Douglas of Spott

Douglas of Spott; old evidence, new results.

I often receive enquiries relating to the family of Douglas of Spott, in Haddingtonshire, and although aware of the family in question, I have had to admit to each enquirer that I had not yet brought together any evidence to lay out their genealogy but that I would do so and forward an outline sketch once completed.

Finally getting around to this, a cursory check for what, if anything, exists in print for them revealed that an oft-repeated entry on P. 42 of G. Harvey Johnston’s “The Heraldry of the Douglases” (Edinburgh, 1907), has become the standard account and lays out the genealogy thus:


What the evidence proves:
Sir James Douglas, 1st of Spott, (Johnston’s No. 125), was one of the natural sons of that James Douglas, Earl of Morton, who was Regent for a time and was executed on 2 June 1581. This is proved by several writs including his inclusion in the remainder of a charter by Mr Archibald Douglas, rector of Douglas, to Archibald Douglas,[1] also a natural son of the Earl of Morton, of the church lands belonging to the parish church of Douglas on 1 and 9 February 1569 (NRS C2/50/231). His marriage to Anna, only child of George Hume of Spott, is confirmed by an entry in the Great Seal register (NRS C2/43/362), and his issue was;

Sir Archibald Douglas, 2nd of Spott, (Johnston’s No. 126), who, succeeding his father, had service as heir to him in the lands and barony of Spott on 9 September 1615, (NRS C22/6/93).

So far all of this supports and corroborates Johnston’s account, however, his assertion that Archibald Douglas of Spott (No. 127), was the son and heir of the previous Sir Archibald Douglas of Spott (No 126), is not correct and it is here that a fundamental - and hitherto uncorrected - error in the account appears. Extending the search for evidence further, the following two charters under the Great Seal prove that instead of the lands of Spott having been held by Sir James Douglas (No, 125), and his descendants in the male line in progression up to Alexander Douglas (No. 128), they had been acquired by another Douglas stirpes;

  1. Charter to Sir Robert Douglas, treasurer, for the lands of Easter Spott with the pertinants including the castle &c., which he had acquired from Sir Archibald Douglas, “sometime” of Spott, and Sir James Baillie of Lochend by charter of 23 August 1613, and which the king united into the free barony of Spott. Dated at Whitehall, on 24 April 1624, (NRS C2/50/332).
  2. Charter by Robert [Douglas], Viscount Belhaven and Lord of Spott, to Sir Archibald Douglas, eldest son and apparent heir of Alexander Douglas of Mains, brother german to the said Robert, of the lands of of Easter Spott with their pertinents etc., to be held by the said Archibald and the heirs male between himself and Lady Isabella Elphinstone, his wife, lawful daughter of the deceased Sir George Elphinstone of Blythswood, which failing, by Archibald’s heirs and assignees whatsoever. Dated 3 October 1634 and confirmed under the Great Seal on 10 July 1643, (NRS C2/57/409).

Johnston’s errors are perfectly understandable though, as on 28 October 1647 Sir Archibald Douglas of Spott was served heir to his father, Sir Archibald Douglas of Spott, in the lands of Easter Spott, (NRS C22/19/110), and at face value this item alone would appear to be good evidence to prove the succession from Sir Archibald (No. 126), to Sir Archibald (No. 127), however, by confining his scope of evidence to that single source, for Johnston there was no alternative outcome but that of incorrect assertion of parentage.

Considering the totality of evidence now to hand, the appropriate corrections can be made to Johnston’s account and the genealogy laid out thus;

First House:

I. Sir James Douglas of Spott, natural son of James, Earl of Morton, married Anna, only child of George Hume of Spott, and died before September 1615. He was father of,

II. Sir Archibald Douglas of Spott, succeeded his father and was served heir to him in the lands and barony of Spot on 9 September 1615, which he subsequently disponed. He married Helen Hay (NRS C2/49/418), and had died without apparent issue before October 1634.


Second House:

I. Malcolm Douglas of Mains, married Janet, daughter of John Cunningham of Drumquhassell,[2] and was executed with his father-in-law in 1584. He had (with other) issue;

  1. Alexander Douglas of Mains, (see below).
  2. Sir Robert Douglas, 1st Viscount Belhaven,

II. Alexander Douglas of Mains, succeeded his father in 1584 and was served heir general to his grandfather, Matthew Douglas of Mains, on 20 February 1618, (NRS C22/7/52). He married by 27 July 1598, to Grisel, daughter of James Henderson of Fordell, when he granted a discharge to her father for Tocher,[3] and had (with other) issue;

  1. Sir Archibald Douglas of Spott, (see below).
  2. Sir Robert Douglas of Blakerston, who had issue.

III. Sir Archibald Douglas of Spott, is styled eldest son to Alexander Douglas of Mains in a charter to him by his uncle, Robert, Viscount Belhaven, for the lands of Easter Spott on 3 October 1634. He married Isabella, daughter of Sir George Elphinstone of Blythswood, and died before October 1647 having had issue,

IV. Sir Archibald Douglas of Spott, who, succeeding his father, had service as heir to him in the lands of Easter Spott on 28 October 1647 (NRS C22/19/110[4]). He was living on 31 December 1667/8 when he had a remission for having participated in the murder of Sir James Hume of Eccles, (NRS C3/9/171), and died before April 1672. He was father of,

V. Alexander Douglas, was served heir to his father on 2 April 1672, (NRS C22/31/49). This service and also that of his father corrects the general presumption that the senior male line of Douglas of Mains extinguished on the death of this Alexander’s grandfather, Sir Archibald (No. III above), and although of interest, that aspect of the family’s genealogy as well as a more developed and detailed genealogical account will be the subjects of a further article.


Gordon MacGregor

8th March 2020.



  1. C2 references are for entries in the original Great Seal registers.
  2. C22 references are for entries int the original Services of Heirs registers.
  3. The lands of Mains were disponed to a junior branch of the family in the mid-17th century and those of Spott were in possession of the Murrays of Elibank by the 1680s.
  4. For the location of this Spott, as opposed to that near Dunbar, see Spott House incorporates a much older building which may be the fortalice referred to in charters cited in this paper.




[1] Afterwards “of Pittendreich”.

[2] See Red Book of Scotland, Vol. 3, Cunningham of Drumquhassell.

[3] NRS GD172/23.

[4] See also: NRS C3/8/156. In which he is styled “son and heir served and retoured to the deceased Sir Archibald Douglas of Spott, knight,” in an apprising of the lands of Spott in favour of Marion Grier, relict of Mr John McClure, in respect of a debt of 2333 merks & annualrents.