Hamilton, James (d.1575) (DNB00)
|←Hamilton, James (d.1540)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 24
Hamilton, James (d.1575)
|Hamilton, James (fl.1566-1580)→|
HAMILTON, JAMES, second Earl of Arran and Duke of Châtelherault (d. 1575), governor of Scotland, the eldest son of James Hamilton, second lord Hamilton and first earl of Arran [q. v.], by his second wife, Janet Beaton of Easter Wemyss, succeeded to the earldom on the death of his father in 1529. During his minority he remained under the guardianship of Sir James Hamilton (d. 1540) [q. v.] of Finnart (Hamilton MSS. 5, 6). In 1536 he accompanied James V on his matrimonial expedition into France (Pinkerton, ii. 337). On the death of James (14 Dec. 1542), shortly after the battle of Solway Moss, he was chosen governor of the realm during the minority of Mary; and, notwithstanding the violent and unscrupulous opposition of Cardinal Beaton [see Beaton, David], was installed in his office on 22 Dec. 1542. His election, which was confirmed by the estates on 15 March 1543 (Acts of Parl. ii. 411, 593), was due rather to his position as ‘second person of the realm’ (through the marriage of his grandfather, Sir James Hamilton of Cadzow, lord Hamilton (d. 1479) [q. v.], with Mary, sister of James III), than to any commanding talents of his own, though, according to Knox, ‘the cause of the great favour that was borne to him was that it was bruited that he favoured God's word, and because it was well known that he was one appointed to have been persecuted, as the scroll found in the king's pocket after his death did witness’ (Reformation, i. 94, 101; Sadleir, State Papers, i. 94, 108). He was a man of great wealth and refinement, genial and tolerant, though somewhat vain in his private relations, but in public affairs indolent and vacillating in the extreme. Almost from the first it was apparent that in political capacity and daring he was inferior to his rival the cardinal. To Henry VIII, however, his character and religious sentiments seemed to present a favourable opportunity for the realisation of his scheme of a union between the two kingdoms, and no efforts were spared, even to a tempting offer of marriage between his eldest son and the Princess Elizabeth, to attach him to the English interest (Sadleir, i. 129, 139). But though a pliant enough instrument in Henry's hand, he was by no means a trustworthy one. Already, in the beginning of April 1543, Sir Ralph Sadleir noticed symptoms of tergiversation in him, which were generally attributed to the influence of his natural brother, John Hamilton (d. 1570) [q. v.], abbot of Paisley, and afterwards archbishop of St. Andrews, a man of unbounded ambition, who, having attached himself to Cardinal Beaton, laboured assiduously to win Arran over to the French side, representing to him how, owing to the manner of his father's divorce from his second wife, Elizabeth Home, it would inevitably endanger his claim to the succession were he to cut himself off from communication with Rome (ib. i. 157, 158, 160; Crawfurd, Officers of State, i. 376; Knox, Reformation, i. 109; Hamilton MSS. p. 49). John's representations carried much weight with the weak-minded governor; but his inclination evidently lay in the other direction, and Henry's agents warned him of the risk he ran of playing into the cardinal's hand, only to find himself discarded in the end (State Papers, Henry VIII, v. 274). For a time Henry's threats and promises kept him firm, and on 1 July 1543 the preliminaries were arranged for a treaty between England and Scotland on the basis of a marriage between the infant Mary and the young Prince Edward (Rymer, xiv. 788, 796). But the alliance was not popular. The common people everywhere, wrote Sadleir, murmured against the governor, ‘saying he was an heretic and a good Englishman, and hath sold this realm to the king's majesty’ (Sadleir, i. 216, 234). The capture of Mary and her removal from Linlithgow to Stirling, together with the appearance of Lennox on the scene as a rival claimant to the succession, further alienated him from the English alliance. ‘The governor, methinketh,’ wrote Sadleir, ‘is out of heart and out of courage’ (ib. p. 260). After confirming the English treaties on 25 Aug. he, on 3 Sept., joined the French party. He stole quietly away, as Knox expressed it, from Holyrood Palace to Callander House, near Falkirk; there he met the cardinal, and proceeded with him to Stirling (ib. pp. 270, 282–3). In the Franciscan convent of that city he publicly abjured his religion, and, having received absolution, renounced the treaties with England, and delivered his eldest son to the cardinal as a pledge of his sincerity (Chalmers, Life of Mary, ii. 404). But after having taken this decisive step he still wavered in his policy. At one time he secretly informed Sadleir that he was only temporising with the French party (Sadleir, i. 288); at another he was, ‘by the persuasions of the cardinal, earnestly bent against England,’ and was resolved to destroy ‘all such noblemen and others within the realm as do favour the same’ (ib. p. 336). The repudiation of the treaties was of course followed by an outbreak of hostilities.
Arran's conduct in the regency had given little satisfaction to either party, and a coalition having taken place between them, it was resolved, at a convention of nobles at Stirling in June 1544, to transfer the government to the queen-dowager, Mary of Guise (State Papers, Henry VIII, v. 391–4; Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 33). On this occasion Arran acted boldly, and, ignoring the act of the Stirling convention, summoned a parlia- ment to Edinburgh on 31 July. Thereupon the queen-dowager advanced against him at the head of a considerable force, but, finding the city too strongly fortified, retired to Stirling. Arran postponed the meeting of parliament till November (Acts of Parl. ii. 445). The queen-dowager issued writs for a rival parliament to be held at Stirling on the 12th of the same month (Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 36; Tytler, History, v. 359–65). But by the cardinal's intervention she was constrained to give way, and on 6 March 1545 consented to acknowledge Arran's supremacy, and co-operate with him in the conduct of affairs (Hamilton MSS. p. 36). Meanwhile the war with England still went on. After the defeat of the Scots at Pinkie Cleugh (10 Sept. 1547) the situation of Scotland was grave in the extreme. Arran exerted himself as much as his weak nature was able; but, deserted by the nobles, many of whom had privately made their peace with England, he was unable to work to much purpose, and the reins of government gradually slipped into the stronger hands of the queen-dowager. By her advice a council was convened at Stirling, when it was resolved to appeal to France for assistance against England. The proposal was warmly supported by the French ambassador D'Oysel, and a suggestion was made that the young Queen Mary should be removed to France for safety. The suggestion, foreshadowing as it did a marriage between Mary and the dauphin, was distasteful to Arran, who was not without hope of an alliance between her and his eldest son (Lesley, p. 204; Thorpe, Cal. i. 68, 71; Tytler, vi. 37). At a meeting of the estates on 17 July 1548 the arrangement was formally confirmed; a judicious distribution of French gold among the nobility, and a grant of the duchy of Châtelherault to Arran himself, with other favours, smoothing over all difficulties (Stevenson, Cal. ii. 19; Spotiswood, p. 89). Arran's supine conduct is generally attributed to the absence of his brother the archbishop, supposed to be on his deathbed at the time (Crawfurd, i. 377). The arrival of reinforcements from France and the conclusion of peace with England in 1550 gave the queen-dowager a further advantage in her endeavour to oust Châtelherault from the regency. Notwithstanding his assiduous devotion to his duties the nobility were gradually drawn over to her side. Influenced, however, by his brother, who had recovered from his illness, and who represented to him the folly of retiring from power, when only the life of a feeble girl stood between him and the crown (Melvill, Memoirs, pp. 21, 73), Châtelherault did not yield without a struggle. But finally, finding himself deserted on all sides, he on 12 April 1554 reluctantly consented to abdicate (Acts of Parl. ii. 600–4). He manifested, however, no feelings of resentment against the queen-dowager, and continued to support her government until she had driven the protestant nobles into rebellion. After much hesitation he then adopted a policy more consonant with his own interests. On the capture of Edinburgh (29 June 1559) by the lords of the congregation he intimated to the regent that it was no longer possible for him to take part with her against those of the same religion as himself. On the following day he retired to Hamilton (Stevenson, Cal. i. 349, 365). He would still have gladly observed a strict neutrality, but the pressure of the protestants and of Cecil finally led him, with evident reluctance, to sign the covenant (ib. i. 401, 571; Sadleir, i. 404). His defection exasperated the regent, who charged him with a desire to usurp the crown (Stevenson, Cal. ii. 43), and endeavoured to undermine his credit at the English court by forging a letter addressed to Francis II, in which Châtelherault was made to profess allegiance to the French king, and to offer security for his fidelity in the shape of a blank bond. The letter came to the knowledge of the English privy council, and though there was a general tendency to discredit it, yet Châtelherault's reputation for insincerity gave plausibility to the charge, and he was immediately questioned about it. He denied all knowledge of it, and offered to fight any one who doubted his word. The plot was finally exploded by an intercepted letter from the regent to the cardinal of Lorraine, complaining of the way in which the French ambassador in England had mismanaged the business. But the suspicion, while it rested upon him, gave Châtelherault great uneasiness, and caused him to age rapidly (ib. ii. 332, 453, 481; Teulet, i. 407, 566; Haynes, p. 267). His property in France had long since been seized, but by the treaty of Edinburgh it was stipulated that it should be restored to him (Haynes, p. 354). After the death of Francis II in December 1560 Châtelherault again conceived the project of a marriage between his eldest son and Queen Mary, which he regarded as the only adequate guarantee for the recognition of his claim to the succession. His overtures were received by Mary in a friendly spirit, but there was little prospect, in the opinion of others, that they would be realised (Stevenson, Cal. iii. 580, iv. 85; Tytler, vi. 208, 219). On the queen's arrival in Scotland he was one of the first to salute her, but his absence from the subsequent fes- tivities at Edinburgh was noted and commented upon in a style that obliged him to appear at court, when he was ‘well received’ by the queen (Stevenson, Cal. iv. 391). But he was ill at ease, foreseeing danger, but doubting from what quarter it would come. The madness of his son James, and his story of a plot to seize the queen's person and subvert the government, implicating himself, his father and Bothwell, still further unsettled him. Mary's conduct on this occasion (ib. iv. 592–4) went far to reassure him, but the surrender of Dumbarton Castle into her hands followed almost as a matter of course. In 1565 the restoration of his old enemy Lennox and the proposed marriage between Mary and Darnley filled him with fresh apprehensions (ib. vii. 338, 352). Animated by the attitude of Murray, he declined to obey a summons to court (Register of the Privy Council, i. 365). He was thereupon proclaimed a traitor, and shortly afterwards compelled to flee for his life across the border. Elizabeth disavowed all sympathy with him, and from Newcastle he soon made overtures for forgiveness and restoration. At first Mary indignantly declined to listen to him, declaring that nothing but his head would satisfy her (Stevenson, Cal. vii. 480, 483), but on his consenting to go into banishment for five years he obtained a pardon (Hamilton MSS. p. 43). Leaving his debts unpaid, Châtelherault slipped away in February 1566 to France, where he occupied himself in vain endeavours to recover his duchy (Stevenson, Cal. viii. 6, 19, 69, 91). The murder of Darnley, Mary's marriage to Bothwell, her imprisonment, and the appointment of Murray as regent materially altered Châtelherault's attitude. Darnley out of the way, Mary was no longer his enemy. He therefore repaired to the French court, protested his loyalty, and offered his sword in defence of his sovereign's cause. He desired at the same time, we are told, to add something touching his suit for the recovery of his duchy, but the king ‘cut it short,’ and turned the conversation into another channel (ib. viii. 295). He managed, however, to secure in lieu of it a pension of four thousand francs, and a cupboard of plate worth fifteen hundred crowns (ib. viii. 319). His attempt to raise a French force was frustrated by Throckmorton, and when he landed in England early in 1569 he was practically unattended. At York his progress was arrested by the Earl of Sussex, but on promising to behave in a dutiful manner he was allowed to proceed (Crosby, Cal. ix. 31). His return to Scotland, and the menacing attitude of the Hamiltons generally, disconcerted the regent Murray. He tried in vain to obtain from Châtelherault an acknowledgment of the king's supremacy, and afterwards, on pretence of a conference, inveigled him to Edinburgh, where he was arrested (Tytler, vii. 225–8). After Murray's assassination in January 1570 Châtelherault was still more closely confined, and it was not till the arrival of Verac from France that he was set at liberty on 20 April. During the civil war that followed, his castles of Hamilton, Kinneil, and Linlithgow were razed to the ground by Sir W. Drury (ib. ix. 257). But, notwithstanding his own losses and the apparent hopelessness of the struggle, he continued faithfully to support the queen's party till 23 Feb. 1573, when, acting in union with the Earl of Huntly, he consented to acknowledge the king's authority and lay down his sword. He afterwards declared to Killigrew that he would never consent to the introduction of a French force into the kingdom, but Killigrew was not without a suspicion that he was even then only temporising (ib. x. 281, 522).
Châtelherault died at Hamilton on 22 Jan. 1575. By his wife, the Lady Margaret, eldest daughter of James Douglas, third earl of Morton, he had issue: James Hamilton, third earl of Arran [q. v.]; John, first marquis of Hamilton [q. v.]; David, who died young; and Claud, lord Paisley [q. v.]; and four daughters: Barbara, who married James, fourth lord Fleming [q. v.], high chamberlain of Scotland; Margaret, who married Alexander, lord Gordon, eldest son of George, fourth earl of Huntly; Anne, who married George, fifth earl of Huntly [q. v.]; and Jane, who married Hugh Montgomery, third earl of Eglintoun (Douglas, Peerage, i. 701).[Hamilton MSS. (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vi.); Acts of the Parliament of Scotland; Sadleir's State Papers; State Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, vol. v.; Rymer's Fœdera; Diurnal of Occurrents in Scotland (Bannatyne Club); Knox's History of the Reformation, ed. Laing; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland; Melvill's Diary; Crawfurd's Officers of State; Thorpe's Cal. of State Papers; Cal. of Hatfield MSS.; Haynes's Burghley Papers; Cal. of State Papers, For. Corresp., ed. Stevenson and Crosby, vols. i–x.; Douglas and Crawfurd's Peerages of Scotland; and the Histories of Scotland by Buchanan, Drummond, Lesley, Keith, Robertson, Spotiswood, Tytler, and Burton.]