Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Douglas, Charles (1698-1778)

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DOUGLAS, CHARLES, third Duke of Queensberry, and second Duke of Dover (1698–1778), third son of the second duke by his wife, Mary Boyle, the fourth daughter of Charles, lord Clifford, was born at Edinburgh 24 Nov. 1698. By patent dated at Windsor, 17 June 1706, he was created Earl of Solway. Viscount Tibberis, and Lord Douglas of Lockerbie, Dalveen, and Thornhill. On coming of age he applied to the lord chancellor through the Duke of Bedford for a writ of summons to parliament, having succeeded to his father's honours in July 1711. His right to sit being questioned, he renounced his patent of Earl of Solway, and sent a petition to the king, who referred it to the House of Lords. Counsel were heard on both sides, and finally the house determined that the Duke of Dover had no right to a writ of summons. On 10 March 1720 the duke married Lady Catherine Hyde, second daughter of Henry, earl of Clarendon and Rochester. He was appointed a privy councillor and a lord of the bedchamber by George I, and vice-admiral of Scotland by George II. In 1728 the duke and duchess warmly took up the cause of John Gay when a license for the production of his opera ‘Polly’ was refused. A quarrel followed with George II, and the duke [for Gay's subsequent intimacy, see Gay, John] threw up his appointments, as he had intended to do in any case, in consequence of a disagreement with the ministers. He attached himself to the Prince of Wales, and became one of the lords of his bedchamber.

On the accession of George III Queensberry regained his place as a privy councillor, and was appointed Keeper of the great seal of Scotland. On 16 April 1763 he was made lord-justice-general, and held the office till his death, which occurred 22 Oct. 1778. The king and queen had visited him at Amesbury, Wiltshire, and he was journeying to London to thank them for the honour thus conferred on him, when in dismounting from his carriage he injured his leg, and mortification setting in, he died. He was buried at Durrisdeer, Dumfriesshire. By his wife, who died before him, he had two sons: Henry, earl of Drumlanrig, a distinguished officer, who died in 1754, aged 31, from the accidental discharge of one of his own pistols, while travelling to Scotland with his parents and newly married wife; and Charles, who represented Dumfriesshire in parliament from 1747 to 1754, and died at Amesbury 24 Oct. 1756, aged 30. Their father having no living issue at the time of his death, his British titles and his Scotch earldom of Solway became extinct, and the dukedom of Queensberry, with the large estates in Scotland and England, devolved on his first cousin, twice removed, William, earl of March and Ruglen [see Douglas, William, 1724-1810].

Catherine, Duchess of Queensberry (d. 1777), was one of the most celebrated women of her day, her beauty and eccentricity rendering her notorious in the world of fashion, while her wit and kindness of heart won for her the friendship and admiration of the principal men of letters. Up to the time of her death she insisted on dressing herself in the style in vogue when she was a young girl, refusing, though she was conscious of offending, 'to cut and curl my hair like a sheep's head, or wear one of their trolloping sacks' (Swift, Correspondence, xviii. 100). She loved gaiety, and gave many balls and masquerades, but her odd freaks strained the forbearance of her friends. At a masquerade in her town house she ordered half the company to leave at midnight, and would allow only those whom she liked to stay for supper. She never gave meat suppers, and it was a grievance with some of her guests that they had to be content with half an apple puff and a little wine and water. The better side of her character is apparent in her correspondence. While Gay lived in her house she wrote with him a long series of composite letters, in which each took the pen in turn, to Swift. The latter had not seen her since she was a child of five, and he never found it possible to accept the pressing invitations she gave him to visit Amesbury. The correspondence seems to have dropped shortly after Gay's death. Swift wrote to Pope: 'She seems a lady of excellent sense and spirit . . . nor did I envy poor Mr. Gay for anything so much as being a domestic friend to such a lady' (Correspondence, xviii. 69). The influence of the duchess over Pitt was supposed to be very powerful, and among those who possessed her friendship were Congreve, Thomson, Pope, Prior, and Whitehead, all of whom, except Congreve, allude to her in their verses. Walpole's admiration for her was tempered by the feeling of irritation produced by her whims. Describing his house at Twickenham to Mann, he says: ‘Ham walks bound my prospect, but, thank God, the Thames is between me and the Duchess of Queensberry’ (Letters, ii. 87), and there are many other equally uncomplimentary references to her scattered through his correspondence. To Walpole, however, belongs the credit of the most famous testimony to her charms. On the duchess being first allowed when a girl to appear in public, Prior had written ‘The Female Phaethon,’ which concluded with the lines:—

Kitty at heart's desire
Obtained the chariot for a day,
And set the world on fire.

When at the age of seventy-two she still preserved her beauty, so that ‘one should sooner take her for a young beauty of an old-fashioned century than for an antiquated goddess of her age,’ Walpole added the following lines:—

To many a Kitty, Love his car
  Would for a day engage;
But Prior's Kitty, ever young,
  Obtained it for an age.

She died in London 17 July 1777, from eating too many cherries, and was buried at Durrisdeer. A fine portrait of her, engraved by Meyer, from a miniature in the possession of the Duke of Buccleuch, is inserted in the second volume of Hoare's ‘Modern Wiltshire.’

[Douglas and Wood's Peerage of Scotland, ii. 382; Irving's Book of Scotsmen, p. 419; Fraser's Douglas Book, i. lxxxii; Hoare's Modern Wiltshire, Ambresbury, ii. 76; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, i. 415, ii. 81, 87, 107, 241, v. 477, vi. 461, besides many minor references throughout the nine volumes; Swift's collected Works, ed. 1883, xvii. 171, 227, 244, 276, 291, xviii. 28, 68, 160. The letters of the duchess to Swift occur, xvii. 363, xviii. 28, 37, 82, 100, 114, 155, 160, 179.]

A. V.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.101
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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288 ii 21 Douglas, Charles, 3rd Duke of Queensberry: for the second duke read James Douglas, second duke (1662-1711) [q. v.]