Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, James (1559-1643)

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1341687Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 24 — Hamilton, James (1559-1643)1890Thomas Finlayson Henderson ‎

HAMILTON, JAMES, Viscount Claneboye (1559–1643), was the eldest son of Hans Hamilton, vicar of Dunlop, Ayrshire, by Janet, daughter of James Denham of West Shield. He was probably educated at the university of St. Andrews, where a James Hamilton was made M.A. in 1585. His reputation as 'one of the greatest scholars and hopeful wits of his time' secured him the notice of James VI of Scotland, by whose direction he was sent in 1587, along with Sir James Fullerton, on a secret political mission to Ireland. To mask their purpose they opened a Latin school in Great Ship Street, Dublin, which they carried on with as much energy and zeal as if it were the main purpose of their stay in the city. Among their pupils were the future Archbishop Ussher, who was accustomed to reckon it among God's special providences to him that he had the opportunity and advantage of his education from those men who came thither by chance, and yet proved so happily useful to himself and others ' (Pake, Life of Ussher, p. 3) . On the establishment of Trinity College, Dublin, he was in 1592 appointed one of the fellows. In August 1600 he was sent by James to London to act as his agent in connection with the negotiations for the succession to the English throne (Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. ii. 784, 785). While there he witnessed the Essex rebellion, of which he wrote an account in a letter of 8 Feb. 1600-1. After the accession of James to the English throne he for some years attended on the court at Whitehall, and besides receiving the honour of knighthood was made serjeant-at-law. On the forfeiture of Irish lands he received large grants from the king, including a grant on 16 April 1605 of the territories of Upper Claneboye and the great Ardes (State Papers, Irish Ser. 1603-6, p. 271). Additional grants were bestowed in subsequent years, and he ultimately became one of the most powerful and wealthy of the English settlers in the north of Ireland. At Killelagh he built 'ane very stronge castle; the lyk is not in the northe.' He also specially interested himself in the further- ance of presbyterianism, and 'planted his estate with pious ministers from Scotland.' In 1613 he was chosen to represent county Down In parliament. In August 1619 he was appointed one of the commissioners for the plantation of Longford. On 4 May 1622 he was raised to the peerage by the title of Viscount Claneboye in the county of Down and Baron Hamilton. From Charles I he received on 20 Aug. 1630 the entire lately dissolved monastery of Bangor, and on 14 July 1634 he was appointed a member of the privy council. On the outbreak of the rebellion in 1641 he received a commission for raising the Scots in the north, and putting them in arms. This was done by him with such expedition and thoroughness that Ulster was preserved entirely free from disturbance. Hamilton is described as having been 'of a robust, healthful body.' He died in 1643, at the age of eighty-four, and was buried in the church of Bangor. His five younger brothers all followed him to Ireland, and each succeeded in acquiring wealth. He was thrice married, first to Penelope Cook; secondly to Ursula, sixth daughter of Edward, lord Brabazon of Ardee; and thirdly to Jane, daughter of Sir John Phillips of Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire, first Baron Pembroke. By his third wife he had an only son, James, who succeeded to the estates and honours, and was also created in 1647 Earl of Clanbrassill. Lord Claneboye erected a monument to his father in the church of Dunlop, and also erected and endowed a school in the parish.

[Lowry, the Hamilton MSS. 1867; Ayr and Wigton Archæological Collections, iv. 29-30; Cal. State Papers (Scotch and Irish Ser.); Court of James I; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland (Archdall), iii. 1-3.]

T. F. H.