Sir Islay Campbell, Lord Succoth (1732-1823)

2] Sir Islay Campbell, Lord Succoth (1732-1823) during his long life must have been a familiar figure in the Square. In 1757 he became an advocate and subsequently was appointed Solicitor General, Lord advocate, Lord President of the Court of Session and finally Lord Justice General from 1789-1808 when he was created a baronet.  He attended Glasgow University of which he was elected Rector from 1779-1881.  He was MP for Glasgow Burghs from 1784-1790 – a necessary requirement for the Lord Advocate who had to represent matters relating to law in Scotland to the House of Commons.

Among the many court cases in which he was involved during his long career, two were of particular interest.  In 1767 he acted as defence counsel for Lady Jane Douglas in a celebrated case which became known as the Douglas Cause. In brief the matter at issue was the need of an heir if the Douglas estate was to be retained in the family, otherwise it passed on to the next in line – the Duke of Hamilton.  At the age of 47 Lady Jane married Sir John Stewart who was then aged 60 and described as ‘a worn out old rake’.  During 1748 the couple went to Paris where Lady Jane, then aged 50, allegedly produced twin sons Archibald and Sholto.  In 1767 the guardians of the 12 year old Duke of Hamilton challenged the right of Archibald to inherit the estate on the grounds that he was not the child of Lady Jane. The court considered whether Lady Jane could, at her age, have produced the children.  No witness could be found to testify that they had been aware of the pregnancy but a male accoucheur was discovered who claimed to have delivered the babies.  Statements from two French women who said that they had sold babies to a foreign couple were used in evidence against the Douglas cause and the case was found in favour of the Duke of Hamilton.  The Douglas family appealed to the House of Lords and at a hearing in 1769 the initial court decision was reversed and Archibald was declared the rightful inheritor of the estate, which has remained in the Douglas family since that time. The Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home is one of those who has benefitted from this appeal. 

Islay Campbell, the Douglas’ advocate, was delighted with the House of Lords decision and posted to Edinburgh without delay.  He was the first to announce the intelligence to the assembled crowd who had followed the case with great interest over the years… ‘At the Cross, the young lawyer took off his hat, and waving it in the air, exclaimed – ‘Douglas for ever!’ He was responded to by a joyous shout from the assembled multitude, who, unyoking the horses from his carriage, drew him in triumph to his home in James’s Court’.[i]Another notable case was the trial of Deacon Brodie at which Islay Campbell, in his capacity as Lord Advocate, was chief prosecutor.  

[i] Kay’s Portraits 2 p89 The anonymous author of this extract adds a footnote ‘At the present date, when the whole facts and circumstances are fairly weighed, it may be doubted whether the original decision ought to have been reversed.