marriage and peace treaty, and on the 10th of September commanded the van in the great defeat of Pinkie, when he again won fame. In 1548 the attempt by Lennox and Wharton to capture him and punish him for his duplicity failed, Angus escaping after his defeat to Edinburgh by sea, and Wharton being driven back to Carlisle. Under the regency of Mary of Lorraine his restless and ambitious character and the number of his retainers gave cause for frequent alarms to the government. On the 31st of August 1547 he resigned his earldom, obtaining a regrant sibi et suis haeredibus masculis et suis assignatis quibuscumque. His career was a long struggle for power and for the interests of his family, to which national considerations were completely subordinate. He died in January 1557. By Margaret Tudor he had Margaret, his only surviving legitimate child, who married Matthew, 4th earl of Lennox, and was mother of Lord Darnley. He was succeeded by his nephew David, son of Sir George Douglas of Pittendriech.

Archibald Douglas, 8th earl, and earl of Morton (1555–1588), was the son of David, 7th earl. He succeeded to the title and estates in 1558, being brought up by his uncle, the 4th earl of Morton, a Presbyterian. In 1573 he was made a privy councillor and sheriff of Berwick, in 1574 lieutenant-general of Scotland, in 1577 warden of the west marches and steward of Fife, and in 1578 lieutenant-general of the realm. He gave a strong support to Morton during the attack upon the latter, made a vain attempt to rescue him, and was declared guilty of high treason on the 2nd of June 1581. He now entered into correspondence with the English government for an invasion of Scotland to rescue Morton, and on the latter's execution in June went to London, where he was welcomed by Elizabeth. After the raid of Ruthven in 1582 Angus returned to Scotland and was reconciled to James, but soon afterwards the king shook off the control of the earls of Mar and Gowrie, and Angus was again banished from the court. In 1584 he joined the rebellion of Mar and Glamis, but the movement failed, and the insurgents fled to Berwick. Later they took up their residence at Newcastle, which became a centre of Presbyterianism and of projects against the Scottish government, encouraged by Elizabeth, who regarded the banished lords as friends of the English and antagonists of the French interest. In February 1585 they came to London, and cleared themselves of the accusation of plotting against James's life; a plan was prepared for their restoration and for the overthrow of James Stewart, earl of Arran. In October they invaded Scotland and gained an easy victory over Arran, captured Stirling Castle with the king in November, and secured from James the restoration of their estates and the control of the government. In 1586 Angus was appointed warden of the marches and lieutenant-general on the border, and performed good services in restoring order; but he was unable to overcome the king's hostility to the establishment of Presbyterian government. In January 1586 he was granted the earldom of Morton with the lands entailed upon him by his uncle. He died on the 4th of August 1588. He was succeeded in the earldom by his cousin William, a descendant of the 5th earl. (For the Morton title, see Morton, James Douglas, 4th Earl of.)

William Douglas, 10th earl (c. 1554–1611), was the son of William, the 9th earl (1533–1591). He studied at St Andrews University and joined the household of the earl of Morton. Subsequently, while visiting the French court, he became a Roman Catholic, and was in consequence, on his return, disinherited and placed under restraint. Nevertheless he succeeded to his father's titles and estates in 1591, and though in 1592 he was disgraced for his complicity in Lord Bothwell's plot, he was soon liberated and performed useful services as the king's lieutenant in the north of Scotland. In July 1592, however, he was asking for help from Elizabeth in a plot with Erroll and other lords against Sir John Maitland, the chancellor, and protesting his absolute rejection of Spanish offers, while in October he signed the Spanish Blanks (see Erroll, Francis Hay, 9th Earl of) and was imprisoned (on the discovery of the treason) in Edinburgh Castle on his return in January 1593. He succeeded on the 13th in escaping by the help of his countess, joining the earls of Huntly and Erroll in the north. They were offered an act of “oblivion” or “abolition” provided they renounced their religion or quitted Scotland. Declining these conditions they were declared traitors and “forfeited.” They remained in rebellion, and in July 1594 an attack made by them on Aberdeen roused James's anger. Huntly and Erroll were subdued by James himself in the north, and Angus failed in an attempt upon Edinburgh in concert with the earl of Bothwell. Subsequently in 1597 they all renounced their religion, declared themselves Presbyterians, and were restored to their estates and honours. Angus was again included in the privy council, and in June 1598 was appointed the king's lieutenant in southern Scotland, in which capacity he showed great zeal and conducted the “Raid of Dumfries,” as the campaign against the Johnstones was called. Not long afterwards, Angus, offended at the advancement of Huntly to a marquisate, recanted, resisted all the arguments of the ministers to bring him to a “better mind,” and was again excommunicated in 1608. In 1609 he withdrew to France, and died in Paris on the 3rd of March 1611. He was succeeded by his son William, as 11th earl of Angus, afterwards 1st marquis of Douglas (1589—1660). The title is now held by the dukes of Hamilton.

Authorities.–The Douglas Book, by Sir W. Fraser (1885); History of the House of Douglas and Angus, by D. Hume of Godscroft (1748, legendary in some respects); History of the House of Douglas, by Sir H. Maxwell (1902).

  1. Lindsay of Pitscottie (1814), ii. 314.