During the century and a half of their power the Black Douglases earned fame as Scotland's champions in the front line of war against England. On their shields they bore the bloody heart of Robert Bruce, the symbol of their claim to be the physical protectors of the hero-king's legacy. But others saw the power of these lords and earls of Douglas in a different light. To their critics the Douglases were a force for disorder in the kingdom, lawless, arrogant and violent, whose power rested on coercion and whose defiance of kings and guardians ultimately provoked James II into slaying the Douglas earl with his own hand.
Michael Brown analyses the rise and fall of this family as the dominant magnates of the south, from the deeds of the Good Sir James Douglas in the service of Bruce to the violent destruction of the Douglas earls in the 1450s. Alongside this study of the accumulation and loss of power by one of the great noble houses, The Black Douglases includes a series of thematic examinations of the nature of aristocratic power. In particular these emphasise the link between warfare and political power in southern Scotland during the fourteenth century. For the Black Douglases, war was not just a patriotic duty but the means to power and fame in Scotland and across Europe.