James Douglas

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Sir James Douglas / Famous Historical Figures

  • Name  : Douglas
  • Born  : c.1286
  • Died  : 1330
  • Category  : Famous Historical Figures
  • Finest Moment : Left Forward at Bannockburn, June 1314. Scotland 1: England 0

He's the 'Good Sir James' if you're Scots, 'The Black Douglas' if you're English, and, for an international flavour, 'El Gran Duglas' if you're Spanish!

He was the eldest son of Sir William Douglas, who was captured by the English and died as a prisoner in the Tower of London. Sir William had been a supporter of William Wallace. The Douglas was an ancient Celtic name, from the south-west of Scotland.

James was sent to Paris for his safety and was educated there though became penniless. He was rescued by Bishop Lamberton. Returning home he found an Englishman, Robert de Clifford, 'squatting' on his property. He stole a horse and joined Robert the Bruce, becoming a brilliant guerrilla fighter. He eventually regained his own castle at Douglas. In 1309 he joined the Bruce in Argyll. He took Roxburgh Castle in 1314 and later that year was knighted at Bannockburn, after the English had been smashed. Douglas had commanded the left wing with Walter the Steward.

While Robert the Bruce was engaged in Ireland, James Douglas was acting Warden of Scotland. His many successful raids in England gained him the name 'Black Douglas'. He invaded Yorkshire in 1319, defeated an English army at Myton-upon-Swale, and just before peace was settled, nearly captured Edward III in a typically brilliant night attack on the English camp at Weardale, in 1327.

The Bruce had always wanted to venture out on a Crusade to the Holy Land, but illness prevented his wish. Before he died, he asked Sir James to carry his heart there. Sir James set out in 1330, carrying the embalmed heart in a silver casket in a crusade against the Moors in Spain. There he died in battle.

That heart is borne on the escutcheon of the Douglases to this day.

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