Douglas, Archibald (fl.1568) (DNB00)

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DOUGLAS, ARCHIBALD (fl. 1568), parson of Glasgow, younger brother of William Douglas of Whittingham, and grandson of John, second earl of Morton, was parson of Douglas prior to 13 Nov. 1565, when he was appointed an extraordinary lord of session in the place of Adam Bothwell [q. v.], bishop of Orkney. With his kinsman, James, fourth earl of Morton, he was concerned in the murder of Rizzio in March 1566. Douglas fled to France, but a few months afterwards, through the intervention of the French king, he was allowed to return to Scotland, where he successfully negotiated the pardons of the other conspirators. There seems to be but little doubt that he took part in the plot for the murder of Darnley in the following year, but no proceedings were taken against him at that time. On 2 June 1568 Douglas was appointed an ordinary lord of session in the place of John Lesley, bishop of Ross. In September 1570 he was sent to the Earl of Sussex to congratulate him on his victory, and ‘to talk of the stabilitie of the king and regents auctoritie’ (Historie and Life of King James the Sext, 1825, p. 64). Some time before this Douglas had been presented by the regent, Murray, to the parsonage of Glasgow. He had, however, been refused letters testimonial by the commissioner, whose decision was confirmed by the general assembly in March 1570. Further objections were raised against his appointment by the kirk of Glasgow, but he was at length allowed possession on 23 Jan. 1572. A quaint account of his examination for the benefice is recorded in Bannatyne's ‘Journal’ (1806, pp. 311–13), where it is stated that ‘when he had gottin the psalme buike, after luking, and casting ower the leives thereof a space, he desyrit sum minister to mak the prayer for him; “for,” said he, “I am not vsed to pray.”’ Having been detected in sending money to the queen's party, then holding the castle of Edinburgh, Douglas was ‘tane and send to Stirveling to be kept’ on 14 April 1572, and at the same time ‘also it is reported that he suld have betrayed the lord of Mortoun’ (ib. pp. 334–5). According to another account ‘the person was wairdit in the castell of Lochlevin’ (Historie and Life of King James the Sext, p. 101). But this is probably incorrect, as on 25 Nov. 1572 a commission was appointed for the trial of Douglas ‘now remaining in ward within the castell of Stirveling.’ He was restored to his place on the bench on 11 Nov. 1578, the king having commanded him ‘to await and mak residence in his ordinar place of ye sessioune.’ On 31 Dec. 1580 Douglas and the Earl of Morton were accused before the council by Captain James Stewart, who was shortly afterwards created the Earl of Arran, of ‘heigh treason and foreknawlege of the king's murthour’ (ib. pp. 180–1). Hearing of Morton's commitment, Douglas fled from Moreham Castle to England. He was degraded from the bench on 26 April 1581, and a decree of forfeiture was pronounced against him on 28 Nov. following (Acta Parl. iii. 193, 196–204). Though Elizabeth refused to send him back at the request of James's ministers, Douglas was for some time detained in a kind of custody. He, however, gained Elizabeth's favour by disclosing his transactions with Mary, and through the influence of Patrick, master of Gray, and Randolph, the English ambassador, he was at length enabled to return to Scotland. On 1 May 1586 an act of rehabilitation was passed under the great seal restoring Douglas, but at the same time containing a provision that if he should be found guilty of the murder the act should have no effect. On 21 May he received a pardon for all crimes and treasons committed by him, except the murder of Darnley, and five days after, on 26 May, he was tried for that murder. It was charged in the indictment that both John Binning and the Earl of Morton, who had been executed for the murder in June 1581, had declared that Douglas was actually present at the blowing up of Darnley's lodgings in Kirk of Field, and it was moreover asserted that while perpetrating the crime Douglas ‘tint his mwlis’ (lost his slippers), which being found upon the spot the next day, were acknowledged to be his. The jury unanimously acquitted him, but there are strong reasons for supposing that the trial was a collusive one, and that its only object was the exculpation of the prisoner. According to Moyses, Douglas was ‘absolved most shamefully and unhonestly to the exclamation of the whole people. It was thought the filthiest iniquity that was heard of in Scotland’ (Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland, 1755, p. 108). Spotiswood asserts that the acquittal was obtained by the procurement of the prior of Blantyre for private reasons (History of the Church of Scotland, 1851, ii. 343–4). But as Douglas returned to Scotland virtually as an agent of Elizabeth to James's court, the matter was probably arranged before his return. Having been favourably received by James, he was sent back to England as an ambassador of the king, and appears to have contributed to the condemnation of Mary, ‘having discovered several passages betwixt her and himself, and other catholicks of England, tending to her liberation: which were made use of against her majesty for taking her life’ (Memoirs of Sir James Melvil of Halhill, 1735, pp. 348–9). In 1587 he was dismissed from this post upon the arrival of Sir Robert Melville in England. On 13 March 1593 Douglas was deposed for non-residence and neglect of duty from the parsonage of Glasgow, which he resigned 4 July 1597. The date of his death is unknown, but it appears that he was alive at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He married in 1577 Lady Jane Hepburn, the widow of John, master of Caithness. Frequent allusions to Douglas are made in the ‘Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland,’ 1509–1603, 2 vols.

[Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice (1832), pp. 125–8; Hew Scott's Fasti Ecclesiæ Scoticanæ (1868), vol. ii. pt. i. pp. 2–3; Pitcairn's Criminal Trials in Scotland (1833), vol. i. pt. ii. pp. 95, 142–54; Arnot's Collection and Abridgment of Celebrated Trials in Scotland (1785), pp. 7–20; Robertson's History of Scotland (1806), iii. 32–3, 415–20, 424–7; Laing's History of Scotland (1804), i. 23, ii. 17, 55, 331–336, 337–9; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vols. i–iv.]

G. F. R. B.