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James Douglas Morton, 4th earl of

Morton, James Douglas, 4th earl of, d. 1581, Scottish nobleman. A nephew of Archibald Douglas, 6th earl of Angus, he married Elizabeth Douglas, from whose father he inherited (1553) the earldom of Morton. A member of the Protestant party, he became lord high chancellor to Mary Queen of Scots in 1563. He was a principal in the murder of David Rizzio (1566) and fled thereafter to England. Pardoned, he returned to Scotland the following year and became involved in the plot to murder Lord Darnley. After Mary's marriage to Lord Bothwell, Morton turned against the queen, whose forces he defeated at Langside (1568). He was chief counselor to the regent James Stuart, 1st earl of Murray, and became regent himself on the death of the 1st earl of Mar. His rule was devoted to the pacification of a religiously divided and wartorn Scotland. In 1578 he was forced out by a junta of nobles, led by the 6th earl of Argyll and John Stuart, 4th earl of Atholl, who persuaded the boy king, James VI (later James I of England), to assert his power. Morton regained control of the king, with the aid of John Erskine, 2d earl of Mar; but in 1581 a plot against him, engineered by Esmé Stuart, 1st duke of Lennox, and James Stuart, later earl of Arran, resulted in his being tried, convicted, and beheaded for taking part in the murder of Darnley. Morton possessed for some time the Casket Letters, which allegedly implicated Mary in Darnley's death.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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