DOUGLAS, Hon. Robert (d. 1730).
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Family and Education
3rd s. of James Douglas, 10th Earl of Morton [S]; bro. of Hon. George Douglas*. unm. suc. bro. as 12th Earl of Morton [S] 7 Dec. 1715.
Steward and justiciar of Orkney and Shetland 1696, 1702.1
MP [S] Kirkwall 1702–7.
Douglas owed his seat in the Scottish parliament to the influence of his elder brother, the 11th Earl of Morton, who was a supporter of the Duke of Queensberry’s Court party. The Morton interest at Kirkwall originated in a grant of lands in Orkney and Shetland from Charles I as a reward for the extensive financial assistance given to the royalist cause by William, Earl of Morton (d. 1648). Although the crown had resumed control in 1669, the harsh manner in which this had been done gave grounds for hope of full redress after the Revolution. The appointment of Douglas as steward and justiciar of Orkney and Shetland in 1696 was a step towards this end. Morton reported in 1701 that William III had recognized the family’s ‘pretensions to Orkney and Shetland’ and that the King was resolved to grant ‘an easy tack of these rents’. At the 1702 election to the Scottish parliament, Douglas made use of his influence as a tacksman of crown rents both to aid his own election for Kirkwall and to frustrate the Country opposition in Orkney and Shetland. He proved a loyal Queensberryite in the Scottish parliament, even voting against the Court (when Queensberry was out of office) on the Duke of Hamilton’s motion in 1704 for deferring a decision on the succession. Morton himself abstained, however, which may indicate trimming by the family until the Court’s intentions became clearer. The fall of the ‘New Party’ ministry and the return of Queensberry removed any uncertainty. Douglas voted the Court line over the Union, without absence or abstention. Shortly afterwards, the grant of Orkney and Shetland was renewed to Morton.2
Douglas was apparently unwilling to accept nomination to the first Parliament of Great Britain, and did not stand in 1708. The following year he was returned at a by-election for Tain Burghs at the instance of Queensberry, who promised ‘assistance in what can be for your interest’. He made no mark during his brief tenure. His only known vote was in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Douglas declined to stand in 1710, despite Morton’s wishes to the contrary; but he was active in Orkney elections on behalf of Sir Alexander Douglas in 1710 and his younger brother, George, in 1713. He remained on the periphery of national politics even after succeeding to the earldom in 1715. His conduct in Scottish peerage elections nevertheless indicates that, like his younger brother, he became an Argathelian. He died on 22 Jan. 1730.3