Douglas, Alexander Hamilton (DNB00)

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DOUGLAS, ALEXANDER HAMILTON, tenth Duke of Hamilton (1767–1852), also Marquis of Hamilton, county Lanark, Marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale, Earl of Angus, Arran, Lanark, and Selkirk, Baron Hamilton, Avon, Polmont, Mackanshire, Innerdale, Abernethy, and Jedburgh Forest, and premier peer in the peerage of Scotland; Duke of Brandon in Suffolk, and Baron Dutton, Co. Chester, in that of Great Britain; Duke of Châtelherault in France,and hereditary keeper of Holyrood House, was born on 5 Oct. 1767 in St. James's Square, London, being the elder son of Archibald, the ninth duke, by Lady Harriet Stewart, fifth daughter of Alexander, sixth earl of Galloway. His earlier years were spent in Italy, where he acquired a taste for the fine arts, and he bore the courtesy title of Marquis of Douglas. In 1801 he returned home, and in the following year was appointed colonel of the Lanarkshire militia and lord-lieutenant of the county. In 1802 he was returned to parliament for the borough of Lancaster as an adherent of the whig party, and made his maiden speech on 22 March 1804 against an alteration in the Militia Bill proposed by Pitt. On the accession of the whigs to power in 1806, he was sent as ambassador to the court of St. Petersburg (28 May), and was sworn of the privy council (19 June). In the same year he was summoned to the house of peers by writ, in his father's barony of Dutton. Recalled on the change of ministry in 1807, he remained in the interior of Russia and Poland until October 1808. He succeeded to the dignity of duke on the death of his father, 16 Feb. 1819, and was appointed a knight of the Garter in 1836. He took no prominent part in the debates of the House of Lords. Hamilton was lord high steward at the coronations of William IV and Queen Victoria. He married, on 26 April 1810, his cousin-german, Susan Euphemia Beckford, second daughter of William Beckford [q. v.], the author of ‘Vathek,’ ‘one of the handsomest women of her time’ (Lord Malmesbury's Memoirs of an ex-Minister, ed. 1855, p. 487), by whom he had issue William Alexander Anthony Archibald [q. v.], and Lady Susan Harriett Catherine, married in 1832 to Lord Lincoln, afterwards Duke of Newcastle, from whom she was divorced in 1850. Hamilton died at his house in Portman Square on 18 Aug. 1852. He was a trustee of the British Museum, vice-president of the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland, F.R.S., and F.S.A.

The chief characteristic of the duke—at least in his later days—was his intense family pride. He firmly believed that as the descendant of the regent Arran he was the true heir to the throne of Scotland. For the same reason he was buried with oriental pomp, after the body had been embalmed, in an Egyptian sarcophagus, which was deposited in a colossal mausoleum erected near Hamilton Palace. On the other hand, acts of generosity are recorded in his favour; he showed great intelligence in the improvement of his estates, and the instincts of a man of refinement in the large collection of pictures and objects of vertu with which he adorned Hamilton Palace. This collection, which included the famous ‘Laughing Boy’ of Leonardo da Vinci and other gems of art, together with a valuable collection of old books and manuscripts, part of which was made by Beckford, was sold by public auction by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson, & Hodge in July 1882. The sale occupied seventeen days, and the unprecedented amount of 397, 562l. was realised (Times, July 1882).

[Anderson's Scottish Nation, vol. ii., article ‘Dukes of Hamilton;’ Gent. Mag. 1852, new ser. xxxviii. 424.]

L. C. S.