1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hamilton (family)

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HAMILTON, the name of a famous Scottish family. Chief among the legends still clinging to this important family is that which gives a descent from the house of Beaumont, a branch of which is stated to have held the manor of Hamilton in Leicestershire; and it is argued that the three cinquefoils of the Hamilton shield bear some resemblance to the single cinquefoil of the Beaumonts. In face of this it has been recently shown that the single cinquefoil was also borne by the Umfravilles of Northumberland, who appear to have owned a place called Hamilton in that county. It may be pointed out that Simon de Montfort, the great earl of Leicester, in whose veins flowed the blood of the Beaumonts, obtained about 1245 the wardship of Gilbert de Umfraville, second earl of Angus, and it is conceivable that this name Gilbert may somehow be responsible for the legend of the Beaumont descent, seeing that the first authentic ancestor of the Hamiltons is one Walter FitzGilbert. He first appears in 1294–1295 as one of the witnesses to a charter by James, the high steward of Scotland, to the monks of Paisley; and in 1296 his name appears in the Homage Roll as Walter FitzGilbert of “Hameldone.” Who this Gilbert of “Hameldone” may have been is uncertain, “but the fact must be faced,” Mr John Anderson points out (Scots Peerage, iv. 340) “that in a charter of the 12th of December 1272 by Thomas of Cragyn or Craigie to the monks of Paisley of his church of Craigie in Kyle, there appears as witness a certain ‘Gilbert de Hameldun clericus,’ whose name occurs along with the local clergy of Inverkip, Blackhall, Paisley and Dunoon. He was therefore probably also a cleric of the same neighbourhood, and it is significant that ‘Walter FitzGilbert’ appears first in that district in 1294 and in 1296 is described as son of Gilbert de Hameldone. . . .” Walter FitzGilbert took some part in the affairs of his time. At first he joined the English party but after Bannockburn went over to Bruce, was knighted and subsequently received the barony of Cadzow. His younger son John was father of Alexander Hamilton who acquired the lands of Innerwick by marriage, and from him descended a certain Thomas Hamilton, who acquired the lands of Priestfield early in the 16th century. Another Thomas, grandson of this last, who had with others of his house followed Queen Mary and with them had been restored to royal favour, became a lord of session as Lord Priestfield. Two of his younger sons enjoyed also this legal distinction, while the eldest, Thomas, was made an ordinary lord of session as early as 1592 and was eventually created earl of Haddington (q.v.). It is interesting to note that the 5th earl of Haddington by his marriage with Lady Margaret Leslie brought for a time the earldom of Rothes to the Hamiltons to be added to their already numerous titles.

Sir “David FitzWalter FitzGilbert,” who carried on the main line of the Hamiltons, was taken prisoner at the battle of Neville’s Cross (1346) and treated as of great importance, being ransomed, it is stated, for a large sum of money; in 1371 and 1373 he was one of the barons in the parliament. Of the four sons attributed to him David succeeded in the representation of the family, Sir John Hamilton of Fingaltoun was ancestor of the Hamiltons of Preston, and Walter is stated to have been progenitor of the Hamiltons of Cambuskeith and Sanquhar in Ayrshire.

David Hamilton, the first apparently to describe himself as lord of Cadzow, died before 1392, leaving four or five sons, from whom descended the Hamiltons of Bathgate and of Bardowie, and perhaps also of Udstown, to which last belong the lords Belhaven.

Sir John Hamilton of Cadzow, the eldest son, was twice a prisoner in England, but beyond this little is known of him; even the date of his death is uncertain. His two younger sons are stated to have been founders of the houses of Dalserf and Raploch. His eldest son, James Hamilton of Cadzow, like his father and great-grandfather, visited England as a prisoner, being one of the hostages for the king’s ransom. From him the Hamiltons of Silvertonhill and the lords Hamilton of Dalzell claim descent, among the more distinguished members of the former branch being General Sir Ian Hamilton, K.C.B. James Hamilton was succeeded by his eldest son Sir James Hamilton of Cadzow, who was created in 1445 an hereditary lord of parliament, and was thereafter known as Lord Hamilton. He had allied himself some years before with the great house of Douglas by marriage with Euphemia, widow of the 5th earl of Douglas, and was at first one of its most powerful supporters in the struggle with James II. Later, however, he obtained the royal favour and married about 1474 Mary, sister of James III. and widow of Thomas Boyd, earl of Arran. Of this marriage was born James, second Lord Hamilton, who as a near relative took an active part in the arrangements at the marriage of James IV. with Margaret Tudor; being rewarded on the same day (the 8th of August 1503) with the earldom of Arran. A champion in the lists he was scarcely so successful as a leader of men, his struggle with the Douglases being destitute of any great martial achievement. Of his many illegitimate children Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, beheaded in 1540, was ancestor of the Hamiltons of Gilkerscleugh; and John, archbishop of St Andrews, hanged by his Protestant enemies, was ancestor of the Hamiltons of Blair, and is said also to have been ancestor of Hamilton of London, baronet. James, second earl of Arran, son of the first earl by his second wife Janet Beaton, was chosen governor to the little Queen Mary, being nearest of kin to the throne through his grandmother, though the question of the validity of his mother’s marriage was by no means settled. He held the governorship till 1554, having in 1549 been granted the duchy of Châtellerault in France. In his policy he was vacillating and eventually he retired to France, being absent during the three momentous years prior to the deposition of Mary. On his return he headed the queen’s party, his property suffering in consequence. He was succeeded in the title in 1579 by his eldest son James, whose qualities were such that he was even proposed as a husband for Queen Elizabeth, but unfortunately he soon after became insane, his brother John, afterwards first marquess of Hamilton, administering the estates. From the third son, Claud, descends the duke of Abercorn, heir male of the house of Hamilton.

The first marquess of Hamilton had a natural son, Sir John Hamilton of Lettrick, who was legitimated in 1600 and was ancestor of the lords Bargany. His two legitimate sons were James, 3rd marquess and first duke of Hamilton, and William, who succeeded his brother as 2nd duke and was in turn succeeded under the special remainder contained in the patent of dukedom, by his niece Anne, duchess of Hamilton, who was married in 1656 to William Douglas, earl of Selkirk. The history of the descendants of this marriage belongs to the great house of Douglas, the 7th duke of Hamilton becoming the male representative and chief of the house of Douglas, earls of Angus.

The above mentioned Claud Hamilton, who with his brother, the first marquess, had taken so large a part in the cause of Queen Mary, was created a lord of parliament as Lord Paisley in 1587. He had five sons, of whom three settled in Ireland, Sir Claud being ancestor of the Hamiltons of Beltrim and Sir Frederick, distinguished in early life in the Swedish wars, being ancestor of the viscounts Boyne.

James, the eldest son of Lord Paisley, found favour with James VI. and was created in 1603 Lord of Abercorn, and three years later was advanced in the peerage as earl of Abercorn and lord of Paisley, Hamilton, Mountcastell and Kilpatrick. His eldest son James, 2nd earl of Abercorn, eventually heir male of the house of Hamilton and successor to the dukedom of Châtellerault, was created in his father’s lifetime lord of Strabane in Ireland, but he resigned this title in 1633 in favour of his brother Claud, whose grandson, Claud, 5th Lord Strabane, succeeded eventually as 4th earl of Abercorn. This earl, taking the side of James II., was with him in Ireland, his estate and title being afterwards forfeited, while his kinsman Gustavus Hamilton, afterwards first Lord Boyne, raised several regiments for William III., and greatly distinguished himself in the service of that monarch. His brother Charles, 5th earl of Abercorn, who obtained a reversal of the attainder, died without issue surviving in 1701 when the titles passed to his kinsman James Hamilton, grandson of Sir George Hamilton of Donalong in Ireland and great-grandson of the first earl. This branch, most faithful to the house of Stuart, counted among its many members distinguished in military annals Count Anthony Hamilton, author of the Mémoires du comte de Gramont and brother of “la belle Hamilton.” James, 6th earl of Abercorn (whose brother William was ancestor of Hamilton of the Mount, baronet), was a partizan of William III., and obtained in 1701 the additional Irish titles of lord of Mountcastle and viscount of Strabane.

The 8th earl of Abercorn, who was summoned to the Irish house of peers in his father’s lifetime as Lord Mountcastle, was created a peer of Great Britain in 1786 as Viscount Hamilton of Hamilton in Leicestershire, and renewed the family’s connexion with Scotland by repurchasing the barony of Duddingston and later the lordship of Paisley. His nephew and successor was created marquess of Abercorn in 1790, and was father of James, 1st duke of Abercorn.

See the article Hamilton and other articles on the different branches of the family (e.g. Haddington and Belhaven) in Sir J. B. Paul’s edition of Sir R. Douglas’s Peerage of Scotland; and also G. Marshall, Guide to Heraldry and Genealogy.