Douglas, James (1371?-1443) (DNB00)
DOUGLAS, JAMES, seventh Earl of Douglas, ‘the Gross’ or ‘Fat’ (1371?–1443), was brother of Archibald ‘Tyneman,’ the fourth earl [q. v.], and son of Archibald ‘the Grim,’ the third earl [q. v.] He first appears in history as Sir James Douglas of Balvenie, who in 1409 waylaid and killed Sir David Fleming of Cumbernauld on his return from accompanying to the Bass the young prince of Scotland, afterwards James I, when sent by his father, Robert III, out of Scotland, to escape from the plots of Albany and Douglas's brother, Archibald, the fourth earl. During the regency of Albany his name often appears as one of the nobles who were kept on the side of the regent by being allowed to prey upon the customs. He was one of the hostages for his brother the earl when an English prisoner after the battle of Homildon. In the beginning of the reign of James I he sat on the assizes which tried Murdoch, duke of Albany, and his sons on 24 and 25 May 1425. Several charters to him about this time prove the growth of his estates and the favour shown him by that king. One of these, dated 7 March 1426, confirmed his title to the castle and barony of Abercorn, Linlithgow. Another, 18 April 1426, confirmed the grant made to him by his brother Archibald, then deceased, of lands and baronies in the counties of Inverness, Banff, and Aberdeen, and the third in the same year, 11 May 1426, a grant of lands in Elgin, also the gift of his brother. In 1426 and 1427 he acquired estates in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, on the resignation of Elizabeth de Moravia. This series of charters probably indicates the settlement of this cadet of the powerful border earl in the northern districts of Scotland, where the family had not hitherto taken root, and was possibly due to the policy which James I in other cases pursued, of separating such families by removing them from the localities where their vicinity to each other made them as a clan more formidable to the crown. In 1437 he was created Earl of Avondale, and a conveyance of the lands of Glenquhar in Peeblesshire to him by William Frisel, lord of Overtoun, in 1439, was confirmed by royal charter on 20 Sept. 1440. The murder of his grandnephew, William, the sixth earl, and his brother David at Edinburgh, at the instigation of Crichton the chancellor, took place in the following month. As he did nothing to avenge it, and immediately succeeded to the title and Douglas estates other than those in Galloway, the conjecture that he may have connived at it, and was at all events on good terms with Crichton the chancellor, who was its chief author, has probability, though it cannot be said to be proved. He held the earldom of Douglas only for three years, and died on 24 March 1443 at Abercorn. The ‘Short Chronicle of the Reign of James II’ states in the rude but pithy vernacular a fact which accounts for his byname of the ‘Fat’ or ‘Gross,’ ‘Thai said he had in him four stane of taulch [tallow] and mair.’ The same physical peculiarity is commemorated in a Latin epigram preserved by Hume of Godscroft:—
Duglasii Crassique mihi cognomina soli
Conveniunt: O quam nomina juncta male!
To be a Douglas and be gross withall
You shall not find another amongst them all.
He was buried at Douglas, where the inscription on his tomb records that besides his own estates he held the office of warden of the marches. He was married to Beatrix Sinclair, daughter of Henry, lord Sinclair, and left by her six, perhaps seven sons, of whom the two eldest, William [q. v.] and James [q. v.], were successively eighth and ninth Earls of Douglas, and Archibald, the third, became Earl of Moray, Hugh, the fourth, Earl of Ormonde, and John, the fifth, Lord of Balvenie.[Bower's Continuation of Fordun; a Short Chronicle of the Reign of James II; Major, Boece, and Lindsay of Pitscottie's Histories of Scotland; the Charters in favour of this earl in the Registrum Magni Sigilli give important facts in his life; the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol. v.; Mr. Burnett's Preface to this volume of the Exchequer Rolls; Fraser's Douglas Book.]