James Douglas

James Douglas

Scottish statesman, one of the Protestant leaders and the last of the four regents of Scotland during the minority of King James VI
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton
  2. Early Life and Family
  3. Political Career
  4. James was succeeded by Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus.

Biography of James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton

James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, was a Scottish statesman and one of the leaders of the Protestant movement during the regency of King James VI. He was born around 1516 and died on June 2, 1581.

James Douglas

Early Life and Family

James Douglas was the second son of Sir George Douglas, Master of Angus, and Elizabeth Douglas. In 1543, he married Elizabeth, the daughter of James Douglas, 3rd Earl of Morton. In 1553, he inherited his father-in-law's estates, including Dalkeith House in Midlothian and Aberdour Castle in Fife. His wife suffered from a mental disorder, and some of their children did not survive into adulthood. Three surviving daughters were declared incapable in 1581. James also had five illegitimate children.

Political Career

During the Rough Wooing, a conflict between Scotland and England, James and his brother David allied with Henry VIII and discussed the possibility of surrendering Tantallon Castle to the English army. In 1548, James was captured and held prisoner for four years. After his release in 1550, he was exchanged for an English soldier.

James played an active role in Scottish politics during the Scottish Reformation. He signed the Treaty of Berwick in 1560, which allowed English troops to enter Scotland to overthrow Mary of Guise. In 1563, he became the Lord Chancellor of Scotland. He led armed forces in the capture of Holyrood Palace in 1566 to eliminate David Rizzio, who was seen as a threat to the king.

As a strong supporter of Protestantism, James likely conspired against Mary, Queen of Scots, who fled to Dunbar. However, Mary regained control and James was forced to flee to England. He was pardoned and returned to Scotland in early 1567. He then participated in a conspiracy against Lord Darnley, who was suspiciously murdered. When Mary was accused of involvement, James joined the rebellion against her. Mary was deposed on May 15, 1567.

In 1568, James, along with the Earl of Moray, led government forces in the Battle of Langside, defeating Mary's army. After Moray's assassination and the outbreak of civil war in Scotland, James led the "King's party" to support the young James VI. He sought the support of Elizabeth I of England but was unsuccessful. However, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572 pushed Elizabeth to seek peace in Scotland.

In November 1572, James was elected as the regent of Scotland. He achieved the Perth Agreement with the leaders of the "Queen's party," and on May 28, 1573, the last stronghold of Mary's supporters, Edinburgh Castle, fell.

During peacetime, James focused on strengthening the government administration and balancing policies of force and mercy towards opposition. He allowed the Protestant clergy some autonomy within the episcopal system. He also tried to form a defensive alliance with England and receive subsidies, but Elizabeth preferred an alliance with Catholic France.

In the 1570s, Andrew Melville's ideas for the Presbyterian system gained popularity among the clergy. James's reluctance to embrace Presbyterianism caused discontent among the clergy. Scottish barons also grew unhappy with James due to changes in law enforcement and financial matters. After his currency devaluation, James lost popularity among the urban and poorer populations.

In 1578, James's enemies captured the 12-year-old King James VI and declared him of age, ending James's regency. However, James managed to regain control and return James VI to his influence. Officially, James was released from the king's guardianship in 1579 and was replaced by Esmé Stuart, who had little religious zeal.

On December 31, 1580, James was arrested for his alleged involvement in Lord Darnley's murder. He was found guilty and executed on June 2, 1581. He was beheaded using the "Maiden," one of the earliest guillotines based on the Halifax Gibbet. His head was reattached to his body in December 1582.

James was succeeded by Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus.