Birth Dateabt 1288
Birth PlaceDouglasdale, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Death Date25 Aug 1330
Death PlaceGranada, Spain
Burial Date1330
Burial PlaceDouglasdale, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Burial MemoSt. Bride’s Kirk
MotherLady Elizabeth STEWART , F (~1250-<1289)
ChildrenArchibald “The Grim” , M (<1330-1400)
Notes for James “Good Sir James” (Spouse 1)
(1) Sir William Douglas married, first, Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander, High Steward of Scotland. She died some time before 1289, and

(2) he married, secondly, as above described, Eleanor de Lovain, or Ferrers, who survived him. In October 1303, King Edward I granted her permission to marry John de Wysham, a ‘vallet’ of the King’s, but she was apparently still a widow in June 1305. …

He had issue, so far as known, three sons:

1. James, the only son of the first marriage, who succeeded him.

2. Hugh, eldest son of second marriage.
3. Sir Archibald, a son of the second marriage, according to Godscroft, was probably the youngest brother of Sir James, …

Source: THE SCOTS PEERAGE, ed. by Sir James Balfour Paul, Vol III, Edinburgh, 1906, pp. 138-40.

Sir James Douglas, Lord of Douglas, fondly known to his countrymen as the ‘good Sir James,’ is one of the three heroes of Scottish independence, the other two being Wallace and Bruce. Indeed, in Barbour’s Brus epic, Sir James has a place scarcely second to the King himself, while his history is so interwoven with that of his country that it is difficult to separate the two, the rather as we know almost nothing of his personal life.

The little knowledge we have is chiefly from Barbour, who tells us he was a youth, ‘bot ane litill page,’ when his father was imprisoned. Barbour has also preserved a word-portrait of his hero. He was, it is said, of commanding stature, well formed, large-boned, and with broad shoulders; his countenance was somewhat dark or swarthy, but frank and and open, set off by locks of sable hue. Courteous in manner, wise in speech, though he spoke with a slight lisp, gentle in all his actions. Terrible in battle, and at all times an enemy to everything treacherous, dishonourable or false.

James Douglas was in France when his father died, and after a time he returned to Scotland, going first to William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, who received him kindly, and he remained in the prelate’s household for some time.

After [King] Edward had disdainfully refused to restore his lands to him, Douglas joined Bruce and became one of his most trusted allies, and from that time, the two men were seldom apart. Douglas was present at the King’s coronation, and he was one of a small band who attached themselves to Bruce after his defeat at Methven, and joined him in his wanderings.

King Edward I died on 7 July 1307, and Bruce soon after set out on his campaign in the north of Scotland, while Douglas devoted himself to driving the English garrisons out of the border districts of Selkirk and Jedburgh, and he also made a third successful attack on his own castle, which he now razed to the ground.

By the exertions of Douglas and others, Scotland became so far freed from English control that Bruce was able, in March 1308-09, to hold his first Parliament, where Douglas was present. In February 1313 he captured the castle of Roxburgh by a somewhat grotesque stratagem. The battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314 settled the independence of scotland, but even after that decisive conflict, an intermittent warfare took place for many years.

Sir James Douglas played his part in clearing and guarding the marches of the country with activity, powess, and daring, and the dread of him was so great that English mothers used the name of the ‘Black Douglas’ to frighten their children with. Raids into England alternated with the more peaceful duties of attending Parliaments.

When King Robert went to Ireland in 1316, Douglas was appointed one of the Wardens of the kingdom; and during the King’s absence, owing to the increased activy of the English, some of his most stirring exploits were performed. In December 1318, the trust which not only the King, but the country had in Sir James Douglas was shown by his being appointed by Parliament tutor, failing Randolph, Earl of Moray, to any minor heir succeeding to take the throne.

In August 1319, King Edward II, having resolved to strike in person a blow at Scotland, laid siege to Berwick with a large force. Douglas and Randolph marched into England, and while there met and defeatedd an English force at Mitton, in Yorkshire, the conflict being known as the ‘chapter of Mitton’ from the number of ecclesiastics who fell there. This and two severe devastations of the north of England caused Edward to retire from Berwick, and one result was a truce for two years.

An episode of this time of peace was the famous letter by the barons of Scotland, including Douglas, addressed to the Pope, then John XXII, affirming the independence of Scotland, and rejecting the pretensions of England.

At this period, also, Douglas received various rewards for his long and varied services. In 1318 he had received a grant of the lands of Polbuthy, or Polmoody, in Moffatdale. He now received the lands, castle, and forest of Jedburgh with Bonjedward, and the barony of Stabilgorton in Eskdale. His estate of Douglas was defined by a bounding charter to include the two parishes of Douglas and Carmichael, and he further received the extensive barony of Westerkirk in Eskdale. About this time, also, he had grants of Ettrick Forest, of Lauderdale and the barony of Bedrule in Teviotdale.

The expiry of the two years’ truce was followed by war, and Douglas resumed his attacks on England. The English King retaliated by invading Scotland, but was forced to retire for want of supplies. He was followed to England by the Scottish army, and a battle took place near Biland Abbey in Yorkshire, in which the English were defeated, and their King made an ignominious flight to York.

The result of this combat, so far as Douglas was conderned, was the famous grant known as the Emerald Charter. As recompense for forgoing the ransome of certain French knights who were his prisoners, and whose ransoms were estimated at 4400 merks sterling, King Robert bestowed on him the criminal jurisdiction over his extensive baronies, and over all his within the kingdom, with the exception of articles relating to manslaughter and the Crown, which were reserved. He further freed Douglas, his heirs and servants, from all feudal services, suits of court, etc., except common aid due for defence of the realm.

The grant was made absolute, and is not accompanied with any terms of reddendo. The mode of investiture was unique, as it was given by the King taking an emerald ring from his own finger and placing it on the finger of Douglas, as an enduring memorial in name of sasine that the grant should be secure to him and his heirs for ever. A few months later, the lands of Buittle in Galloway, comprising the parish of that name with certain exceptions, were added to his already extensife possessions.

in the beginning of 1327, King Edward ii was deposed, and his son, a boy, became king, an event which broke the truce recently renewed with Scotland. In the hostilities which followed, the continued successes of the Scots ultimately led to the treaty of Northampton in March and May 1328, by which Bruce was recognised as King of Scotland, and it was arranged that his son, Prince David, should marry Joanna of England. in the following year, the estate of Fawdon, in Northumberland, and other lands in England belonging to his father, were restored to sir James Douglas.

Sir James was present on behalf of his royal master at the marriage of Prince David at Berwick on 17 July 1328, and within twelve months thereafter, he attended the last hours of King Robert, when, as Froissart tells us, he have his promise to carry the King’s heart to the Holy Land. As is well known, Douglas, after settling his affairs, set out on what was to be his last mission.

He took ship from Montrose, and sailed to Sluys, in Flanders, where he entertained visitors for twelve days with great magnificence, though he remained on board his vessel, and never landed all that time. he then resolved to go to Spain, where Alphonso, King of Leon and Castile, was at war with the Saracen King of Grenada. Douglas offered his services to Alphonso, by whom he was honourably received and entertained; but at the battle of Theba, on 25 August 1330, while fightin with his usual bravery, he was so surrounded by the enemy that, as Froissart has it, ‘fynally he coulde nat endure,’ and he and his comrades were slain.

There are various stories of the way in which he met his death, but some of these are of late origin and need not be repeated here. His body was recovered and brought home, where Barbour tells us it was buried in the church of Douglas. A monument was afterwards erected to his memory by his son Archibald, probably about 1390, when he succeeded to the estates and earldom of Douglas, and it still exists.

The name of his wife has not been ascertained, but there can be no doubt that Sir James Douglas was married, and had a son and heir,


He had also a natural son, Archibald, who became, under an entail referred to later, the possessor of the estates, and third Earl of Douglas.

Source: THE SCOTS PEERAGE, ed. by Sir James Balfour Paul, Vol III, Edinburgh, 1906, pp. 142-46.

Sir James Douglas
(also known as Good Sir James and the Black Douglas) (c. 1286 – 1330) was a Scottish knight and feudal lord. He was one of the chief commanders during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

He was the eldest son of Sir William Douglas, known as "le Hardi" or "the bold", who had been the first noble supporter of William Wallace (the elder Douglas died circa 1298, a prisoner in the Tower of London). His mother was Elizabeth Stewart, the daughter of Alexander Stewart, 4th High Steward of Scotland, who died circa 1287 or early 1288. His father remarried in late 1288 so Douglas' birth had to be prior to that; however, the destruction of records in Scotland makes an exact date or even year impossible to pinpoint.

Douglas was sent to France for safety in the early days of the Wars of Independence, and was educated in Paris. There he met William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, who took him as a squire. He returned to Scotland with Lamberton. His lands had been seized and awarded to Robert Clifford. Lamberton presented him at the occupying English court to petition for the return of his land shortly after the capture of Stirling Castle in 1304, but when Edward I of England heard whose son he was he grew angry and Douglas was forced to depart.

For Douglas, who now faced life as a landless outcast on the fringes of feudal society, the return of his ancestral estates was to become an overriding consideration,
inevitably impacting on his political allegiances. ... This was a particularly dramatic moment in Scottish history: Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick had slain John Comyn, a leading Scottish rival, on 6 February 1306 at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries. Bruce immediately claimed the crown of Scotland, in defiance of the English king. Less than seven weeks after the killing in Dumfries, Bruce was crowned King on 25 March. It was while he was on his way to Glasgow to meet with Bishop Wishart, and then to Scone, the traditional site of Scottish coronations, that he was met by Douglas. riding on a horse borrowed from Bishop Lamberton. The site is traditionally believed to be the summit of a hill in Dumfries and Galloway, that is now known as the Crown of Scotland. Douglas explained his circumstances and immediately offered his services; ... Douglas was set to share in Bruce's early misfortunes, being present at the defeats at Methven and Battle of Dalrigh. But for both men these setbacks were to provide a valuable lesson in tactics: limitations in both resources and equipment meant that the Scots would always be at a disadvantage in conventional medieval warfare. By the time the war was renewed in the spring of 1307 they had learnt the value of guerrilla warfare — known at the time as "secret war" — using fast moving, lightly equipped and agile forces to maximum effect against an enemy often locked into static defensive positions. ...

The greatest challenge for Bruce came that same year as Edward invaded Scotland with a large army, nominally aimed at the relief of Stirling Castle, but with the real intention of pinning down the foxes. The Scots army – roughly a quarter the size of the enemy force – was poised to the south of Stirling, ready to make a quick withdrawal into the wild country to the west. However, their position, just north of the Bannock Burn, had strong natural advantages, and the king made ready to suspend for a time the guerrilla tactics pursued hitherto. On the morning of the 24 June, the day of the main battle, Barbour states that Douglas was made a knight, which would have been curiously late in his career. Many believe that Douglas was made a knight banneret. ...

Bannockburn effectively ended the English presence in Scotland, with all strongpoints – outwith Berwick – now in Bruce's hands. It did not, however, end the war. Edward had been soundly defeated but he still refused to abandon his claim to Scotland. For Douglas one struggle had ended and another was about to begin. ...

Douglas' military achievements inevitably increased his political standing still further. When Edward Bruce, the king's brother and designated successor, was killed in Ireland at the Battle of Faughart in the autumn of 1318, Douglas was named as Guardian of the Realm and tutor to the future Robert II, after Randolph if Robert should die without a male heir. This was decided at a parliament held at Scone in December 1318, where it was noted that "Randolph and Sir James took the guardianship upon themselves with the approbation of the whole community." ...

Robert Bruce died in 1329. According to Jean Froissart, when Bruce was dying he asked that Sir James, as his friend and lieutenant, should carry his heart to the Holy Land and present it at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as a mark of penance. ... When Bruce was dead, his heart was cut from his body and placed in a silver and enamelled casket which Sir James placed around his neck. Early in 1330, Douglas set sail from Berwick upon Tweed, accompanied by seven other knights with twenty six squires and gentlemen.

The party stopped first at Sluys in Flanders.
There it may be that Douglas received confirmation that Alfonso XI of Castile was preparing a campaign against the Muslims of the kingdom of Granada. In anticipation, he had with him a letter of introduction to King Alfonso from Edward III of England, his cousin. Accordingly, the Scots sailed on to Seville, where, according to John Barbour, Sir James and his solemn relic were received by Alfonso with great honour. ... Douglas and his company joined Alfonso's army, which then was setting out for the frontier of Granada to besiege the castle of Teba. ... At some point during the siege, Douglas was killed. ...

Barbour states that, after this battle, Douglas' body and the casket with Bruce's heart were recovered. His bones, the flesh boiled off them, were taken back to Scotland by Sir William Keith of Galston in Ayrshire (who had missed the battle because of a broken arm), and deposited at St Bride’s chapel. The heart of Bruce was taken by Moray, the regent, and solemnly interred under the high altar of Melrose Abbey.

Sir James had two children by unknown mothers:

William, Lord of Douglas killed 1333 at the Battle of Halidon Hill
In 1333 succeeded by his half-brother, Hugh the Dull, Lord of Douglas (c. 1294–1342)
In 1342 succeeded by his nephew (by youngest half-brother Archibald), William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, (1327–1384)
Archibald the Grim (b.b. 1330–1400), Lord of Galloway succeeded his once removed cousin as Earl of Douglas in 1388.

By 1333 the 'bloody heart' was incorporated in the arms of Sir James' son, William, Lord of Douglas. It subsequently appeared, sometimes with a royal crown, in every branch of the Douglas family.

Source: Wikipedia:,_Lord_of_Douglas
Last Modified 15 Feb 2015Created 9 Jan 2017 using Reunion for Macintosh