Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry was a Scottish nobleman,
remembered for lending his name to the "Marquess of Queensberry
rules" that formed the basis of modern boxing.
was born in Florence, Italy. In 1858 he inherited the Marquessate
of Queensberry from his father Archibald. There is some controversy
about the numbering of the Marquesses due to doubts as to whether
James Douglas should be included. John Sholto Douglas is therefore
often identified as the 8th Marquess. He was educated at the Royal
Naval College and married Sibyl Montgomery in 1866. The couple
had four sons and one daughter and was divorced in 1887. Queensberry
married Ethel Weeden in 1893, but they were divorced the following
was a patron of sport and a noted boxing enthusiast. In 1866 he
was one of the founders of the Amateur Athletic Club, now the
Amateur Athletic Association of England, one of the first groups
that did not require amateur athletes to belong to the upper-classes
in order to compete. The following year the Club published a set
of twelve rules for conducting boxing matches. The rules had been
drawn up by John Graham Chambers but appeared under Queensberry's
sponsorship and are universally known at the "Marquess of
Queensberry Rules." Queensberry, a keen rider, was also active
in fox hunting and owned several successful race horses.
1872, Queensberry was chosen by the members of the peerage of
Scotland to sit in the British House of Lords as a representative
peer. He served as such until 1880, when he was again nominated
but refused to take the religious oath of allegiance to the Sovereign.
An outspoken atheist, he declared that he would not participate
in any "Christian tomfoolery" and that his word should
a consequence neither he nor Charles Bradlaugh, who had also refused
to take the oath after being elected to the House of Commons,
were allowed to take their seats in Parliament. This prompted
an apology from the new Prime Minister, William Gladstone. Bradlaugh
was re-elected four times by the constituents of Northampton until
he was finally allowed to take his seat in 1886, but Queensberry
was never again sent to Parliament by the Scottish nobles.
1881, Queensberry accepted the presidency of the British Secular
Union, a group that had broken away in 1877 from Bradlaugh's National
Secular Society. In 1882, he was ejected from the theatre after
loudly interrupting a performance of the play The Promise of May
by Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, because it included a villainous
atheist in its cast of characters. Under the auspices of the British
Secular Union, Queensberry wrote a pamphlet entitled The Religion
of Secularism and the Perfectibility of Man. The Union, always
small, ceased to function in 1884.
divorces, militant atheism, and association with the boxing world
made Queensberry an unpopular figure in London high society. In
1893 his eldest son, Francis Douglas, was created Baron Kelhead
in the peerage of the United Kingdom, thus giving the son an automatic
seat in the House of Lords, from which the father was excluded.
This caused a bitter dispute between Queensberry and his son Francis,
and also between Queensberry and Lord Rosebery, the patron who
had promoted Francis's ennoblement and who shortly thereafter
became Prime Minister.
March 1895 Queensberry was sued for defamatory libel by Oscar
Wilde, whom he had accused of "posing as a somdomite"
(sic): Queensberry made the allegation because he was angered
by Wilde's relationship with his son, Alfred Douglas. Soon after
the trial opened, the libel case was withdrawn. Wilde was later
convicted of gross indecency under the Criminal Law Amendment
Queensberry died in London, aged 55.