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Douglas, Charles, third duke of Queensberry and second duke of Doverlocked


Douglas, Charles, third duke of Queensberry and second duke of Doverlocked

  • William C. Lowe

Charles Douglas, third duke of Queensberry and second duke of Dover (1698–1778)

attrib. Thomas Hudson

private collection; photograph National Galleries of Scotland

Douglas, Charles, third duke of Queensberry and second duke of Dover (1698–1778), courtier and politician, the son of James Douglas, second duke of Queensberry and first duke of Dover (1662–1711), and his wife, Mary Boyle (1670/71–1709), daughter of Charles, Lord Clifford, was born at Edinburgh on 24 November 1698. Having been created earl of Solway in the Scottish peerage in 1706 in recognition of the services of his father and grandfather, in 1711 he succeeded his father as third duke of Queensberry (in the Scottish peerage) and second duke of Dover (British).

After returning from the grand tour, in 1719 Queensberry unsuccessfully sought his seat in the House of Lords as duke of Dover, the house applying its 1712 decision that no peer of Scotland at the time of the Union could sit by virtue of a British peerage. On 10 March 1720 he married his second cousin Lady Catherine Hyde (1701–1777), the second daughter of Henry, second earl of Rochester and later fourth earl of Clarendon, and Jane, daughter of Sir William Leveson-Gower [see Douglas, Catherine, duchess of Queensberry and Dover]. Catherine was a major figure in her own right as a literary patron and socialite. Queensberry was a successful courtier under George I: lord of the bedchamber (1721), vice-admiral of Scotland (1722), and privy councillor (1726). In 1729 his wife's outrage at the lord chamberlain's refusal to license the performance of John Gay's Polly (which satirized Sir Robert Walpole) led George II to bar her from court and Queensberry to resign his offices. Thereafter they joined the opposition, the duke serving as a gentleman of the bedchamber to Frederick, prince of Wales, from 1733. In 1734 Queensberry took an active part in an unsuccessful attempt to elect a slate of opposition Scottish representative peers, standing as a candidate and voting in a peers' election for the only time in his life. After the accession of George III, Queensberry regained his place on the privy council and became keeper of the great seal of Scotland (1761–3) and lord justice-general (1763–78). Often solicited by Scots seeking patronage, the duke was not always able to oblige, as James Boswell found.

The Queensberrys lived mostly in England, where they were prominent in the social life of the capital. The duke periodically returned to Scotland and remained involved in affairs there, exercising over his long life the predominant parliamentary interest in Dumfriesshire and Dumfries burghs. An improving landlord, he sought to promote Scottish economic development. He was the chairman of the Firth and Clyde Canal Company and a major backer of the Ayr Bank (whose failure in 1772 put a dent in the duke's considerable fortune).

Queensberry's political influence was probably less than his contemporaries thought, and was likely limited by his exclusion from parliament. He was regarded as an amiable and benevolent aristocrat, Boswell characterizing him as 'a man of the greatest humanity and gentleness of manners' and 'good plain sense' (Boswell's London Journal, 63). Many sympathized with the duke and duchess for their fortitude in the face of sorrow when their adult sons, Henry, Lord Drumlanrig, and Charles, died within two years of each other in the mid-1750s. Queensberry died on 22 October 1778 from 'mortification of the leg after an accident alighting from a carriage' (GEC, Peerage, 10.699), and was buried at Durisdeer, Dumfriesshire. He was succeeded in his title and estates (said to be worth £18,000 p.a.) by the earl of March and Ruglen, the son of his first cousin.


  • The letters and journals of Lady Mary Coke, ed. J. A. Home, 4 vols. (1889–96)
  • A. Murdoch, ‘The people above’: politics and administration in mid-eighteenth-century Scotland (1980)
  • W. Robertson, Proceedings relating to the peerage of Scotland, from January 16, 1707 to April 29, 1788 (1790)
  • Boswell’s London journal, 1762–63, ed. F. A. Pottle (1950), vol. 1 of The Yale editions of the private papers of James Boswell (1950–89)
  • John, Lord Hervey, Some materials towards memoirs of the reign of King George II, ed. R. Sedgwick, new edn, 3 vols. (1952)
  • J. S. Shaw, The management of Scottish society, 1707–1764: power, nobles, lawyers, Edinburgh agents and English influences (1983)
  • H. Hamilton, ‘The failure of the Ayr Bank, 1772’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 8 (1955–6), 405–17


  • NRA, priv. coll., family corresp.
  • Wilts. & Swindon RO, letters
  • Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute, corresp. with the earl of Bute
  • NRA, priv. coll., letters to Archibald Douglas
  • letters to first earl of Chatham, PRO 30/8


  • J. Wootton, group portrait, oils, 1740 (The shooting party), Royal Collection
  • A. Forbes, oils, 1772, Penicuik House, Midlothian
  • V. Green, mezzotint, 1773 (after G. Willison), BM, NPG
  • N. Dance, oils, Buccleuch estates, Selkirk
  • attrib. T. Hudson, group portrait, oils (with duchess and two sons), Buccleuch estates, Selkirk
  • attrib. T. Hudson, oils, Buccleuch estates, Selkirk [see illus.]
  • attrib. T. Hudson, oils, Scot. NPG

Wealth at Death

wealthy; left estate of £18,000 p.a.: Scots Magazine (Oct 1778)

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