He was the son of James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Queensberry and his second wife Margaret Stewart, daughter of John Stewart, 1st Earl of Traquair. He succeeded his father as Earl of Queensberry in 1671 and took his seat in the Parliament of Scotland on 12 June 1672.
He was appointed a Scottish Privy Councillor in 1667, Lord Justice General from 1680 to 1682, and Lord High Treasurer of Scotland from 1682 to 1686. He was created Marquess of Queensberry on 11 February 1682 and Duke of Queensberry on 3 November 1684, with remainder to his heirs male. He refused to support James VII's measures against the established church in 1685. He was Lord President of the Privy Council from 1686 to 1689. From 1685 he was one of the lords of the Privy Council for both Scotland and England, but in 1687 he was accused of maladministration by James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth and was stripped of his appointments.
He married Lady Isabel Douglas, daughter of William Douglas, 1st Marquess of Douglas and Lady Mary Gordon, in 1657, and they had issue:
- Lady Anne Douglas, Countess of Wemyss (died from injuries following her clothes going on fire, 23 February 1700)
- William Douglas, 1st Earl of March (died 9 September 1705)
- George Douglas
- James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry (1662–1711)
- G. E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910–1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume X, page 694.
- Record for William Douglas, 1st Marquess of Queensberry at www.thepeerage.com
- Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. .
- Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, 1672/6/3. Date accessed: 5 October 2014.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Queensberry, Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of". Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 730.
- Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh
Colin Lindsay, 3rd Earl of Balcarres
| Lord High Treasurer of Scotland
|Parliament of Scotland|
James, Duke of York and Albany
| Lord High Commissioner
Alexander Stuart, 5th Earl of Moray
George Mackenzie of Tarbat
| Lord Justice General
James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth
|Peerage of Scotland|
James Douglas, 2nd Earl
| Earl of Queensberry
James Douglas, 2nd Duke,
2nd Marquess, 4th Earl
|New creation|| Marquess of Queensberry|
| Duke of Queensberry|
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