Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Lady Janet Douglas, was she really a Carruthers?

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Lady Janet Douglas

As is the way of genealogical research, the Carruthers family are interwoven through our history and marriage with many other border families, These include the Douglas’s, the Irving’s, Bells, Glendinnings and many others. However, in the norm the way the world worked until of late and supported by robust research, was that the husband retained the family name and the wife accepted the name of her husband.

Any female children of the maternal line progressively took the surname of their husband, if married, while the male child once again took the name of their fathers and so it continued. For this reason, the paternal line us seen as the main family line through which genealogical research is followed.

One question that continially crops up though is: Does this mean that our families or bloodlines are not intermingled and only the paternal line matters, the answer is no it doesn’t, but it does mean that these maternal connections are not necessarily recognised as Carruthers primarily, but are just as easily recognised as Douglas, Bells, Irving’s etc. As such we cannot simply lay claim to everyone of worth or distinction in history that we come across on our genealogy travels as our own, any more than that they can lay claim to being a ‘Carruthers’.

So again there are claims, like many others of note in history, that Lady Janet Douglas 1498-1537 (Lady Glamis) was a Carruthers. Although an interesting story, it is simply untrue.

However, the story of Lady Glamis, known as ‘the witch’ remains a fascinating one and worth the retelling as it reflects the brutal political turmoil that existed within history in general and in particular, in the upper echelons of Scottish society at the time.

Regarding Lady Janet herself, it seems that she was classed as a great beauty and deemed to be of high intellect and of noble spirit and loyal to her own family of Douglas. Her skirting of court society and the intrigue that went with it, coupled with that family loyalty, caused her serious consternation and in fact, led to her horrific demise at the command of the king of the day.

Glamis Castle (Commons Wikimedia.org)

Here is a piece by another author in the newsroom of The Scotsman Newspaper 17th July 2017, which is well written, covers the subject and is part reproduced below.

Lady Glamis (Janet Douglas) Burned As A Witch, 1537

Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis, was burned at the stake on charges of witchcraft and treason by order of King James V on July 17, 1537. Her ghost, The Grey Lady, is said to haunt Glamis Castle to this day.

(Janet Douglas’ father was George Douglas Master of Angus. Her mother was Elizabeth Drummond. Going further back, her Grandfather was Archibald Douglas 5th Earl of Angus and her Grandmother was Elizabeth Boyd, Countess of Angus, daughter of Robert Boyd, 1st Lord Boyd. The paternal line continues back through the Douglas family with not a Carruthers in sight. ed.).

Lady Glamis was the sister of Archibald Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, who himself became the second husband (James IV being her first) of the Scottish Queen Dowager, Margaret Tudor, in 1514. (and thus stepfather to the young king James V. To say the relationship between stepfather and stepson was turbulent and toxic, is an understatement. This relationship helped lead to the ongoing hatred by the young king for the Douglas clan itself. ed).

James V’s father, James IV, had been killed at the battle of Flodden in 1512 and his mother Margaret subsequently ruled Scotland as regent. The role of her new husband, the Earl of Angus, therefore caused resentment among the Scottish nobility and John Stewart, Duke of Albany, was proclaimed replacement regent in 1517.

The on-going feuds between the Stewart and Douglas clans would heavily influence James V, who came of age in 1528 and sought to assert his influence on his kingdom. He was briefly imprisoned by Angus (Archibald Douglas 6th Earl his stepfather. ed.) as a young child and he would not forget the insult.

His anger and desire for revenge later became centred on Janet Douglas. When her husband died, she was left without a protector. The king seemingly hated the Douglas family

James V accused her of poisoning her first husband, John Lyon, sixth Lord Glamis, when he died in 1528. She was however acquitted and remarried Archibald Campbell in 1532, after ceasing all communication with the Douglas clan in order to try and prove her innocence to James V.

This peace was not long lasting and five years later James once again accused her of attempting to poison him and also of conspiring with the Douglas clan against him.

These accusations of treason and witchcraft were ungrounded. To combat the lack of proof for these heavy claims, James managed to gather evidence against Lady Janet by torturing her family and servants to the point of extracting false evidence and statements against her nature. It is said that her young son was forced to watch his servants and family being tortured, before being tortured himself on the rack.

The rack was an implement of torture and was used to ‘stretch’ victims to the point of excruciating pain by tying their ankles and wrists separately and pulling them in opposite directions.

Lady Janet was subsequently burned at the stake at Edinburgh Castle, where allegedly her son was forced to watch her burn before he was released. (Janet was only one of thousands of women wrongly accused of witchcraft. Edinburgh was well known for its burning of witches, and interestingly not all female, which ran for nearly 250 years, between 1478-1721. ed)

(Lady Douglas is now said to haunt the Clock Tower and family Chapel of Glamis Castle where her ghost, allegedly seen by many becoming known as the Gray Lady. Situated beside the village of Glamis in Angus, the Castle sits 60 miles north of Edinburgh and above Dundee. It has been the ancestral seat to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne since 1372 and was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Glamis Castle was the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and birthplace of HRH The Princess Margaret, sister to the current Queen ed).

We hope that this brief but colourful piece helps prove the point that by virtue of some vague and past genealogical thread, not everyone that we touch, or in fact falls within our and others’ ancestral tapestry can be claimed to be a Carruthers any more than our direct lines can be claimed by them.


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