Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, James (1477?-1529)

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HAMILTON, JAMES, second Lord Hamilton and first Earl of Arran (1477?–1529), only son of James, first lord Hamilton [q. v.], by his second wife, the Princess Mary Stewart, daughter of James II, was born about 1477. While an infant he succeeded to the estates and honours of the family, on the death of his father in 1479, and on 1 Aug. 1489 he was infeft in the heritable sheriffship of Lanark. By James IV he was made a privy councillor. In 1503 he was sent with other noblemen to England to conclude the negotiations for a marriage between the king and the Princess Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry VII, and he signed the notarial instrument confirming the dower of Margaret (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, iv. entry 1736). Hamilton was a proficient in all the knightly accomplishments of the time, and one of the chief performers at the famous tournaments of the court of James IV. At the tournament held in honour of the king's marriage, Hamilton fought in the barriers with the famous French knight, Anthony D'Arcy de la Bastie. Though neither was victorious, the king was so pleased with the carriage of Lord Hamilton, as well as with his magnificent retinue, that on 11 Aug. he granted him a patent creating him Earl of Arran to him and his heirs male, which failing the patent was to return to the king (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vi. p. 20). He also received a charter of the same date constituting him king's justiciary within the bounds of Arran. Arran and La Bastie had various subsequent encounters (Balfour, Annals, i. 228). As lieutenant-general of the kingdom Arran was sent in 1504 to co-operate with Sir Andrew Wood and Robert Barton in reducing the Western Isles. After his return he was despatched, with ten thousand men, to the assistance of the king of Denmark, whom he succeeded in re-establishing on his throne (Lesley, History, Bannatyne ed. p. 72). In 1507 he was sent with the Archbishop of St. Andrews on an embassy to France. The negotiations aroused the jealousy of Henry VII, and on the return of Arran and his natural brother, Sir Patrick Hamilton, through England, they were arrested in Kent, and committed to prison. Notwithstanding the remonstrances of the Scottish king, they were probably detained in England till the death of Henry VII.

On the accession of Henry VIII, there was a short revival of friendship between England and Scotland. On 29 Aug. 1509 Arran signed a renewal of the treaty between the two kingdoms (Cal. State Papers, Henry VIII, i. entry 474), and also on 24 Nov. witnessed a renewal of the notarial attestation of James IV (ib. 714). When James afterwards took the French side, Arran, who, chiefly on account of his knightly accomplishments, had been appointed generalissimo of the kingdom, was placed in command of the expedition which in 1513 was sent to the aid of the king of France. The fleet was one of the largest that had ever been assembled, and Arran, on board the Great Michael, had its sole direction. Owing to his bad seamanship, or from stress of weather, he landed at Carrickfergus, which he stormed and plundered. He then returned to Ayr, where, according to Pitscottie, his ‘men landit and played themselves, and reposed for the space of forty days.’ The king, incensed at his remissness, despatched Sir Andrew Wood to supersede him in the command. Arran refused to give over his office, and ‘pulled up sails and passed wherever he pleased, thinking that he would come to France in due time’ (Pitscottie). During his absence occurred the battle of Flodden. Of the results of Arran's expedition there is no certain information. The French government bought one at least of the larger ships, and Arran returned to Scotland with only some of the smaller vessels. Before the return of Arran the marriage of the Earl of Angus [see Douglas, Archibald, sixth earl (1489?–1557)] to the queen-dowager, Margaret Tudor, stimulated the rivalry between the Douglases and Hamiltons. Angus had the support of Henry VIII. Arran was countenanced by France, with which Scotland was in close alliance. He supported the regency of Albany, brother of James III, only so far as it held in check the pretensions of Angus, but the prolonged visits of Albany to France rendered his regency almost nominal. Arran returned to Scotland along with his rival, La Bastie, whom Albany, on being chosen regent, sent over as his representative till he himself should arrive. Not long after his return Arran made a fruitless attempt to seize Angus by an ambuscade. Until the arrival of Albany in May 1515, the young king remained in the hands of Angus and the queen-dowager. Arran supported Albany in the proceedings which led to the flight of Angus and the queen-dowager to England, and when Lord Home, one of the few nobles who supported Angus, was taken prisoner, he was committed by Albany to the custody of Arran in Edinburgh Castle. Home now flattered Arran with the hope that Angus and the queen-dowager would support his claims to the regency. The two therefore retired to the borders to have a conference with Angus. Home thus obtained his liberty, and possibly on reaching the borders Arran recognised that he had been deceived. At all events when Albany proceeded to lay siege to Cadzow Castle, Arran, at the request of his mother, the Princess Mary, who had interceded for him, agreed to return on a promise of pardon. Dissatisfied, however, with his position, he shortly afterwards entered into a confederacy with other nobles to wrest the government from Albany. The royal magazines at Glasgow were seized, and Arran also made himself master of Dumbarton Castle, but the promptitude of Albany prevented the movement from going further, and Arran again came to terms. On the departure of Albany for France in 1517, Arran was chosen one of the council of regency, of which Angus was also a member. By the members of the council Arran was ultimately chosen president, and virtually acted as governor of the kingdom. Shortly after Albany's departure La Bastie, who had been made one of the wardens of the marches, was on 20 Sept. led into an ambuscade by Home of Wedderburn and others, and murdered. Arran was thereupon made warden of the marches, and placed in command of a large force to punish the murder. Arran apprehended Sir George Douglas, brother of Angus, who was supposed to have instigated the crime, and, taking possession of the principal border fortresses, compelled Lord Home and others to take refuge in England (letter of the estates of Scotland to the king of France, in Teulet, Relations politiques de la France et de l'Espagne avec l'Ecosse, i. 11–13; letter of Arran to the king of France on the same subject, ib. 15–16; Cal. State Papers, Henry VIII, ii. entry 4048; Lesley, Hist. of Scotl. Bannatyne ed. p. 117), but the Scottish nobles generally approved secretly of the murder, and no further punishment was inflicted on those concerned. In 1517 Arran was chosen provost of Edinburgh, but having gone to Dalkeith with the young king on account of an outbreak of small-pox, he on returning to the city in September of the following year found the gates shut against him, and the city in the possession of the Douglases, who secured the election to the provostship of Archibald Douglas, uncle of Angus. Arran endeavoured to force an entrance, but was repulsed with heavy loss, and for some time after this the city remained in the hands of Angus. On account, however, of the constant feuds between the two factions, Albany interposed, and on his recommendation that no person of the name of Hamilton or Douglas should be chosen provost, Robert Logan in 1520 succeeded Archibald Douglas. Arran now ventured into the city, and finding that Angus had relaxed his precautions, and was attended by only about four hundred followers, resolved to overpower them. All endeavours to mediate between the rival factions failed, and Arran, provoked by the attitude of the Douglases, drawn up across the street, attempted to ‘cleanse the causeway.’ After a short and fierce struggle his followers were routed with great loss, the famous knight, his half-brother, Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavel, father of Patrick Hamilton the martyr [q. v.], being among the slain. Arran and his son James, afterwards second earl of Arran, made their escape down a close. Angus usurped the government of the kingdom, but a quarrel with his wife, the queen-dowager, led to the return of Albany and the banishment of Angus. During the absence of Albany in France in 1522 Arran formed one of the council of regency. In September of the following year he was appointed lieutenant over the greater part of the south of Scotland, including Teviotdale and the marches with Lothian, Stirlingshire, and Linlithgowshire (Cal. State Papers, Henry VIII, vol. iii. entry 3208). He now entered into an understanding with the queen-dowager, and so thwarted the proceedings of Albany that the latter in 1524 retired to France. With the sanction, if not at the instigation, of Henry VIII, Arran and the queen-dowager now brought the young prince from Stirling to Edinburgh, where a council was held, at which he was erected as king, and proclamations issued in his name. Arran and the queen-dowager hoped to prevent the return of Angus to power, and urged Henry VIII to detain him in England. Henry tried to secure Arran's devotion by a small pension, but distrusted him, and resented his attempt at a bargain. Norfolk advised Wolsey that if Angus were in Scotland, Arran would be compelled to abate his high tone (ib. iv. 739). On 23 Nov. 1524 Angus entered Edinburgh with a large force, and demanded that the king should be given up to the custody of the nobles; but Arran having threatened to open fire on him from the castle, he withdrew to Tantallon. Arran and the queen-dowager now proposed to Henry a pacification, and a marriage between the young king and the Princess Mary, and to show their sincerity sent an embassy to France to declare that the regency of Albany was at an end. Wolsey was convinced, however, that Angus ‘would be more useful to England than five Earls of Arran.’ Henry had also committed himself to Angus. His neutrality compelled the queen-dowager to admit Angus on the council of regency, and at the opening of the parliament he bore the crown, Arran bearing the sceptre.

At a parliament held in July a compromise was made, practically in the interests of Angus. It was agreed that the care of the king should be committed to a nobleman and an ecclesiastic, who were to be succeeded by other two at the end of three months. Angus and the Archbishop of Glasgow were chosen for the first three months; but at the end of their term of office refused to deliver up the king to their appointed successors, Arran and the Bishop of Aberdeen. Arran thereupon mustered a force and advanced to Linlithgow, but on Angus marching out against him, accompanied by the king, he shrank from taking up the gage of battle, and after a precipitate retirement dispersed his forces. The marriage of the queen-dowager with Henry Stewart shortly afterwards alienated nearly all her former supporters, and Arran now came to terms with Angus, and, although he received no office of trust, supported him against Lennox when the latter endeavoured to obtain possession of the king. Lennox was the nephew of Arran, and his nearest heir, and Arran's divorce of his second wife, by whom he had no children, had caused an alienation between them. On 4 Sept. 1526 he was sent by Angus with a large force to prevent Lennox, who had a secret understanding with the king, from marching on the capital. Arran had seized the bridge over the Avon, near Linlithgow, and sent a messenger to Angus asking for reinforcements. Lennox was hampered with the difficulties of crossing, and after a fierce struggle his lines had begun to waver, when the arrival of the Douglases spread a panic which resulted in utter rout. Lennox was cruelly slain in cold blood by Sir James Hamilton (d. 1540) [q. v.], after he had been taken prisoner. His death was deeply mourned not only by the king, but by Arran, who was seen after the battle ‘weeping verrie bitterlie besyd the Earl of Lennox, saying “the hardiest, stoutest, and wysest man that evir Scotland bure, lyes heir slaine this day,” and laid his cloak of scarlet upon him, and caused watchmen stand about him, quhile the kingis servantis cam and buried him’ (Pitscottie, p. 328). On the forfeiture of the estates of the rebel lords, Arran received a grant of the lands of Cassilis and Evandale. After the escape of the king from the power of the Douglases at Falkland, Arran attended the meeting of the council at Stirling, at which the Douglases were forbidden to approach within six miles of the court on pain of death. He was also one of those who sat on the forfeiture of Angus, and after the act of forfeiture was passed received the lordship of Bothwell (Reg. Mag. Sig. i. entry 707). He died before 21 July 1529.

Arran was married first to Beatrix, daughter of John, lord Drummond, by whom he had a daughter, Margaret, married to Andrew Stewart, lord Evandale and Ochiltree, whose grandson was Captain James Stewart [q. v.], the accuser of the regent Morton, and favourite of James VI, by whom he was created Earl of Arran, while James Hamilton, third earl [q. v.], was still living, but insane. He was married secondly to Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander, lord Home, from whom he was divorced on the ground that her previous husband, Thomas Hay, son and heir of John, lord Hay of Yester, was still living when the marriage took place (notarial copy of sentence of divorce in Cal. of Documents relating to Scotland, iv. 173–9; process of divorce against Elizabeth Home in ‘Hamilton Papers,’ Maitland Club Miscellany, iv. 199; and Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vi. pp. 49–50). By this marriage he had no issue. The legality of the divorce was afterwards disputed by the Earl of Lennox, on the ground that the wife's first husband was dead when the second marriage took place. On this plea Lennox afterwards claimed against the descendants of the third wife—whom he represented to be bastards—to be next heir to the crown. The third wife was Janet, daughter of Sir David Bethune of Creich, comptroller of Scotland, and widow of Sir Thomas Livingstone of Easter Wemyss. By her he had two sons, James, second earl of Arran and duke of Châtelherault [q. v.], and Gavin; and four daughters, first, Isabel, married to John Bannatyne of Corhouse; second, Helen, to Archibald, fourth earl of Argyll; third, Johanna, to Alexander, fifth earl of Glencairn; and fourth, Janet, to David Boswell of Auchinleck. He had also four natural sons whom he acknowledged: Sir James Hamilton of Finnart (d. 1540) [q. v.], ancestor of the Hamiltons of Evandale, Crawfordjohn, &c., Sir John Hamilton of Clydesdale, James Hamilton of Parkhill, and John Hamilton [q. v.], archbishop of St. Andrews.

[Cal. Docs. relating to Scotland, vol. iv.; Cal. State Papers, Henry VIII; Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. vol. i.; Hamilton Papers, in Maitland Club Miscellany, vol. iv.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vi.; Histories of Lindsay of Pitscottie, Bishop Lesley, and Knox; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), i. 697–8.]

T. F. H.