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Douglas, James Douglas of Balvenie, 7th earl of

Douglas, James Douglas of Balvenie, 7th earl of [S] (c.1373–1443), known as ‘the Gross’. Second son of Archibald ‘the Grim’, 3rd earl of Douglas. An able and ruthless man, Balvenie built—or greatly extended—the ‘robber baron’ castle of Abercorn near Linlithgow and extorted large sums from the burgh custumars during the English captivity of James I. Despite this, Balvenie became a trusted counsellor of the adult James I (1424–37).

Following James's murder, Balvenie was given the earldom of Avandale [S] (November 1437), probably the gift of his nephew, the lieutenant-general. The latter's unexpected death in 1439 was followed by the execution of his sons—probably with Avandale's connivance, as he was justice-general—following the ‘Black Dinner’ in 1440. Avandale then succeeded, in terms of the Douglas entail of 1342, as 7th earl of Douglas, reunited the vast Douglas estates by marrying his eldest son William to the Galloway heiress Margaret, and died at Abercorn in 1443.

Norman Macdougall

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