Merciless, savage and flamboyant, James Douglas was the stuff of legends.
His father fought with Wallace and died in the Tower of London, after which his family’s land had been given to the English Cliffords. Douglas was on a personal mission of revenge.
In 1307 he joined Bruce and became known by the English as ‘Black Douglas’ for his ruthless treatment of English garrisons. He regularly burned crops, slaughtered livestock and spread fear amongst English forces with his brutality and cunning in winning back castles and power for his king.
Early on 23 June, Douglas led a group of cavalry to report on the advance of Edward’s army. Once the fighting began, Douglas dismounted and joined Edward Bruce’s division, fighting hand to hand alongside his men.
With victory assured and the English army in retreat, he pursued the fleeing Edward II with a posse of horsemen but was unable to prevent the king escaping by boat from Dunbar.
Douglas fought on for Bruce’s cause, taking Berwick, the last English stronghold in Scotland in 1318.
After Bruce’s death in 1329, Douglas carried the king’s heart with him on a crusade but, warrior to the end, was killed fighting in Spain in 1330. This earned him the enduring title of ‘Good Sir James’. In Scotland, at least.
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