Red and Black Douglas Explained

Following the death of the 2nd Earl at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 without legitimate issue, the Earldom passed to a bastard son of ‘The Good Sir James’, Archibald the Grim, the Lord of Galloway.
George Douglas, 1st Earl of Angus the bastard son of the 1st Earl by his sister-in law Margaret Stewart, Dowager Countess of Mar & Countess of Angus, inherited his mother’s Earldom of Angus.

The two branches of Douglas and Angus were described as the Black and Red lines respectively.

The Fall of the Black Douglases and the Rise of the Red Douglases

The Earl of Avondale, the 6th Earl’s great uncle and supposed conspirator into his nephews deaths at the black dinner, became the 7th Earl of Douglas; known as “James the Gross” he inherited all the Douglas patrimony and died in 1443. Far from breaking Douglas power, the death of the 6th Earl consolidated it into the hands of the five formidable sons of James the Gross. James II of Scotland, exasperated at his overmighty vassal, William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, and his refusal to break a league entered into with the Earl of Crawford and John of Islay, stabbed him to death with his own hands, even though Douglas had been issued a safe conduct.

Douglas’s brothers, James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas, Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray, Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde, and John Douglas, Lord of Balvenie went into open rebellion against the Crown, but were finally put down in a skirmish in 1455 known as the Battle of Arkinholm, the royal forces were led by another Douglas, the ‘Red’ George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus. The Douglas brothers were all slain, either in battle or executed afterwards, except the 9th Earl who was in England at the time. The 9th Earl was forfeited, but continued to foment unrest in Scotland from England, until his capture at the Battle of Lochmaben Fair in 1484. The aged Douglas was forced to spend the rest of his days at Lindores Abbey, his estates being divided up between the King’s supporters, most notably Angus, the Red Douglas.

And so the Black Douglases fell from power and were attainted by King James II in 1455. The seventh Earl had been created Earl of Avondale and Lord Balveny in 1437, also in the Peerage of Scotland. These titles also became forfeit in 1455.

William Douglas (1589–1660) 11th Earl of Angus, was created Marquis of Douglas in 1633. He resigned the title of Earl of Angus, having it recreated with the marquessate, so he was the 1st Earl of Angus in the new creation. He outlived his son Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus (c.1609–1655) and was succeeded by Archibald’s son James Douglas, 2nd Marquess of Douglas (1646–1699). James’ son and heir Archibald Douglas was created Duke of Douglas, Marquess of Angus and Abernethy, Viscount of Jedburgh Forest, and Lord Douglas of Bonkill, Prestoun and Robertoun on 10 April 1703. He died without leaving an heir and the titles acquired with the dukedom became extinct. All his other titles devolved to his distant cousin the 7th Duke of Hamilton, whose descendants hold them still.