James Douglas

(The Black Douglas)


Sir James Douglas, better known as "The Black Douglas" was the most faithful servant of Robert the Bruce during the Scottish Wars of Independence. His father had served under William Wallace and after the Battle of Falkirk his lands had been confiscated and he died in an English prison. James himself had been sent to France for safety. He returned to Scotland the same year that Robert the Bruce killed his rival Red Comyn and had himself crowned king. Douglas, lacking any estate to return to, threw in his entire lot with Bruce and shared all his fortunes. He shared his hardships during the early years, as he hid from the army of Edward I., he helped Bruce recover Scottish lands from the English after the death of Edward I, and he fought with him at Bannockburn.

james douglas
After Bannockburn Bruce and his brother left to try to raise a rebellion against the English in Ireland. Douglas, on the other hand, stayed to fight a border war with England in the area known as the "Marches" or Northumberland. The Douglases became notorious in later years as boarder raiders, and frequently launched raiding parties deep in English territory. It is from this period that his nickname, "the Black Douglas" arose. His name was a terror to all Englishmen.

Douglas continued to fight for Scotland on behalf of Bruce, and in his spare time, to torment the English. Eight years after his defeat at Bannockburn, Edward II launched another campaign in Scotland but was soundly repulsed. Douglas continued his border raids even after Edward was deposed in favor of his son. When Robert the Bruce died, he requested that his heart be carried to the holy land and buried in Jerusalem, and Douglas was appointed for this mission. Instead of going to the holy lands, however, they were called to serve in the wars in Spain, as the Christians there sought to reconquer their lands from the Moslems. Douglas was killed in battle while fighting in Spain.

Key events during the life of Black Douglas:

Birth of James Douglas to Sir William Douglas, a supporter of William Wallace.
Sent to France for safety after the Battle of Falkirk.
Returned to Scotland, estates were confiscated. Joined forces with Robert Bruce.
Attacked the English garrison in Douglas castle.
Death of Edward I.
  With Robert Bruce, take back most of Scottish territory controlled by English.
Second in command at Battle of Bannockburn.
  Conducts border raids in the "marches" and border areas.
Captured Berkwick from the English.
Edward II, campaigns in Scotland and is driven back.
Edward II is deposed. Douglas resumes border raids of England.
Death of the Black Douglas while crusading against Moslems in Spain.

Book Links
Story of Robert Bruce  by  Jeanie Lang

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Black Douglas  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Bruce—How Two Castles Were Won  in  Scotland's Story  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

Image Links

Don't be so sure about that!'
 in Fifty Famous Stories Retold

Short Biography
Robert the Bruce Scottish nobleman who claimed the crown and led resistance to England at Bannockburn.
Edward I Competent and decisive king of England. Reformed government, pacified Wales and Scotland. Ruled 35 years.
Edward II Weak and profligate son of Edward I. Lost all his father's holdings in Scotland.