Douglas, Robert (1574?-1639) (DNB00)

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DOUGLAS, ROBERT, Viscount Belhaven (1574?–1639), was the second son of Malcolm Douglas of Mains, Dumbartonshire, who was executed at the Edinburgh Cross, on 9 Feb. 1585, for his supposed complicity in the plot of the banished lords for the assassination of the king. His mother was Janet, daughter of John Cunninghame of Drumquhassle. Douglas was page of honour to Prince Henry, and afterwards became his master of the horse. He was knighted by James I on 7 Feb. 1609, and upon the death of the prince in 1612 was appointed one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to the king. He served the same office to Charles I, by whom he was also appointed master of the household, and admitted to the privy council. On 24 June 1633 Douglas was created a Scotch peer, by the title of Viscount Belhaven in the county of Haddington. That he was a favourite of Charles I is apparent from the report of Sir Robert Pye in 1637, in which it is stated that Belhaven had ‘received out of the exchequer since his majesty's accession, beside his pension of 666l. 13s. 4d. per annum and his fee for keeping his majesty's house and park at Richmond, 7,000l. by virtue of two privy seals, one, dated 5 Aug. 1625, being for 2,000l. for acceptable services done to his majesty, and the other, dated 25 June 1630, for 5,000l. in consideration of long and acceptable services’ (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1637, p. 130). Burnet relates, on the authority of Sir Archibald Primrose, the baseless fiction that when the Earl of Nithsdale came to Scotland with a commission for the resumption of the church lands and tithes, those who were most concerned in these grants agreed that if they could not make him desist they would fall upon him and all his party. Belhaven, ‘who was blind, bid them set him by one of the party, and he would make sure of one. So he was set next the Earl of Dumfrize; he was all the while holding him fast; and when the other asked him what he meant by that, he said, ever since the blindness was come on him he was in such fear of falling, that he could not help the holding fast to those who were next to him; he had all the while a poinard in his other hand, with which he had certainly stabbed Dumfrize if any disorder had happened’ (History of his own Time, 1833, i. 36–7). Belhaven died at Edinburgh on 12 Jan. 1639, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, and was buried in the Abbey Church of Holyrood, where a monument was erected to his memory by his nephews, Sir Archibald and Sir Robert Douglas. This monument is still to be seen in the north-west tower, and the inscription will be found, given at length, in Crawfurd's ‘Peerage.’ Douglas married in 1611 Nicolas, the eldest daughter of Robert Moray of Abercairny, who died, together with her only child, in November 1612, and was buried in the chapel of the Savoy. Her monument, which was surmounted by a recumbent figure of her husband, was destroyed by the fire in 1864. Her own effigy, however, was preserved, and has been replaced in the chapel. Engravings of both their effigies will be found in Pinkerton's ‘Iconographia Scotica’ (1797), and a copy of the inscription is given in Stow's ‘Survey’ (1720, vol. ii. book iv. p. 108). In default of issue, the viscounty became extinct upon Belhaven's death.

[Crawfurd's Peerage of Scotland (1716), p. 35; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland (1813), i. 200; Burke's Extinct Peerage (1883), p. 177; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, iii. lxvii, 723; Metcalfe's Book of Knights (1885), p. 160; Historical and Descriptive Account of the Palace and Chapel Royal of Holyrood House (1826), pp. 20–1; Loftie's Memorials of the Savoy (1878), pp. 224, 240–1.]

G. F. R. B.