Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, Patrick
HAMILTON, PATRICK (1504?–1528), Scottish martyr, was a younger son of Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavel in Linlithgowshire and Stanehouse in Lanarkshire. His mother was Catherine Stewart, daughter of Alexander, duke of Albany, second son of James II. Sir Patrick, his father, an illegitimate son of Sir James Hamilton of Cadzow, first lord Hamilton [q. v.], was legitimated by a letter under the great seal dated 20 Jan. 1513, and by another charter of that year was nominated heir to the Hamilton estates by James, second lord Hamilton and first earl of Arran [q. v.], failing his own lawful children and Sir James Hamilton of Finnart [q. v.], his natural son. Patrick Hamilton was born probably in 1504, but possibly a few years earlier, at Stanehouse, his father's residence near Hamilton, or at Kincavel. He entered himself in the register of the university of Paris as 'Patricius Hamelton, Glasguensis nobilis,' which seems to refer to the diocese of Glasgow, in which Stanehouse is situated; but the later entry of his name on the wall of Marburg University as 'A Litgovien, Scotus,' would apply to Kincavel. He was probably educated at Linlithgow school. In 1517 the abbey of Feme, vacated by the death of Andrew Stewart, bishop of Caithness, was conferred on him, and in that or the previous year he went to the university of Paris, where he graduated as master of arts in 1520. He studied either at the College de Grisy, the Scots College endowed by David Murray, bishop of Moray in the reign of Robert the Bruce, or at the College of Montague, where the fame of John Major [q. v.], the theologian and historian, attracted many of his countrymen. Luther's writings, burnt by a decree of the Sorbonne in 1521, were already exciting attention in France, and must have first come under Hamilton's notice when a student at Paris.
Alexander Alesius [q. v.], who afterwards made the acquaintance of Hamilton at St. Andrews, states that Hamilton studied at Louvain as well as Paris. The study of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin had been introduced at Louvain by Hieronymus Busleidius at the instance of Erasmus in 1517, twelve years before the foundation of the Collegium Trilingue by Francis I. Alesius mentions that Hamilton was in favour 'of banishing all sophistry from the schools, and recalling philosophy to its sources the original writings of Aristotle and Plato.' The reference to Plato, whose study in the works of Pico de Mirandola had been condemned by the university of Paris, supports the view that Hamilton during or after his Paris course went to Louvain. But no record of his residence there has been discovered. Nor is the precise date of his return to Scotland known, but he was incorporated in the university of St. Andrews on 9 June 1523, the same day as John Major, who had been brought from the university of Glasgow by James Beaton, created in that year archbishop of St. Andrews. The Earl of Arran, the head of the Hamiltons, had married a niece of Beaton, and this connection, or the desire to continue under the instruction of Major, may have induced Hamilton to go to St. Andrews. Still a minor, he found himself an orphan on his return home, his father having fallen in the fight of 'Cleanse the Causeway ' with the rival house of Douglas in 1520. His elder brother, Sir James, followed the profession of arms, but Patrick, as was natural in a younger son, was destined for the church. On 3 Oct. 1524 Patrick Hamilton was admitted ad eundem to the degree of master of arts in St. Andrews. It is not said in the records to which of its colleges he attached himself, but it was probably to St. Leonard's, where Major taught, and where the pupils going beyond their teacher were most inclined to the new learning and doctrines. Hamilton pursued his studies in theology, and perhaps took part in the teaching of arts. A knowledge of music, especially the Gregorian chant, was required as a condition of entrance to St. Leonard's, and in music Hamilton was a proficient. Alesius records that he composed a mass for nine voices, in- tended for the office in the missal which begins 'Benedicant Dominum omnes angeli ejus,' and superintended its execution in the cathedral as precentor of the choir.
In 1525 the Scottish parliament forbade the importation of books containing the damnable heresies of Luther on pain of imprisonment. In the following year Hamilton began publicly to show his sympathy with the proscribed doctrines. The suspicion of Beaton was roused, and an inquisition or theological commission of inquiry was issued in Lent 1527, whose report confirmed it. Hamilton, to avoid further proceedings, went abroad early in spring. He was accompanied by Gilbert Wynram of Lothian, John Hamilton of Linlithgow, and one servant, and went at once to Wittenberg, where he made the personal acquaintance of Luther and Melanchthon. The foundation of Marburg, the first protestant university, by Philip, landgrave of Hesse, induced him to pass to the new university on the Lahn, where on 30 May he and his two friends enrolled their names among its first students. At Marburg he had the opportunity of profiting by the society of Lambert, the head of the theological faculty, Herman von dem Busche, one of the leading humanists, a contributor to the 'Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum,' Tyndale, the translator of the Bible into English, and his disciple, John Frith. At the instance of Lambert, Hamilton himself took part in spreading the principles of the Reformation by the composition of his short and only work entitled 'Loci Communes,' or 'Common Places,' in which the doctrine of justification by faith and the contrast between the gospel and the law were set forth in a series of clear and pithy propositions. 'Patrick's Pleas,' as they were familiarly called, were framed almost literally in the words of the New Testament. They were inserted in the 'History of the Reformation' by Knox, and in the 'Acts and Monuments' of Foxe, and so became a corner-stone of protestant theology both in Scotland and England.
After remaining only six months in Germany Hamilton returned home in the autumn of 1527, leaving his two companions at Marburg. It is reasonably conjectured that he went first to his brother's house at Kincavel, and preached his new creed there and at other places in the neighbourhood of Linlithgow. His brother already favoured the Reformation, for which he afterwards suffered exile. His sister Catherine was tried, and narrowly escaped condemnation as a heretic in 1534. About this time Patrick married 'a young lady of noble rank,' according to Alesius, but her name has not been preserved. A daughter was born after her father's death. He had refused to become a monk, and the office of abbot or pensionary of Feme was no impediment to marriage. He probably had been ordained a priest, but of this there is no record. It was natural that he should follow the example of Luther, and give a practical protest against celibacy. Beaton induced Hamilton to come to St. Andrews for a conference in January 1528. He was not blind to the probable consequences. 'While yet with his relations in Linlithgowshire,' says Alesius, 'he predicted that he had not long to live,' and when he entered St. Andrews 'he said he had come to confirm the pious in the true doctrine by his death.' After several meetings with Beaton and the theological doctors, who, according to Knox, admitted the need for reform, Hamilton was dismissed, and allowed without hindrance to teach in the university of St. Andrews.
He used his liberty by disputing openly on all the points on which he conceived a reformation to be necessary. He also argued privately with Alexander Campbell, a Dominican friar, who, professing so far to agree with him, became afterwards one of his most vehement accusers, and with Alexander Alesius, who, striving to convince him of his errors, was himself convinced, and became a leading reformer. It is uncertain whether Hamilton's freedom, which continued for a month, was intended to provide clear materials for his accusation, or to give him another opportunity of leaving the country, which Beaton is said to have privately advised him to do. Summoned to appear before the archbishop and his council for heresy, he appeared before the appointed day to answer the charges, thirteen in number, of which the first seven contained substantially the doctrine he had asserted in his 'Common Places,' the cardinal one being 'that a man is not justified by works, but by faith only.' The remaining six were pointed at special articles of the Roman creed, such as penance, auricular confession, and purgatory. The boldest was the declaration that the pope was anti-christ, and not superior to any other priest. When interrogated he said he held the first seven undoubtedly true ; for the rest he ad- mitted they were disputable, but he would not condemn them until he heard better reason for doing so. The articles were then remitted to the council, who declared the whole thirteen heretical, and appointed judgment to be given on the last day of February 1528.
The captain of the castle surrounded his lodgings with troops, and although his friends offered to fight rather than deliver him up, he surrendered, it is said, on an assurance that he would be restored to them without injury. At the meeting of the council the charges were again read, and the judgment of their heretical character announced. Friar Campbell then engaged in a disputation with Hamilton upon the articles seriatim. His argument was little more than denunciation, to which Hamilton replied by reasserting them. When he came to the last, which concerned the authority of the pope, Campbell turned to the assembly and said, 'My lord archbishop, you hear he denies the institutions of Holy Kirk and the authority of the pope. I need not to accuse him any more,' Beaton, in name of the council, at once pronounced final sentence, declaring him a heretic, depriving him of all ecclesiastical orders, offices, and benefices, and delivering him over to the secular arm. No time was lost in executing this sentence. The young king was absent at a pilgrimage to Tain in Ross-shire, and Angus, who exercised the chief authority during his absence, was not likely to interfere to save a Hamilton. But his brother, Sir James Hamilton, had collected a force in Lothian, and several of the gentry of Fife, in particular his friend Duncan of Airdrie, were known to be eager to strike a blow on his behalf. It is not known what official gave the necessary warrant, but it was procured the same day (29 Feb.), and a little before noon the captain of the castle brought hinrfrom it to the place of execution on the high ground adjoining and facing the sea. Before being bound to the stake he gave his clothes to his executioner, and his Bible, probably one of Tyndale's version, of which many had reached Scotland, to a friend. The fagots and powder had in the hurry not been brought in sufficient quantity, and at first only his right arm and side were burnt. Some zealots a baker, Myrton, is mentioned by name brought more straw, and others fresh billets and powder. Vain attempts were made to get him to repeat the Ave Maria, to which his only reply was to ask his accusers to prove the truth of their religion 'by putting a little finger into the fire with which I am burning with my whole body.' To the taunt of heresy addressed to him by Campbell, he answered calmly, ' Brother, you do not in your heart believe that I am a heretic.' His death was slow. According to Alesius, it was six o'clock before the body was reduced to ashes. Hamilton was, according to one account, only twenty-four years old, certainly under thirty, when he suffered. His youth, his noble blood, his recent marriage, and his unflinching courage moved the hearts of the spectators;' the reek of Patrick Hamilton infected all it blew on.' Several witnesses of the scene, some sooner, some later, embraced the principles of the Reformation. It was the distinguishing mark of Hamilton that he represented in Scotland the Lutheran rather than the earlier Wycliffite or the later Calvinist phase of the Reformation.
[Knox's Hist, of the Reformation ; Buchanan and Lindsay of Pitscottie's Histories of Scotland ; the writings of Alexander Alesius and the records of St. Andrews and Paris are the original authorities ; Life of Patrick Hamilton, by the Rev. Peter Lorimer, 1857, to which this article is much indebted ; and Patrick Hamilton, a poem by T. B. Johnston of Cairnie, 1873.]