The Duke of Queensberry
The Duke of Queensberry by John Opie
Born16 December 1724 (1724-12-16)
Died23 December 1810 (1810-12-24) (aged 86)
OccupationScottish noble (substantial landowner), racehorse owner, 1760s representative (House of Lords seated) peer
ChildrenMaria Seymour-Conway, Marchioness of Hertford
Parent(s)William Douglas, 2nd Earl of March
Lady Anne Hamilton

William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensberry KT (16 December 1724 – 23 December 1810) was a Scottish noble landowner. He was popularly known as Old Q and was reputed as a high-stakes gambler.[1] In 1799 he was estimated the eighth-wealthiest man (or small family unit) in Britain, owning £1M (equivalent to £100,400,000 in 2020). He is one of ten known British millionaires that year, the Royal family excluded.

Family and royal appointee

Born in Peebles, Queensberry was the only son of William Douglas, 2nd Earl of March, and his wife, Lady Anne Hamilton.

William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensbury
William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensbury

A friend of the Prince of Wales, Douglas was appointed Gentleman of the Bedchamber to George III in 1760.[2] He was appointed a Knight of the Thistle in 1761 and was one of the 16 Scottish representative peers for an elected term or possibly more from 1761, and was Vice Admiral of Scotland from 1767 to 1776. However, due to behavior during the king's unusual, long-lasting, mental health latter-life illness he was deprived of his office as Gentleman of the Bedchamber in 1789, and for a while took refuge abroad.[3] Later, he was Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries from 1794 until 1810.

He succeeded his father in the Earldom of March in 1731 and his mother in the Earldom of Ruglen in 1748. He succeeded his cousin Charles as Duke of Queensberry in 1778, and was created Lord Douglas, Baron Douglas, of Amesbury in the County of Wiltshire in the Peerage of Great Britain on 8 August 1786.[4]

In 1799 he was estimated the eighth-wealthiest man (or small family unit) in Britain, owning £1M (equivalent to £100,400,000 in 2020).[5] He was one of ten known British millionaires in 1799.[5]

He developed a strong passion for Miss Frances Pelham at the age of 28. So much so that he deliberately bought a house next door to her and had a bow window built so that he could sit and spy on her as she came and went. In his 60s he proposed to the teenage daughter of his next door neighbour in Picadilly on three occasions. But was turned down despite his immense wealth.

Queensberry never married. He had a daughter, Maria "Mie-Mie" Fagnani, by a mistress, the Marchesa Fagnani.[6] In 1798, she became the wife of the 3rd Marquess of Hertford; Queensberry left much of his wealth to Maria,[6] and left £10,000 to Lady Anne Hamilton who was a Lady in Waiting to Caroline of Brunswick.[7] He was interred at St James's Church, Piccadilly on 31 December 1810.[8]

On death, the Dukedom and Drumlanrig Castle passed to his second cousin once removed, the third Duke of Buccleuch. The Marquessate of Queensberry passed to his fourth cousin once removed (and also third once removed) Sir Charles Douglas, 5th Bt, whose descendant is the current titleholder. His second cousin twice removed Francis Douglas, 8th Earl of Wemyss became Earl of Wemyss and March. The Earldom of Ruglen became extinct.


He was racehorse owner and event attendee. His jockeys' racing silks were deep red with a black cap. [9]

He had some society repute as a high-stakes gambler.[1]

Semi-fictional portrayal

As "Lord March", he is briefly portrayed or described in the William Makepeace Thackeray novel The Virginians as a dissolute gambler.[1]



  1. ^ a b c Sharpe, Graham (2015). "Marching to glory with a balls up. Newmarket 1750". Gambling's Strangest Moments. Pavilion Books. ISBN 9781910232491.
  2. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Queensberry, Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 731.
  3. ^ Henderson 1888, p. 374.
  4. ^ "No. 12775". The London Gazette. 8 August 1786. p. 351.
  5. ^ a b "Who wants to be a millionaire?", The Guardian, feature, 29 Sep 1999
  6. ^ a b François-René de Chateaubriand, Béatrix d' Andlau, Pierre Riberette, Correspondance générale: Volume 5 (Gallimard, 1986), page 540
  7. ^ Henderson, Thomas Finlayson (1890). "Hamilton, Lady Anne" . In Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 24. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 135.
  8. ^ Robinson, John Robert (1895). 'Old Q': A Memoir of William Douglas, Fourth Duke of Queensberry, K.T., One of 'the Fathers of the Turf,' with a Full Account of His Celebrated Matches and Wagers, Etc (2nd ed.). London: Samson Low, Marston and Company, Limited. p. 249. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  9. ^ Weatherby, Edward and James (1801). "COLOURS WORN BY THE RIDERS OF THE FOLLOWING NOBLEMEN, GENTLEMEN, &c". Racing Calendar. 28: 52.
Political offices Preceded byJohn Carmichael Vice-Admiral of Scotland 1767–1776 Succeeded byJohn Campbell Honorary titles New office Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries 1794–1797 Succeeded byEarl of Dalkeith Peerage of Scotland Preceded byCharles Douglas Duke of Queensberry 1778–1810 Succeeded byHenry Scott Marquess of Queensberry 1778–1810 Succeeded byCharles Douglas Preceded byWilliam Douglas Earl of March 1731–1810 Succeeded byFrancis Douglas Preceded byAnne Hamilton Earl of Ruglen 1748–1810 Extinct Peerage of Great Britain New creation Baron Douglas 1786–1810 Extinct