Sir William Douglas, Lord of Liddesdale

Born: c. 1310

Died: August, 1353

Williamhope, Scotland (Age c. 43)

Douglas in History

William Douglas was born into a minor Scottish noble family (one that would become increasingly influential throughout the fourteenth century) and seems to have been born into defending Scotland against English invasion. By 1330, he was acting as a warden of the marches and by 1332 was fighting against the English, under King Edward III, who were helping to promote one Edward Balliol, a pretender to the Scottish throne (the real king, David II, was still underage and living in France at the time for his own protection). In 1333, he was defeated by the English and captured, remaining a prisoner for the next two years. Almost immediately when he was released, he began fighting in battles again. By the time David II returned to Scotland in 1341, Douglas was already a major player within the country's government, and further rewards were given to him by the king, including the earldom of Atholl. Soon after, he would surrender the earldom in exchange for the territory of Lissedale, therefore styling himself William Douglas, Lord of Lissedale. Douglas's downfall seems to have begun when he murdered one Alexander Ramsay, a man who had established himself in the battlefield and was shown considerable favor at court. Though he was not brought up on charges, the deceitful act brought him many enemies, including his own family members.

By 1346, war with England was renewed, and the Scots invaded their neighboring country while Edward III was away campaigning in France. As the Scots decimated parts of northern England, the English took notice and engaged in battle with the invaders at Neville's Cross. The battle was a disaster for the Scots, and both Douglas and David II were captured. For the next seven years, Douglas wasted away in an English prison (though he was allowed to return to Scotland on several occasions to help form a truce between the two countries). He was finally released in 1352 after agreeing to provide Edward III with military aid when needed. These actions most certainly would have been considered traitorous to his countrymen, and they may have been a reason for his murder upon returning to Scotland the following year by his own cousin. Certain chronicles will claim that he was murdered in retaliation for his murder of Alexander Ramsay, but there is no evidence to support this claim.

Douglas in Shakespeare

Appears in: Edward III

Sir William Douglas appears in one scene of Edward III where he is seen, with King David II, laying siege to an English castle that contains the Countess of Salisbury. When the English arrive, the Scots are purposely made to look foolish when they are chided by the countess for their arrogance and immediately chased off. It is later announced that the Scots have been defeated at Neville's Cross, with David II being taken prisoner.


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