Douglas, William, third Earl and first Duke of Queensberry 1637-1695, eldest son of James, second earl of Queensberry [qv.], and Lady Margaret Stewart, was born in 1637. A fine of seventy-two thousand merks imposed by Cromwell had so seriously impaired the resources of his family that Douglas had not the advantage, so widely enjoyed by the nobility and gentry of the day, of completing his education by foreign travel and study (Douglas, Peerage of Scotland, ed. J. P. Wood, ii. 379). But his ability and discretion soon brought him into notice. He had charters of the office of sheriff and coroner of the county of Dumfries in 1664 and 1667. In the latter year he was sworn into the privy council. On the death of his father in 1671, Douglas became Earl of Queensberry, and by economy and good management soon restored the fortunes of his house. Through the influence of the Chancellor Rothes he was appointed lord justice-general of Scotland on 1 June 1680. On 1 Nov. 1681 he was made an extraordinary lord of session. By letters patent of 11 Feb. 1682 Douglas was created Marquis of Queensberry, Earl of Drumlanrig and Sanquhar, Viscount of Nith, Torthorald, and Ross, and Lord Douglas of Kinmonth, Middlebie, and Dornock. In the following April a royal warrant directed Sir Alexander Erskine, the Lyon king-at-arms, to confer the treasurership of Scotland on the Marquis of Queensberry and his heirs for ever. Douglas was appointed lord high treasurer of Scotland on 12 May, and constable and governor of Edinburgh Castle on 21 Sept. 1682. On 3 Feb. 1684 he became Duke of Queensberry, and on 27 March 1687 was made one of the lords of privy council of both kingdoms (Luttrell). Upon the accession of James VII the Duke of Queensberry, while expressing his readiness to go any length in supporting the royal power or in persecuting the presbyterians, gave the king to understand that he would be no party to any attack upon the established religion. Having received the king's assurance that no such attack was contemplated, Queensberry retained all his offices, and acted as lord high commissioner in the famous parliament of 1685, which annexed the excise to the crown for ever, conferred the land tax upon James for life, authorised the privy council to impose the test upon all ranks of the people under such penalties as it thought fit, extended the punishment of death to the auditors as well as to the preachers at field-conventicles, and to the preachers at house-conventicles, and made it treasonable to give or take or write in defence of the national covenant. If Queensberry hoped, as Burnet surmises, that his support of these arbitrary measures would make James forget his resolute refusal to betray the established church, he was grievously mistaken. The Earl of Perth, who was then chancellor of Scotland, irritated by Queensberry's imperious temper, accused him of maladministration. The charges were baseless or trivial, but Perth had just become a Roman catholic, and his faith, as Halifax wittily observed, made him whole. The treasury was put into commission in February 1686, and Queensberry, through the influence of Rochester, was made president of the council. But within six months (June 1686) he was stripped of all his appointments and ordered to remain at Edinburgh till the treasury accounts during his administration had been examined and approved. At the revolution Queensberry sincerely supported the royal cause until the king's hasty departure from England and the declaration by the convention of estates that the throne was vacant; after which he acquiesced in the offer of the crown to William and Mary. In November 1693 he was again nominated an extraordinary lord of session. He died on 28 March 1695, and was buried in Durisdeer Church. Queensberry married in 1657 Lady Isabel Douglas, sixth daughter of William, first marquis of Douglas, by whom he had three sons and one daughter—viz. James, second duke of Queensberry [qv.]; William, first earl of March; Lord George Douglas, who died unmarried in July 1693; and Lady Anne, married in 1697 to David, lord Elcho, afterwards third earl of Wemyss.
Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, ed. Wood, ii. 379-80
Macaulay, ii. 112, 116, 124
Lingard's Hist. of England, x. 228-9
Burnet's Hist. of his own Time, vol. iii. passim
Carmichael's Various Tracts concerning the Peerage of Scotland, p. 140
Crawfurd's Lives of Officers of State in Scotland, i. 419-23
Crawfurd's Peerage of Scotland, pp. 417-18
Luttrell's State Affairs
the Earl of Balcarres's Account of the Affairs of Scotland relating to the Revolution in 1688, pp. 52, 57.
Contributor: A. W. R. [Alexander Wood Renton]