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Sir James Douglas

Sir James Douglas was also known as the Black Douglas and was a knight of some renown and a trusted ally of Robert the Bruce. His father, Sir William Douglas the Hardy (Le Hardi), had been a supporter of William Wallace and was the defender of Berwick castle when it was successfully sieged by Edward I in 1296. He ended his days as a prisoner in the Tower of London.

James was educated in Paris and returned to Scotland in 1306 to find his lands had been seized by the English King Edward I and awarded to another. When James went to the English court to try and get his lands back Edward became angry upon realising whose son he was and James had to flee.

Sir James lord of Douglas, called the,” Good,” whose exploits are among the most romantic in Scottish, history, was educated in Paris. On his return he found an Englishman, Robert de Clifford, in possession of his estates. His offer of allegiance to Edward I. being refused, he cast in his lot with Robert Bruce, whom he joined before his coronation at Scone in 1306. From the battle of Methven he escaped with Bruce and the remnant of his followers, and accompanied him in his wanderings in the Highlands. In the next year they returned to the south of Scotland. He twice outwitted the English garrison of Douglas and destroyed the castle.

Douglas became one of Robert I's key supporters and military leaders. Later writers held up Sir James as the exemplar of chivalry in his long loyalty to the king. This appears to be where he acquired his epithet 'the Good'. It seems the relationship of the two developed into one of trust and friendship. From 1307 to 1327, Sir James fought for the king, initially in Galloway, later in the Borders (using the Forest of Selkirk as his base), and he also took annual raiding parties into England, as far south as Pontefract on one occasion. He was knighted by Robert I on the eve of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Sir James died in Teba, Spain with his last act of throwing Robert the Bruces heart at the enemy before his fatal charge.