Hamilton, John (1511?-1571) (DNB00)

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HAMILTON, JOHN (1511?–1571), archbishop of St. Andrews, was a natural son of James Hamilton, first earl of Arran [q. v.] When only a boy he was made a monk in the Benedictine monastery at Kilwinning, and in 1525 'the yonge thinge,' as Magnus calls him, was, at the instance of James V, appointed by the pope abbot of Paisley. He was then, according to the king's account, in his fourteenth year. In 1540 he went for three years to Paris to study, it is said, at the university. On his return in April 1543 he found his half-brother, the regent Arran, showing favour to protestants, and Cardinal Beaton in disgrace. Henry VIII and Knox had at this time apparently some reason to hope that Hamilton would also lean to their side. He had, says Knox, 'a reputation for learning, an honest life, and uprightness in religion.' Hamilton, however, used his influence with his weak brother in support of the French and catholic party; reconciled Arran and Beaton, and at once rose to be a power in the state. He was appointed keeper of the privy seal in 1543, in 1545 was nominated to the bishopric of Dunkeld, still retaining his abbacy of Paisley, and on the murder of Beaton in May 1546 succeeded him as archbishop of St. Andrews and primate of Scotland, and shortly afterwards was made treasurer.

In the hope of restoring ecclesiastical discipline and thereby of stemming the tide of protestantism, the archbishop held a succession of synods—at Linlithgow in 1548, in Edinburgh in 1549 and 1552, and lastly on the eve of the Reformation in 1559. The council of 1552 under his presidency promulgated a catechism which goes by the name of Hamilton's Catechism, intended to be read by parish priests on Sundays in place of a sermon; and although it is not probable that the archbishop actually composed any portion of the book, which is remarkable for its moderate tone and a significant silence upon the papal supremacy, the catechism undoubtedly represents his own theological tendency at the time. With the same object of 'defending and confirming the catholic faith,' he completed and, by virtue of a bull of Julius III, amply endowed St. Mary's College, St. Andrews. He incurred, indeed, odium for the persecution of heretics, and especially for burning Mylne, an old man of over eighty years of age. His immorality had, moreover, become notorious. He lived for many years with Grizzel Sempill, the daughter of his friend the Master of Sempill and wife or widow of James Hamilton of Stanehouse, sometime lord provost of Edinburgh. By this lady he had three children two of whom were legitimated a few months before the publication of the catechism. In 1559, it is said, she hoped to marry the archbishop, and in the following year she was expelled in disgrace from Edinburgh by the city magistrates.

Hamilton was present at the parliament of 1560 which accepted the new confession of faith, and feebly protested. The doctrine if the church, he afterwards admitted, may lave needed some reformation, but it was dangerous to overturn the old polity. On 19 May 1563 he was tried with forty-seven other persons for hearing confession and asisting at mass, and was committed to ward. For the remainder of his life he showed limself an unscrupulous partisan of Mary, though his motives, and those of the Hamiltons generally with whom he acted, have been variously interpreted. In 1566 he was a member of the queen's privy council, and on 15 Dec. baptised her son, afterwards James VI. On 23 Dec. 1566 Mary suddenly restored to the archbishop his ancient consistorial jurisdiction, which had been abolished six years before. The general assembly, however, protested, and the only use Hamilton is known to have made of tiis office was on 3 May 1567 to pronounce the divorce between James Hepburn, earl of Bothwell [q. v.], and Lady Jane Gordon, on account of an impediment of consanguinity-an impediment for which the archbishop himself as legate a latere had given the requisite dispensation only fourteen months previously. From this time he led a troubled life. He assisted the queen to escape from Lochleven, and was present at the battle of Langside, at which two of his sons were taken prisoners. Hamilton advised Mary not to leave Scotland, but in vain. He was declared a traitor by the regent Moray, and thereon took refuge in Dumbarton Castle, where he was captured 2 April 1571. He had been accused, without proof, of having been accessory to the murder of Darnley, and with more probability of complicity in the assassination of the regent Moray by the hand of his kinsman, James Hamilton [q. v.] of Bothwellhaugh. After a hurried form of trial he was hanged, clothed in his pontifical vestments, at the market-place of Stirling, 6 April 1571. One who was present at the execution relates that the archbishop confessed a guilty knowledge of the regent's murder, and asked God's mercy for not having prevented it.

Hamilton's Catechism was first printed in black-letter by John Scott at St. Andrews in 1552, and was the first book printed at that town. This edition is now very rare, scarcely a dozen copies being known. It bore the title : 'The Catechisme, that is to say ane comone and catholick instructioun of the Christiane people in materis of our Catholick faith ... set forth be Johne Archbishop of Sainct Androus.' The catechism was edited, with an introduction, by the present writer in 1884. There also appeared under Hamilton's name, 'Ane godlie exhortatioun maid and sett forth be the . . . Johane Arch bishop of Sainctandrous. . . . With the auyse of the Prouinciale Counsale . . . to al Vicaris, Curatis, &c. ... to be red and schawin be thame to the Christiane peple quhen ony ar to resaue the said Blyssit Sacrament, pp. 4, 4to (John Scott, St. Andrews, 1559) This was known as the 'Twopenny Faith from the price at which it was sold. A facsimile of the first edition from the only known copy was printed in the 'Bannatyne Miscellany,' iii. 315. The Catechism and 'Twopenny Faith' were published together in 1882 by authority of the Church of Scotland.

[Crawfurd's Officers of State; Dr. Cameron Lees's Abbey of Paisley, 1878, where extracts from the State Papers referring to Hamilton's career are printed in full; Robertson's Concilia Scotiæ (Bannatyne Club), i. 147-82; Hamilton's Catechism, Oxford, 1884; Lyon's Hist. of St. Andrews; Gordon's Scotichronicon, i. 284-294; A Lost Chapter in the History of Mary Queen of Scots recovered, by John Stuart, p. 93; Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 204.]

T. G. L.