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The revival of interest in Scottish ancestry over the last 50 years has encouraged many clans and families, who had not previously done so, to look for a leader. For many clans this has involved searching for the person most directly descended from the last known chief of the clan.

A large number of clans who had had chiefs in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries went into decline after 1745. In many cases it has been possible for genealogical research to establish the identity of the last chiefs descendants and thus to find the person with the closest blood link back to the last chief. In other cases this research is either still being conducted or is now being embarked upon.

The last head, or chief, of the Douglas family, or Clan Douglas, was Archibald Douglas, 1st Duke of Douglas (1694–1761) (created Duke of Douglas in 1703). The dukedom became extinct on his death; the earldom and marquessate were inherited by James George Hamilton, 7th Duke of Hamilton.

His Grace Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, the 16th Duke of Hamilton and 13th Duke of Brandon is heir to the chiefdom of the house of Douglas, but he cannot assume the title of chief since the Lord Lyon King of Arms requires him to assume the single name Douglas. The Duke of Hamilton is the Chief of Clan Hamilton. If he, or a son, were to adopt the single name 'Douglas' for his surname, the clan could become again non-Armegirous registered with The Lord Lyon King of Arms.

Should clan members put pressure on the Duke of Hamilton to seek a resolution to the lack of a head of clan? Should the Earl of Morton be appointed?

If you have a view, please let us know what you think.

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Although the Duke of Hamilton has the principal claim, the Earl of Morton is also a contender, as is the Duke of Buccleugh and the Earl of Home.

The Duke of Queensberry is one of the titles held by the Duke of Buccleugh.

As for pecking orders - I would not like to be the one to do that!


What about Selkirk?  As the brother uncle of the current Duke of Hamilton, would he have a stronger claim than Morton?

Or would that now be Lord Daer, his son, and Hamilton's cousin?  (This IS confusing!)



Appoint the Earl of Morton

I am with you.  If the other members can't pick a surname and be proud then I think that the Earl of Morton should become the head of clan Douglas.  Back in History did not the clan choose their leaders.  If the "rules" don't allow it then nothing says that the clan can CHOOSE our own leader.  I totally would nominate, select, and follow the Earl of Morton as Chief of the clan.




There is no precedent for such an act in our family. Clans did this sort of thing, yes- noble families never have. Clan systems are not at all similar to noble families (language, legal codes, dress etc).

I'm as anxious as anyone for the family to have a single leader again but there is no way Hamilton could possibly drop his name given that that dukedom is much older than ours.

The big question for me is- why no Earl of Douglas? It doesn't make sense that the title was abolished just because of a petulant 15th C king. Lots of other families were attainted and it was reversed (even Angus was attainted briefly in 15th C) or the title given elsewhere eg Earldom of Angus was with the Umfravilles before we took it.

So, I think the Queen should accept that it's time to restore this title. And then the whole issue of a chief might really receive impetus- who would get it? (why not whoever is descended from the Douglases of Borgue- they actually have a rare bit of Black Douglas DNA as Douglas of Borgue married a daughter of James, 7th Earl).




I remember reading somewhere that Archibald Earl of Moray brother of the attainted 8th earl had children they seem to have vanished from history but if they had descendents then surely they would have a very good claim to be head of the family of Douglas.

When my grandfather passed, my grandmother wanted me to have all his shirts labelled, Black-Douglas, a clue for me to trace my roots back to Scotland, I'd like to learn more! Thanks Jeremy

The missing Moray heir is the basis, I believe, for the Kilgore's claim to be descendants of the Black Douglases.  The Kilgore history states after Arkinholm a woman claiming to be a Douglas lady left her baby at a monastery begging the monks to protect the child from the king telling them the baby was the last of the line of Douglas.  


I hadn't heard that legend but Moray certainly had two children. They were James and Janet. Sir Herbert Maxwell says of them nothing is known, but I'm sure I've seen somewhere children of Janet at least. It may have been an internet source, of course, and therefore highly dubious.

Evidence in the case of MacLean of Ardgour vs. MacLean:

P.220) (Q.) "In your view, what does the word "clan" mean? (A.) It has
a general meaning of family, ordinary meaning of family, but there is
a peculiar sense in which it is used for this quasi-feudal
organisation in the Highlands, or you might say feudal organisation.
(Q.) But its primary meaning, I think, is family? (A.) Yes. (Q.)In
your view, did the clans in fact consist either of persons linked by
blood or persons linked by reason of place of dwelling in a territory?
(A.) That is the defination of the Act of Parliament. (Reference Acts
1587 & Act of 11 Sept, 1593 A.P.S., IV, p. 40) (Q.) Do you see a
reference there to the pretence of blood or place of dwelling?
(A.)Yes. (Q.)Are those familiar terms? (A.) Quite familiar. Pretence
means claim....(Q.) So that in your view do you get this dual element
entering into the composition of the clan, blood-relation and place of
dwelling? (A.) Oh, yes, you have both.

Evidence of the Very Rev. Lachlan Maclean Watt, LL.D., Bard of the
Clan MacLean Association: (P. 517) (Q.) (Referred to Mackenzie's
"Works," II, 574, 618: (Q.)Do you deduce that Sir G. Mackenzie
considered that from a heraldic point of view the "head of the clan"
the "chief of the clan" or the "representer of the family" all meant
the same thing? (A.) I respectfully suggest that it is a matter of
"Head of a Family" and "Head of a Clan." He was a Highlander and he
knew that clan means a family. Clan and family mean exactly the same

Lord Wark, in Maclean of Ardgour v. Maclean 1941 S.C. at p. 657:

"I agree with your Lordships that Lyon has no jurisdiction to
entertain a substantive declarator of chiefship of a Highland clan, or
of chieftainship of a branch of a clan. [...] The question of
chiefship of a Highland clan, or chieftainship of a branch of a clan,
is not in itself, in my opinion, a matter which involves any interest
which the law can recognise. At most, it is a question of social
dignity or precedence. In so far as it involves social dignity it is a
dignity which, in my opinion, is unknown to the law."

According to Sir Crispin Agnew the "belief that clans are Highland and
families are Lowland but this is really a development of the Victorian
era. In an Act of Parliament of 1597 we have the description of the
"Chiftanis and chieffis of all clannis...duelland in the hielands or
bordouris" thus using the word clan to describe both Highland and
Lowland families. Further, Sir George MacKenzie of Rosehaugh, the Lord
Advocate (Attorney General) writing in 1680 said "By the term 'chief'
we call the representative of the family from the word chef or head
and in the Irish (Gaelic) with us the chief of the family is called
the head of the clan''. So it can be seen that all along the words
chief or head and clan or family are interchangeable. It is therefore
quite correct to talk of the MacDonald family or the Stirling clan" -
Clans, Families and Septs by Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt.,13th
August 2001

What a great discussion, I am thinking this hasn't been resolved as yet.  If the Duke of Hamilton doesn't want to be the Douglas then my next vote goes to the Earl of Morton.  Nothing against the Duke of Buccleugh I think he is wonderful but he does have 2 Dukedoms already.  Though Drumlanrig house is perfect for the head of the Douglas family or Clan they wouldn't need to re-decorate at all..

From September 2016-September 2017 in a series of editorial articles titled "Who Do You Think SHOULD BE Chief of the House of Douglas" published in the Clan Douglas Society of North America's official newsletter, Dubh Ghlase,  I put forward my thoughts about the matter. In my opinion, barring a major capitulation among the many claimants toward one in particular -- or the royal investiture of a new Duke of Douglas -- the likelihood of our seeing The Douglas in our lifetimes is next to nil. The reasons for my doubt are in the articles.

(For the record, as explained in the articles, I believe the Marquess of Queensberry has the better claim.)

My thoughts included a call for a Council of Chieftains of the House of Douglas made up of the principal claimants (Hamilton, Buccleuch, Queensberry, Morton, Home, and Torphichen) that might function in a chiefly role.

William: I would be happy to provide a PDF copy of the combined articles (22 pages/600kb) to the Douglas Archives for you to offer as a possible fundraiser for the Archives. If you are interested, contact me via email.


Making conections

The more information you can give about the people you mention, the more chance there is of someone else connecting with your family.

Dates and places of births, deaths and marriages all help to place families.

Professions also help.

'My great-grandmother mother was a Douglas from Montrose' does not give many clues to follow up! But a bit of flesh on the bones makes further research possible. But if we are told who she married, what his profession was and where the children were baptised, then we can get to work.

Maybe it is time to update the information in your profile?

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