The Early Years.
James's father William le Hardi, had fought against the English and had commanded Berwick castle during the siege by Edward I in 1296. After Berwick town had been put to the sword and the castle could hold out no longer, William Douglas surrendered the castle to Edward. The surrender terms were for the safe conduct and release of the castle garrison, Edward however reneged on this agreement and sent Douglas off to captivity in chains. Douglas however escaped or was released, because he reappears as a supporter of Wallace at the start of his rebellion. He later joined with Bruce and the Stewart and was among other Scottish leaders who surrendered to Edward at Irvine. Most were allowed to go free on production of a hostage for their future good behaviour, Douglas refused to hand over his son James and was once again sent off in chains, this time to Berwick castle, here his captors called him "savage and abusive" and he was transferred to the Tower of London. It was here in 1299 that William Douglas died as an enemy of the English. John Barbour the chronicler believed he was murdered.
Meanwhile young James had been spirited off to Paris to keep him safe from Edward. It was here that the young James learnt of his father's death and the forfeiture of his Douglas Estates, which Edward awarded to the English Sir Robert Clifford. This left Douglas alone and destitute in Paris, fortunately for him he met the Scottish Bishop of St Andrews, William Lamberton who took him in to his household. Here it is presumed that he was schooled to one day resume his rightful place as a Lord of the Scottish realm.
Douglas, aged about eighteen, returned to Scotland with Lamberton at a time when most of the nobles including Lamberton had made their peace with Edward. The Bishop presented Douglas at court to petition for the return of his estates, when Edward heard whose son he was he became angry and brusquely refused, James having to be hurriedly removed from his sight.
It seems very likely that the first meeting between Bruce and the young James Douglas took place in 1297 at a time when Bruce had sworn allegiance to Edward I, mainly because of his opposition to King John Baliol. Bruce had been charged by Edward with despoiling the Douglas lands and if possible to capture William Douglas, On hearing that William Wallace had started a rebellion in Galloway and that Sir Andrew de Moray had risen in the North, Bruce decided to throw in his lot with the rebels. Taking the Lady Douglas and the teenaged James along with him in order to remove them from Edwards wrath. He made his way along with those of his men who would follow to Irvine, where the rebel forces including William Douglas were encamped. It was after the surrender of these forces, apart from Wallace, that William Douglas was taken into captivity and James sent off to Paris.