Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, James (1589-1625)

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HAMILTON, JAMES, second Marquis of Hamilton (1589–1625), son of Lord John Hamilton, first marquis [q. v.], and Lady Margaret Lyon, was born in 1589. His companion in his youthful studies was George Eglisham [q. v.], afterwards a physician and poet, to whom he remained a friend and patron through life. He succeeded his father as marquis on 12 April 1604, and his uncle as Earl of Arran in March 1609. In 1604 he offered his services to King James VI, in continuation of those rendered by his father to the crown, which were accepted; and the king, in consideration of the loyalty and sufferings of the family, confirmed to him in 1608 the lands of the abbey of Arbroath, erecting them into a temporal lordship in his favour, with the title of a lord of parliament. He was appointed a privy councillor of Scotland on 14 Jan. 1613, of England in August 1617, gentleman of the bed-chamber on 4 March 1620–1, and lord steward of the household on 28 Feb. 1624, and among other tokens of the royal favour was created on 16 June 1619 an English peer, with the titles of Earl of Cambridge and Baron of Ennerdale in Cumberland. He was spoken of in 1618 for the office of lord treasurer, and in the following year for that of lord chamberlain. In April 1619, when James thought himself dying, Hamilton was specially recommended to Prince Charles by the king on account of his fidelity. On 3 Nov. 1620 he became a member of the council for the plantation of New England. In the discussion on Bacon's sentence in the House of Lords in May 1621, Hamilton spoke in favour of leniency, and suggested the compromise (finally adopted) by which Bacon was excluded from the house and from court, without being degraded personally. He was appointed lord high commissioner to the Scottish parliament held at Edinburgh in July 1621, receiving 10,000l. for his expenses, and succeeded, in spite of great opposition, and much to the king's gratification, in enacting into law the Five Articles of Perth (Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, iv. 592 et seq.) He was one of the commissioners for the treaty with Spain in connection with the projected marriage of Prince Charles to the Infanta, and he was appointed to receive the Infanta at Southampton (May 1623). On the preceding St. George's Day, 15 April, he was installed as a knight of the garter, and it was intended to create him a duke. But the failure of the Spanish negotiations apparently defeated that intention.


In the debate in the council in January 1623-1624 on the question of the marriage Hamilton voted 'neutral,' and on the question of declaring war with Spain he, although usually opposed to Spain, advocated peace; but two months later he was suspected by Laf uente, the Spanish ambassador, of employing Frenchmen to rob him of his despatches near Amiens, at Buckingham's instigation, in order to increase the difficulties between England and Spain. In the following April Hamilton dissuaded Buckingham from avenging his personal animosity by submitting the Earl of Bristol to the indignity of imprisonment in the Tower, and in September strongly opposed Buckingham's policy of subserviency to France. In 1624 he was instructed to report on the propositions of the treaty of Frankenthal. He died of a malignant fever at Whitehall on 2 March 1624-5, and his body, after being carried to 'Fisher's Folly,' his house outside Bishopsgate, by torchlight and with much ceremony, was conveyed to Scotland for interment. When the news of his death was communicated to the king he exclaimed, 'If the branches be thus cut down, the stock cannot continue long' (Aikman, iii. 382). The kin followed his servant to the grave on the 23rd of the same month. Hamilton's protegé, George Eglisham, unwarrantably charged Buckingham, in his 'Prodromus Vindictæ,' 1626, with having poisoned his patron. Sir Philip Warwick describes Hamilton as 'a goodly, proper, and graceful gentleman' (Memoirs, p. 102), and Chamberlain, the letter-writer, says that he was 'held the gallantest gentleman of both nations,' and 'the flower of that nation' (Scotland) (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1617-25). Chamberlain also says that the Scots wished the marquis to marry Elizabeth, eldest daughter of King James (ib. 1612); but he married (contract dated 30 Jan. 1603) Lady Anne Cunningham, fourth daughter of James, earl of Glencairn,by whom he had two sons, James, third marquis and first duke [q. v.], and William, second duke [q. v.], with three daughters. The marchioness survived her husband, and was prominent on the side of the covenanters in their conflict with Charles I. She raised a troop of horse in 1639, and rode at their head to the field, armed with pistol and dagger. Their coronets bore as a device a hand repelling a book (the service book), and, as a motto, 'For God, the King, Religion, and the Covenant.' Her elder son, James, in the interests of the king, led a fleet into the Firth of Forth, and she dared him to land, at the risk of being shot by his mother's hand. She had silver bullets specially provided for the occasion (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1639, pp. 146, 163, 282). She made her last will in 1644, and it is a highly characterisic document (quoted fully in the Historical MSS. Commission Report, No. xi. pt. vi.; Hamilton MSS. pp. 55-7). Hamilton's portrait was painted by Paul Van Somer. There are engravings by Martin Droeshout, 1623, and by Vaughan.

[Hist. MSS. Comm. llth Rep. pt. vi.; Hamilton MSS. pp. 8-46, 69; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, ed. Wood, i. 703, 704; Gardiner's Hist, of England; Doyle's Official Baronage, s. v. 'Cambridge;' Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611-25.]

H. P.