William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas

William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas

William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, 2nd Earl of Avondale (1425 – 22 February 1452) was a late Mediaeval Scottish nobleman, Lord of Galloway, and Lord of the Regality of Lauderdale,[1] and the most powerful magnate in Southern Scotland.


  • Life 1
  • Douglas in fiction 2
  • References 3
    • Notes 3.1
    • Sources 3.2


Douglas was the eldest son of James Douglas, 7th Earl of Douglas and Beatrice Sinclair, the daughter of Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney.

The power of the Black Douglases, lost after the execution of the 6th Earl, was restored by the 8th Earl, who recovered the lordships of Wigtown, Galloway and Bothwell by marriage (by papal dispensation) to his cousin, Margaret Douglas, Fair Maid of Galloway (daughter of the 5th Earl). He was soon high in favour with James II, and procured the disgrace of Sir William Crichton, presumed murderer of his kinsman the 6th Earl, by an alliance with his rival, Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar.

The Earl and his party was issued with a Safe-conduct for three years, "to pass through England, to the Marches of Calais and elsewhere in the King of England's dominions" dated 9 November 1450[2] Douglas was planning to attend the Jubilee in Rome and would travel via England, Flanders and France.[3] A further Safe-Conduct, this time expressly stating that the Earl could take a party of 100 and naming many of them, was issued (presumably while they were still travelling) on 23 April 1451.[4] The Earl had returned to Scotland by 14 August 1451 as he was the leading Scottish Conservator of the 3-year truce with England, concluded at Newcastle upon Tyne.[5]

James II had raided the Douglas lands during the Earl's pilgrimage to Rome. Despite this, their relations seemed outwardly friendly. However, in "early February [1452] Sir William Lauder of Haltoun, a close friend and relative (his mother Helen was a daughter of Archibald, 3rd Earl of Douglas, 'The Grim')[6][7] of Douglas, brought a summons to the Earl to attend the King at Stirling. There was abundant precedent for suspicion in a mandate of this nature, but, as if to allay it, Lauder brought a safe-conduct for Douglas given under the King's hand in council."[8] Once there, King James demanded the dissolution of a league into which Douglas had entered with Alexander Lindsay, the 'Tiger' Earl of Crawford, and John of Islay. Upon Douglas's refusal, the king murdered him by his own hand, stabbing him 26 times, and his body was thrown out of a window. The Douglases and their supporters, crying treason, besieged Haltoun Tower during which Sir William Lauder was killed, before the siege was lifted by archers, men and a large supply of cannon and munitions sent by the King.[9]

Since Douglas died without issue, his titles passed to his brother James.

Douglas in fiction

Douglas is the central character in Black Douglas, a novel by Nigel Tranter, which is speculative about a few issues e.g. claiming that he had a dysfunctional marriage.



  1. ^ Sasine Precept, National Archives of Scotland RH1/2/691
  2. ^ Abercromby's Martial Atchievements, vo.ii, pps: 249 & 328.
  3. ^ Mackay, A.E.J.G., editor, The Historie and Cronicles of Scotland by Robert Lindesay of Pitscottie, Edinburgh, 1899, volume 1, p.80.
  4. ^ Bain, Joseph, editor, Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1357 - 1509, vol.IV, Edinburgh, 1888, number 1232, p.250.
  5. ^ Bain,1888,no.1239, p.251.
  6. ^ Crawfurd's Peerage,p.91.
  7. ^ Maxwell, Sir Herbert, Bt.,A History of the House of Douglas, London, 1902, vol.1, p.124.
  8. ^ Maxwell, 1902, vol.1, p.171.
  9. ^ Stewart Smith, J, The Grange of St.Giles, Edinburgh, 1898, p.228.


Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
James Douglas

Earl of Douglas

Succeeded by
James Douglas
Preceded by
James Douglas
Earl of Avondale
Succeeded by
James Douglas