National Records of Scotland

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Archibald Douglas (1694-1761)

Archibald Douglas (1694-1761)


Archibald Douglas succeeded his father, the third Marquis of Douglas at the age of six and when he reached nine Queen Anne created him duke of Douglas, earl of Angus and Abernethy, viscount of Jedburgh Forest and lord of Boncle, Preston and Roberton. This act restored lands to the Douglas family that had been taken from them in the 1450s when James II used bombards such as Mons Meg to destroy their power.

Archibald became involved in the civil wars that were caused by the dynastic rivalries of the houses of Hanover and Stuart in the eighteenth century. During the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 he sided with the Hanoverian government and mustered 300 of his men at Douglas Castle to join the duke of Argyll. However lack of provisions meant that they could not depart. Archibald was present at the government victory at Sheriffmuir that year. In the 1745 rebellion led by Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie') Archibald had the dubious pleasure of the Young Pretender spending Christmas Eve at Douglas Castle. The Highlanders in Charles' army spent two wild days in the town and did 'much damage to residence and property' of the Duke and leaving his house 'worse than a hog's sty'. They even carried off the 'Black Douglas sword' a gift that was traditionally thought to have been given to the 'Good Sir James' Douglas by Robert the Bruce in the early fourteenth century (Memorial, 1746, in Douglas Charter-Chest, cited in Scots Peerage, I, pp.210-11 ). Sir James had taken the embalmed heart of his king on crusade and was killed fighting the Moors in Spain in 1330. The casket containing the royal organ has been re-interred in Melrose Abbey.

Things did not improve for Archibald, as in 1758 his castle burned down. He hired the architect Robert Adam (1728-1792), to build him a palace even grander than the one built by Archibald Campbell, third duke of Argyll at Inveraray. However Douglas died before he saw his plans completed.

Archibald's duchess was Margaret or 'Peggy' Douglas who was renowned for her beauty, intelligence and her sharp wit. With these attributions in addition to her social rank she was a 'recognised leader in Scottish society'.(Piozzi's Letters, i, 109, cited in Ibid, p211).

Testament of Archibald, duke of Douglas

(National Records of Scotland, CC9/7/64 pp 258-263)

As Margaret and Archibald had no heirs it may well have been her influence that settled the estate on his nephew. Archibald had disowned his sister Lady Jane for her secret marriage, but after an investigation after her death he settled his estates on her son Archibald James Edward Douglas. Also mentioned in the will is James Murray, second duke of Atholl (d.1764). James had been in the government army of the duke of Cumberland in 1746. All his male heirs died in infancy and the dukedom passed to his nephew John. Ironically John's father and James' brother was none other than lord George Murray (d.1760) who had commanded Charles Edward Stuart's army and achieved considerable military victories at Prestonpans and the siege of Carlisle in 1745 and at Falkirk in 1746.

In his will Archibald had requested that his remains and those of his wife should be buried in the bowling green at Douglas. However his wishes do not seem to have been respected, as the Scots Peerage informs us that the couple were buried in a vault under the new church of Douglas.

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