Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Douglas, James (1646?-1700)

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DOUGLAS, JAMES, second Marquis of Douglas (1646?–1700), was the only son of Archibald, earl of Angus, by his first wife, Lady Anna Stewart, daughter of Esme, third duke of Lennox, and grandson of William Douglas, eleventh earl of Angus and first marquis of Douglas [q. v.] He was born in or about 1646. On the death of his father in 1655 he became Earl of Angus, and five years later he succeeded his grandfather, William, first marquis of Douglas, as second marquis. Being at this time still of immature age, he was left under the care of guardians. As his own mother was dead, his tuition had been undertaken by his paternal aunt, Lady Alexander, at the request of his father, but she died just as the succession to the marquisate devolved upon the young earl. The Douglas estates at his entry were in such an embarrassed condition that the clear income available for his use was computed to amount only to 1,000l. yearly. In 1670, shortly after he came of age, he married Lady Barbara Erskine, eldest daughter of John, earl of Mar, and Douglas Castle, which had fallen into disrepair, was put in order as their home. But straitened circumstances and incompatibility of temper rendered the marriage an unhappy one, and after ten years' joyless residence at Douglas the marchioness obtained a deed of separation, and returned to her father's house, where she died in 1690. The separation was made the subject of a popular ballad entitled ‘Lord James Douglas’ or ‘The Marchioness of Douglas,’ beginning

O waly, waly up the bank

(Mackay, Ballads of Scotland, pp. 189–94). William Lawrie, tutor of Blackwood, was then factor and chamberlain to the marquis, and was generally believed to have been an active agent in the estrangement. He had induced the marquis to supersede a worthier man, who had honestly set himself the task of clearing the estates from debt, and procured his own appointment to the post. Against the counsel of his friends the marquis implicitly trusted this man, with the result that the family was landed in almost irretrievable ruin. Lawrie gained some unenviable notoriety by mixing himself up with the covenanters about the times of the battles of Pentland and Bothwell Bridge, though he had no sympathy with their principles. By flight and the interposition of friends he obtained pardon on the former occasion, but on the latter he was condemned to be beheaded. He begged piteously for his life, and as the marquis supported his petition, with this as his chief reason, that Lawrie was the only man who knew his (the marquis's) affairs, he was again pardoned. In 1692 the marquis married again, his second marchioness being Lady Mary Ker, daughter of Robert, earl (afterwards marquis) of Lothian. She was a woman of spirit, and from the first declined to suffer Lawrie's interference in domestic affairs. She also made herself acquainted with the condition of the estate, and at once challenged Lawrie with gross mismanagement. By enlisting the assistance of her father she procured Lawrie's dismissal, and the appointment of a friendly commission to take charge of the estate. Even Charles II was moved with compassion on the matter, and sent a commissioner to make inquiries, but Lawrie baffled him. To induce the marquis to part with his chamberlain was a difficult task, as he long resisted all endeavours to shake his confidence in him, but he was at length brought to a sense of the truth, and with bitter self-reproaches he instructed his commissioners to prosecute Lawrie, which was done, although nothing accrued to the estate therefrom. For public affairs the marquis had no capacity, and accordingly took little concern in them. He died at Douglas on 25 Feb. 1700, and was buried there. His marchioness survived till 1736, and, dying in Edinburgh, was buried in Holyrood Abbey. She was the mother of Archibald, first duke of Douglas [q. v.], and of the celebrated Lady Jane Douglas [q. v.] By his first wife the marquis had also a son, James, earl of Angus, who at the revolution raised from his father's tenantry the regiment known as the ‘Cameronians.’ But he fell while fighting at its head at Steinkirk in 1692.

[Fraser's Douglas Book; Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland.]

H. P.