Douglas, William, eleventh Earl of Angus and first Marquis of Douglas 1589-1660, was the son of William, tenth earl of Angus [qv.], and Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Oliphant. His father, the son of Sir William Douglas of Glenbervie, the ninth earl, held the earldom from 1591 to his death in 1611. Having become a Roman catholic he had taken part in the plot of the Spanish Blanks. It was proposed that the king of Spain should send troops to aid in the restoration of the Roman church in Scotland, as well as in the rebellion in the north of the catholic earls of Huntly and Errol. The Douglas estates had consequently been forfeited and given to Ludovic, duke of Lennox; but in 1596 an arrangement was made between Sir Robert Douglas of Glenbervie and Lennox by which they were restored to the eldest son of the Earl William, then master of Angus, the subject of this notice, whom failing his second son James. In the following year the earl, by professing a nominal conformity with the reformed church, was himself released from his forfeiture, but the master was placed in charge of the Earl of Morton to secure his better education in the trew religion, vertew, and manners. In 1601, when only twelve, the master was contracted in marriage to Margaret, daughter of Claud Hamilton, lord Paisley. This early marriage secured the friendship of Seton, afterwards Lord Dunfermline and chancellor, a kinsman of the bride. King James himself, not inclined personally to Romanism, was disposed to deal leniently with the catholic lords. Though the earl's Romanist tendencies were well known, he obtained a regrant, in February 1603, of the earldom in favour of himself in life rent and the master in fee. In 1608 or 1609 he left Scotland and took up his residence in Paris, where he spent the short remainder of his life in devotional exercises and schemes for the restoration of the Roman church in Scotland. Before leaving he had advised his son and daughter-in-law to adhere to the catholic faith and bring up their children in it. He died on 3 March 1611, and was buried in the abbey of St. Germain-des-Prs, where his son erected a monument to his memory. His succession to the earldom was followed by a dispute with Kerr of Fernihurst, the greatest of the Douglas vassals, as to their right to hold courts for Jedburgh forest. The matter came before the privy council, which decided in favour of the young earl, but with an admonition against holding the court with a greater retinue than sixty persons besides the suitors. Angus was not unnaturally suspected by the presbyterians of Romanist leanings, and while he vindicated himself from the charge in a letter to the king, the license to travel abroad for three years which he obtained was not likely to lay these suspicions. In 1619 he returned to Scotland, and was present at the convention in 1620 and the parliament of the following January, which ratified the five articles of Perth, in favour of private baptism and communion, kneeling at the reception of the sacred elements, confirmation, and observance of the chief festivals of the christian year. These represented what was the real colour of his religious opinions, which, like those of the king, were not Roman, but favoured the doctrine and ritual which the church of England and the episcopal church in Scotland retained. From 1623 to September 1625 he was again abroad visiting France and Italy, busying himself, as his father had done, in historical and genealogical inquiries, especially into the history of his own family, which he preferred to the political controversies of his country. The Earl of Morton and other of his relatives administered his estates in his absence. When he came home the suspicion of Romanism again attached to him. It was reported that he had actually visited St. Peter's. The presbytery of Lanark more than once admonished him of the duty of attending the parish kirk, which he neglected; measures were taken to remove two of his servants on a charge of papistry; and though he had himself, as his father had done, subscribed the confession of faith, he was summoned before the presbytery to answer for his backsliding. But Charles I put a stop to these proceedings. In 1631 he procured a regrant of the earldom, with its privileges of the first vote in parliament and the right to carry the crown at its meeting, and the leadership of the van of the army, in favour of himself and his son. When Charles visited Scotland in 1633, he was elevated to the marquisate of Douglas. The Lanark presbytery still continued to visit him with discipline, and in 1636 accused him of not compelling his daughter to attend the kirk; but in the same year he was nominated a commissioner to repress disorder on the border, so that he probably paid no attention to the church authorities, secure in the favour of the king. His tastes were pacific, like his father's. In the proceedings which led to the civil war he had no share, but when Laud and the bishops induced Charles to introduce the liturgy, and it was felt that recourse to war was imminent, he was one of the nobles on whom the bishops reckoned. It was rumoured that he was among his vassals, but in 1639, after the war actually broke out, he went to England. Lord Fleming and other of the western barons on the side of the covenanters placed a garrison in Douglas Castle, which offered no resistance. He returned home after the pacification of Berwick, maintaining a correspondence with Charles, who treated the covenanters as rebels, and contemplated the renewal of hostilities. But when the king came to Scotland in 1641 he was absent from the royalist parliament and the English war. He even attended the Scottish parliament in 1644, and signed the covenant in the presence of the congregation of his parish in Lanark, and a second time in parliament. Upon the brilliant campaign of Montrose in 1645 Douglas at last showed his true colours, and received from Montrose a commission as lieutenant of Clydesdale. He raised his vassals and other troops under this commission and was present at the battle of Philiphaugh on 13 Sept. 1645. He escaped from the field, but in April 1646 was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, from which he purchased his release in the beginning of 1647, by payment of a fine and by a public acknowledgment of his breach of the covenant before the presbytery, who compelled him to renew his oath to it. When Charles II secured the crown of Scotland by accepting the covenant, Douglas reappeared in public affairs. In 1651 he was present at the parliament of that king at Perth and Stirling, and was appointed one of the committee for the army and also of the committee of estates, but he declined the command of a regiment and returned home. This declinature was made the ground for an application to reduce the fine of 1,000l. which Cromwell imposed on him in 1654. It was reduced to one-third of that sum, a sufficient proof of his insignificance as an opponent. His name does not appear in history during the last nine years of his life. He died, at the age of seventy-one, on 19 Feb. 1660 at Douglas, and was buried in front of the altar of the church. He had been twice married, first to Margaret Hamilton, who died 11 Sept. 1623, and secondly, in 1632, to Lady Mary Gordon, daughter of the Marquis of Huntly, who survived him. He had by his first marriage two sons and three daughters, and by his second marriage three sons and six daughters. Most of his children married into noble families. His elder son by his first wife, Archibald, master of Angus [see Douglas, Archibald, Earl of Ormonde, 1609-1655], predeceased him, and he was succeeded by Archibald's son and his grandson James, second marquis of Douglas [qv.]. The eldest son of the first marquis by his second wife was William, third duke of Hamilton [qv.]. It was at the instance of the father of the first Marquis of Douglas, eleventh Earl of Angus, that David Hume of Godscroft [qv.] wrote, with the aid of notes the earl had compiled, the History of the House of Douglas, which was first published in 1644 by Evan Tayler, printer to the king's most excellent majesty. The printed volume ends with the life of the ninth earl, to whom Hume acted as secretary, but a manuscript continuation exists with a dedication to Charles I by the first marquis.

     Sir W. Fraser's Douglas Book and manuscript of Hume of Godscroft's History there quoted.

Contributor: . M. [Aeneas James George Mackay]

Published: 1888