Douglas, Archibald (1328?-1400?) (DNB00)

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DOUGLAS, ARCHIBALD, third Earl of Douglas, called ‘the Grim’ (1328?–1400?), was a natural son of ‘the Good’ Sir James Douglas [q. v.], and must therefore have been born before 1330, the date of his father's death in Spain. Hume of Godscroft, the first family historian of the Douglases, supposes him to have been a brother of James, the second earl, probably to conceal the stain of bastardy which in the seventeenth century, when he wrote, was deemed more dishonourable than in the fourteenth. Archibald, though illegitimate, had been inserted by Hugh of Douglas, brother of ‘Good’ Sir James and canon of Glasgow in 1342, in the entail of the Douglas estates, after William the first earl and his heirs male, and Sir William the Knight of Liddesdale and his heirs male. Both of these branches failed, and Archibald, styling himself Lord of Galloway on the death of James the second earl at Otterburn, presented this charter to the parliament of 1389, which recognised his claim to the estates. The name of his mother is unknown. His illegitimacy probably prevented him from becoming early prominent, but a bastard of a good family had, like the bastard Faulconbridge in ‘King John,’ the opportunity of winning distinction in arms. Archibald Douglas served under his cousin William, the first earl, in the French war of 1356, was taken prisoner at Poictiers, but saved from captivity by Sir William Ramsay, who pretended he was a servant who had put on his master's armour, and ransomed him for forty shillings. On his way home through England, though bearing a safe-conduct, he was detained a prisoner, and only released on bail in May 1357 at the request of the Scottish embassy, which then made a truce with Edward III, but two years after his bail was restored. Before his return home he had been knighted, and is henceforth generally known as Sir Archibald Douglas, and more familiarly as the Black Douglas in the chronicles and records of the time. In 1361 he was made constable of Edinburgh, and about the same time held the office of sheriff of that town. In the rising of Robert the Steward, aided by the first Earl of Douglas, against David II, Sir Archibald appears to have sided with the king. He retained at any rate his offices as constable and sheriff, and in August 1364 appears in the still more important position of warden of the western marches in an agreement, with reference to the tenants of Lochmaben, with the representative of the Earl of Hereford, who then held a great part of Annandale. A truce with England for four years in 1365 enabled him to make a pilgrimage to St. Denys, but he was again in Scotland in 1367. In the following year his appointment as warden of the western marches was continued, and the king, by a charter of 18 Sept. 1369, granted to him the lands of Galloway between the Cree and the Nith, formerly held by Edward Bruce. Three years later he acquired by purchase from Thomas Fleming, earl of Galloway, the lands of the earldom of Wigton, which included the whole district from the Cree to the western shore. Henceforth he is usually styled Lord of Galloway. His settlement in Galloway had the twofold object of giving the warden of the west a strong personal interest in the marches, and of placing a firm handover that turbulent province, the remote remnant of ancient Cumbria, and which, like Cumbria at an earlier date, still retained sufficient Celtic customs and language to submit unwillingly to feudal law and order. The Earl of Wigton had confessed his inability to govern this district, which Douglas by a firm but rigorous administration of justice succeeded in accomplishing. This took the ordinary form of compelling the chiefs to accept charters from him if they could show none from his predecessors whereby their estates were placed under the rigid machinery of fines and forfeiture imposed by the feudal law should they fail in fulfilling their obligations. In May 1369 Sir Archibald appears in a new character, as ambassador to the French court in connection with the divorce suit against Margaret Drummond, the wife of David II, which she had carried by appeal to the pope at Avignon. This embassy, the accounts of which are in the Exchequer Records, was costly but unsuccessful, for the queen gained her suit. At the coronation of Robert II, at Scone, on 26 March 1371, Sir Archibald took the oath of fealty and joined in the declaration in favour of the Earl of Carrick as heir-apparent. He was then sent on a special embassy to announce Robert's succession and renew the French alliance, along with Walter Trail, bishop of Glasgow, which was done by a treaty signed by Charles V at Vincennes on 30 June and by Robert II on 21 Oct. On his return to Scotland Sir Archibald was chiefly occupied with his duties as warden, now doing his best to keep the peace and obtain safe passage for Scottish merchants, and at another time taking part in the skirmishes which chequered the apparent truce, as in that with Sir Thomas Musgrave near Berwick, in 1377, in which he assisted his chief the first earl. His personal prowess in wielding a two-handed sword two ells in length, which no other man could lift, is specially noticed by Froissart. In 1380 he was one of the commissioners who negotiated the prolongation of the truce of 1369 till Candlemas 1384 with John of Gaunt and the English commission, and when Gaunt came to Scotland Sir Archibald joined with the Earl of Douglas in securing his favourable reception.

On the expiry of the truce he led an expedition against Lochmaben, one of the chief strongholds of the border, supported by the Earls of Douglas and March, and succeeded in enforcing its capitulation on 4 Feb. 1384. Shortly after this he entered into an agreement with Henry Percy for a truce till July, and he appears as one of the commissioners at Ayton when this truce was renewed from July till October. In November he was at the parliament at Holyrood and undertook to maintain justice in Galloway while protesting for the observance of the special customs of that district. When in 1385 the war was renewed with the aid of the French contingent of men and arms brought over by Sir John de Vienne, Sir Archibald took part in the English raids which ended ingloriously through the unwillingness of the Scottish commanders, the Earls of Douglas and March, to risk a battle. In that which took place after the departure of the French against Cockermouth, Sir Archibald, as was natural from his office of warden, was the principal leader. It also resulted only in plunder. When the great muster was made in 1388 to invade England, Sir Archibald, at the head of the largest part of the Scotch force, was sent to the western frontier, while the Earl of Douglas was detached to make a diversion and the first attack on the east marches. The earl, though he gained a brilliant victory, lost his life at Otterburn.

As he left no legitimate issue, Sir Archibald succeeded to the Douglas estates under the entail of 1342, and a claim to a portion of them by Sir Malcolm Drummond, husband of the late earl's sister, was declared groundless in the parliament of April 1389. In the summer of this year, along with Robert, earl of Fife, the king's brother, he invaded England, and challenged the earl marshal, who during the captivity of the Percies had become warden of the English marches, to a single combat or a pitched battle; but both challenges were declined. Towards the close of the year and again in 1391 Sir Archibald, after April 1385 styled Earl of Douglas, favoured the negotiations, which resulted in including Scotland in the peace between England and France. This peace, which was continued till 1400, left him to the more ordinary duties of a warden, the adjustment of disputes, the reclaiming of fugitives, and the acting as umpire in duels. A special code of the laws of the marches was prepared by him, and when renewed and promulgated in 1448 was called the ‘Statutes and Customs of the Marches in tyme of War which had been ordered to be kept in the days of Black Archibald of Douglas and his son’ (Acts Parl. i. 714–16). In the last year of his life he arranged the marriage of his daughter Marjory to David, duke of Rothesay, the eldest son of Robert III. Rothesay had been previously promised in marriage to the daughter of the Earl of March, and the breach of this engagement led to the defection of that powerful noble, the rival in the borders of the house of Douglas, who now went over to the English interest and induced Henry IV to declare war against Scotland. March, with the aid of Henry Hotspur and Lord Thomas Talbot, at the head of two thousand men, attempted, but failed, to recover his estates and castle of Dunbar, which had been seized by Douglas. They were surprised at Cockburnspath and driven back with great slaughter by Archibald, the eldest son of the earl. In August 1401 Henry IV in person invaded Scotland, and besieged the castle of Edinburgh, which was defended with vigour by Rothesay, and, according to some writers, his father-in-law, the Earl of Douglas. But the exact date of the death of the earl is unknown. Gray's ‘MS. Chronicle of the Sixteenth Century’ (Adv. Library) places it on Christmas eve, 1400, before the siege, which was raised by the approach of a large force collected by the Earl of Fife, now Duke of Albany, and through Henry's forced return to England to put down the rising of Owen Glendower. It is certain that Douglas died during this year, which also witnessed the deaths of the Queen Annabella and Walter Trail, bishop of Glasgow. These three deaths, according to Bower, gave rise to the saying that the glory, the honour, and the honesty of Scotland had departed, and opened the way to the tragic death of Rothesay, and the ambitious attempt of Albany to seize the supreme power.

The character of Archibald ‘the Grim,’ so highly praised both by the general historians of Scotland and those of his own family, was that of an able and energetic border chief. He was zealous for the interests of the church, of which he was a great benefactor and reformer—as was shown by his foundation of a hospital at Holyrood, and a collegiate church at Bothwell, and removal of the nuns from Lincluden, which he turned into a monastery—and also of the state, of which he was one of the chief supports against England, but he was above all desirous to extend the position of his own house, which was left at his death the most powerful family in Scotland. He had united both his son and daughter with the royal family by marriage, and had added the Bothwell estates by his own marriage, and Galloway by purchase, to the already wide hereditary estates of the Douglases. When the Earls of Fife and Carrick were created dukes, he refused that title with contempt, deeming the older Douglas earldom more honourable than a new patent of nobility, and wisely unwilling to accept the new title, which would be a mark for the jealousy of the other nobles.

He left by his wife, Joanna Moray, the heiress of Bothwell, two lawful sons and two daughters: Archibald, who succeeded him as fourth earl of Douglas [q. v.], became Duke of Touraine, and is called ‘Tyneman;’ and James, who afterwards became seventh earl of Douglas [q. v.], and is known as the ‘Gross’ or ‘Fat;’ Marjory, who was married at Bothwell Church in February 1400 to David, duke of Rothesay, by whom she had no issue; and Mary or Eleanor (according to Douglas and Wood), who was the wife of Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth. An illegitimate son, William, sometimes styled Lord of Nithsdale, who distinguished himself in the English war, and by a somewhat piratical attack on Ireland and the Isle of Man in 1387, is separately noticed [see Douglas, Sir William, Lord of Nithsdale, d. 1392?)].

[Acts Parl. of Scotland; Exchequer Records; Wyntoun; Bower's continuation of Fordun and the family historian of the Douglases, Hume of Godscroft; Fraser's Douglas Book; Douglas and Wood's Peerage of Scotland, i. 425*, 426*.]

Æ. M.