On 25 August, in 1330, Sir James Douglas, known as “The Black Douglas“, The Good Sir James, hero of the Scottish Wars of Independence, died.
The champion of King Robert I, The Bruce, who had died in 1329, Douglas was killed in Spain fighting the Moors, whilst on a pilgrimage carrying the dead king’s heart to the Holy Land. When The Bruce died his heart was removed from his body and placed in a silver and enamelled casket which Douglas wore around his neck.
This final act of loyalty to Bruce led to the appearance of a heart in the Douglas coat of arms.
The Brus (excerpt) By John Barbour
Sir, you see,
How the English tyrant forcibly
Has dispossessed me of my land
And you are made to understand
That the earl of Carrick claims to be
The rightful king of this country.
The English, since he slew that man,
Are keen to catch him if they can;
And they would seize his lands as well
And yet with him I faith would dwell!
Now, therefore, if it be your will,
With him will I take good or ill.
Through him I hope my land to win
Despite the Clifford and his kin.
And through Barbour we have a description of The Black Douglas
But he was not so fair that we
Should praise his looks in high degree.
In visage he was rather grey;
His hair was black, so I heard say,
His limbs were finely made and long,
His bones were large, his shoulders strong,
His body was well-knit and slim
And those say that set eyes on him,
When happy, loveable was he,
And meek and sweet in company,
But those with him in battle saw
Another countenance he wore!
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