William Douglas of Whittingehame

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William Douglas of Whittingehame (c. 1540 – 17 December 1595) was a Senator of the College of Justice at Edinburgh, and a Royal conspirator.


Dalrymple appears to have his ancestry incorrect, as the Great Seal of Scotland (number 1995, 1 November 1648) and other references contain an accurate account. William Douglas was the eldest son and heir of William Douglas of Whittingehame (died bef. 24 August 1557) and his spouse Elizabeth (d. after 24 August 1557), daughter of Sir Robert Lauder of The Bass (d.1517/18) by his spouse, Elizabeth Lawson.


He acquired some Church lands. He obtained, on 17 August 1560, a charter of the ecclesiastical lands of Whittingehame from Claud Hamilton, then Dean of Dunbar. The grant of Whittinghame was confirmed in the Great Seal in January, where we can see the extent of the church lands Douglas has acquired: "the King [sic] and Queen confirm to William Douglas of Whittinghame and Elizabeth Maitland, his spouse, 8 husbandlands (208 acres) and four 'terras' cottages in the 'villa' of Whittinghame". He joined the Lords of the Congregation and seems to have been frequently employed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in their communications with Mary, Queen of Scots and the Privy Council of Scotland.

It is said that the plot to murder Mary's husband, Lord Darnley, was discussed at length in the grounds of Whittinghame Castle early in 1566, and the Privy Council cited William Douglas of Whittinghame, brother to Master Archibald Douglas, Parson of Douglas, amongst others, as one of the conspirators in the murder of David Riccio, for which he was pardoned on 24 December 1566. In 1567 he joined the Association for the Preservation of James VI. However, later, on 26 August 1582 William Douglas of Whittinghame was cited in the Privy Council as one of the 'Ruthven Raiders'.

Prior to 20 October 1575 he was appointed an Ordinary Lord in the College of Justice. On 9 January 1579 he and his brother Archibald, Parson of Douglas & Glasgow, were excused attendance at court due to Archibald's illness, which was thought to be so serious that his brother should not leave him.

He resigned his position at the College of Justice prior to 1 August 1590, on which day his son and heir Archibald was presented to it by King James VI, although these positions were not hereditary.

Material given on behalf of his grandson, the Field Marshal Robert Douglas, Count of Skenninge, to the Swedish genealogical authorities, mention that this William, laird of Whittinghame, was sometime (perhaps around 1590) during the reign of James VI of Scotland, a Scots envoy to king Christian IV of Denmark and Norway (whose sister James VI married) (ref: Elgenstierna).


William Douglas married in 1566 Elizabeth (d. after 6 August 1608 when she was described as his 'relict'), daughter of Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington by his spouse Mariotta, daughter of Sir Thomas Cranstoun of Corsbie. They had six sons and two daughters. Of them:

  • Sir Archibald Douglas of Whittinghame, Senator of the College of Justice, was served his heir, confirmed in a Precept from Chancery dated 4 May 1596. Although he married in 1597, Helen Lumsden, he died between 1630 – 1642 with no issue. He settled Whittingehame upon his niece Isobel's husband, Sir Arthur Douglas, Knt., a grandson of William Douglas, 6th Earl of Morton.
  • Patrick Douglas of Standingstone, East Lothian (witnessed a Sasine to "his brother german" Archibald on 7 May 1596), whose son, Field Marshal Robert Douglas, Count of Skenninge, friherre (baron) of Skalby, Sweden, was a commander in later stages of Thirty Years War. Patrick was maternal grandfather to Sir Robert Lauder of Beilmouth.
  • James Douglas, described in the Great Seal 1 November 1648, as "secretary to James VI".
  • Richard Douglas of Newgrange, East Lothian, and Brockholes, Berwickshire (alive 7 May 1596, when he witnessed a Sasine to "his brother german", Archibald).
  • Sir William Douglas of Stoneypath, near Garvald (d. between 1628–1642), whose son-in-law Sir Arthur Douglas, Knt., was eventual heir of Whittingehame.
  • Margaret Douglas married Robert Sinclair of Longformacus.


  • The Great Seal of Scotland, number 1995 confirmed at Edinburgh 1 November 1648.
  • The Spottiswoode Miscellany, Edinburgh, 1845, vol.II, p. 329.
  • An Historical Account of the Senators of the College of Justice of Scotland, by Sir David Dalrymple of Hailes, Bt., re-edited at Edinburgh in 1849, p. 160.
  • The Manuscripts of Colonel Mordaunt Hay of Duns Castle, et al., Historic Manuscripts Commission, Hereford, 1909, p.70, no.195, Sasine of heir dated 7 May 1596.
  • The History of the Douglas family of Morton in Nithsdale & Fingland etc., by Percy W.L. Adams, F.S.A., Bedford, 1921, Appendix C, number 258, p.805.
  • The Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, 1575–1580, volume VII, edited by Gordon Donaldson, D.Litt., Edinburgh, HMSO, 1966, number 947, p.138.
  • The Registers of the Privy Council of Scotland, March 1566, pages 436–437 and 507.
  • Douglas's Baronage, 1798.
  • Gustaf Elgenstierna, vol 2. sub Douglas-Stjernorp.