Biography of Sir James Douglas 4th Earl of Morton
Sir James Douglas 4th Earl of Morton
Sir James Douglas (c 1516-1581), 4th Earl of Morton, was Regent of Scotland during the minority of King James VI. In 1577, a charter was issued in the joint names of the young King and his Regent. Recognising that the University was "pining in poverty and well nigh ruined", the King granted the to the College or Pedagogy of Glasgow the benefice of the rectory and vicarage of the parish church of Govan. In addition, the charter provided a new constitution and a new curriculum for the College.
The charter, known as the Nova Erectio, effectively re-founded the College, ensuring not only that it was adequately endowed with the revenues from Govan, but also confirming the changes to the curriculum that had been introduced by the Principal, Andrew Melville, and establishing a sound method of college organisation and government that was to remain with little alteration until 1858.
Douglas was born near Elgin and inherited the earldom through marriage. He was made Chancellor of Scotland in 1563 but was forced to flee to England after being implicated in the murder of Queen Mary's secretary, the Italian David Riccio, in 1566. In 1567 he took the Coronation oath on behalf of the infant James VI. He fought at the Battle of Langside in 1568 and in 1572 was elected Regent, to rule on the young king's behalf.
Forced to resign in 1578, Douglas returned to power. He was deposed once more and in 1581 and was accused and found guilty of complicity in the murder of Lord Darnley fourteen years earlier. He was executed in Edinburgh, a victim of the "maiden" - an instrument of execution similar to a guillotine, which he is said to have introduced from England.