The Murdered Earl of Douglas

The loyal Lords and Ladies of King James II’s court were most surprised when their grumbling monarch – James o’ the Fiery Face, known far and wide for his terrible temper – announced that his great enemy William, Earl of Douglas, would be his guest at a dinner to be held in his honour within the King’s Own Building at Stirling Castle, in 1452.

Douglas, resentful of the power of the Stuarts – and bitter at the murder of his Uncles in the presence of the young James at Edinburgh Castle, years before –Gordon Brown, Earl of Douglas, Murder had conspired against the King with the Lord of the Hours...but his monarch was prepared, he promised to forgive and forget.

He entertained Douglas with the finest fare, the most marvellous musicians and the most intoxicating wines and spirits. He begged and pleaded with him to become a Friend to the Crown, once more, and, when all his entreaties fell on deaf ears, he resorted to that favourite tactic of the Mediaeval nobility...he stabbed him through the neck with a halberd, and threw his corpse out of the window.

Buried before the dawn’s first light, the spirit of the Earl – ‘a Douglas by his Sovereign bled’, as Sir Walter Scott put it – is said to rise from his cold and lonely unmarked tomb in the Douglas Gardens, each night, demanding vengeance upon his bloody murderer.

As King James was blown apart when one of his own cannon exploded at the Battle of Roxburgh, shortly after the murder, the angry Earl seems to have been pipped at the post!

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