Tuesday, 5 November 2019

1st Duke of Hamilton


This illustrious family is said to be descended from William de Hamilton, one of the younger sons of Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl of Leicester, which Sir William's son,

SIR GILBERT DE HAMILTON, having expressed himself at the court of EDWARD II in admiration of King ROBERT THE BRUCE, received a blow from John de Spencer, which led, the following day, to an encounter, wherein Spencer fell; and Hamilton sought security in Scotland, about 1323.

Being closely pursued, however, in his flight, he and his servant changed clothes with two woodcutters, and taking their saws, were in the act of cutting through an oak-tree when his pursuers passed by.

Perceiving his servant notice them, Sir Gilbert hastily cried out to him, "Through"; which word, with the oak, and saw through it, he took for his crest, in commemoration of his deliverance.

This detail is, however, liable to many objections.

Sir William Dugdale, in his account of the Earls of Leicester, is totally silent as to the descent of the Hamiltons from Robert, 3rd Earl.

That nobleman, according to Sir William, had three sons,
ROBERT, 4th Earl of Leicester;
ROGER, Bishop of St Andrew's and Chancellor of Scotland;
WILLIAM, a leper, founder of the hospital of St Leonard, Leicester.
That this last William predeceased his eldest brother without issue is evident from the circumstance of the great inheritance of the Earls of Leicester devolving, on the decease of the 4th Earl, in 1204, upon his sisters; and Simon de Montfort, the husband of the eldest, having, in her right, the title of Earl of Leicester.

WILLIAM DE HAMILTON occurs frequently in Thomas Rymer's "Fœdora" from 1274 to 1306, being employed by EDWARD I in various negotiations and transactions of importance.

He was appointed Dean of York, 1298, and High Chancellor of England in 1305.

This is the first of the name noticed in the "Fœdora".

It appears somewhat earlier, however, in Scotland; GILBERT DE HAMILTON being on record in the chartulary of Paisley in 1272.

The younger son of this Gilbert, John, was ancestor of the Earls of Haddington; the elder,

SIR WALTER DE HAMILTON, swore fealty to EDWARD I in 1292 and 1294.

Attaching himself to King Robert, he had divers grants of lands, amongst others, the barony of Kinneil and Cadzow (now Hamilton), in the sheriffdom of Lanark.

From this Sir Walter lineally descended

DAVID, one of the persons who took the oath of allegiance to EDWARD I, in 1292.

From this gentleman descended

SIR JAMES HAMILTON, of Cadzow, created Lord Hamilton in 1445; and succeeded, in 1479, by his only son,

JAMES, 2nd Lord, who was advanced to an earldom, in 1503, as Earl of Arran, and was succeeded, in 1529, by his only son,

JAMES, 2nd Earl, who, having been declared by the parliament of Scotland, in 1543, heir-presumptive to the crown of that kingdom, was, in consequence thereof, appointed tutor to QUEEN MARY, and governor of the realm during Her Majesty's minority.

In five years afterwards, his lordship was invested with the French Order of Saint Michael; and created, by HENRY II of France, DUKE OF CHÂTELLERAULT, in Poitou.

His Grace married the Lady Margaret Douglas, eldest daughter of James, Earl of Morton, and died in 1575, when he was succeeded in his honours by his eldest son,

JAMES, 3rd Earl; but, in consequence of the mental incapacity of that nobleman, His Grace's estates descended to his second son,

THE HON JOHN HAMILTON, who, with his younger brother, Claude, was banished from Scotland in 1579; but, returning in 1585, the act of forfeiture was annulled, and he was elevated to the peerage, as Marquess of Hamilton.

His lordship died in 1604, and was succeeded by his son,

JAMES, 2nd Marquess, KG, who, upon the demise of his uncle, James, Earl of Arran (already mentioned as mentally unstable) and Duke of Châtellerault, in 1609, succeeded to the family honours.

His lordship obtained an English peerage, in 1619, by the titles of Baron Innerdale, and Earl of Cambridge.

He wedded the Lady Anne Cunningham, daughter of James, Earl of Glencairn, by whom he had two sons and three daughters.

His lordship died in 1625, and was succeeded by his son,

JAMES, 3rd Marquess, KG, who was created, in 1633, Marquess of Clydesdale; and, in 1643, was further advanced to the dignity of a dukedom, as DUKE OF HAMILTON.

His Grace espousing warmly and actively the cause of his royal master, CHARLES I, was defeated and taken prisoner at the battle of Preston, and suffered decapitation at Old Palace Yard in 1648.

He had married the Lady Mary Feilding, daughter of William, 1st Earl of Denbigh, by whom he had four sons, who died in infancy, and two daughters, Lady Anne, and Lady Susanna, who wedded John, Earl of Cassillis.

His Grace was succeeded by his brother,

WILLIAM, 2nd Duke, who had himself been elevated to the peerage, in 1639, as Lord Machanshyre and Polmont, and Earl of Lanark.

His Grace wedded Lady Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress of James, Earl of Dirletoun, by whom he had a son, who died in infancy, and five daughters.

The Duke received a mortal wound in the service of CHARLES II, at the unfortunate battle of Worcester, and dying without male issue, his English titles were extinguished; but the dukedom of Hamilton etc devolved upon (the daughter of the late Duke) his niece,

ANNE, 3rd Duchess, who wedded

WILLIAM DOUGLAS, eldest son of William, 1st Marquess of Douglas, and obtained, by petition, for him, after her marriage, the title of Duke of Hamilton, for life.

He had been previously elevated to the peerage as Earl of Selkirk.

The issue of this marriage were seven sons and three daughters.

His Grace died in 1694, and was succeeded in the earldom of Selkirk by his eldest son,

JAMES, to whom the Duchess, a few years afterwards, surrendered her title.

His Grace obtained an English peerage, in 1711, as Baron Dulton, Cheshire, and DUKE OF BRANDON, in Suffolk; but, upon applying for his seat in the House of Lords, it was objected that, by the 23rd Article of Union, "no peer of Scotland could, after the Union, be created a peer of England"; and the Upper House so resolved, after a protracted debate, in 1710.

His Grace married Lady Anne, daughter of Robert, Earl of Sunderland, by whom he had two daughters; and secondly, Elizabeth, daughter and sole heiress of Digby, Lord Gerrard, of Bromley, by whom he had seven offspring.

The Duke having accepted a challenge from Charles, Lord Mohun, engaged that nobleman in Hyde Park, in 1712; and, having slain his opponent, fell himself, it was suspected, through the treachery of George Macartney, Lord Mohun's second, for whose apprehension a reward was subsequently offered.

His Grace was succeeded by his son,

JAMES, 5th Duke, who wedded thrice: By his first wife, Lady Anne, daughter of John, Earl of Dundonald, he had an only son, his successor,

JAMES, 6th Duke, who wedded, in 1752, Elizabeth, second daughter of John Gunning, of County Roscommon, by whom he two sons and a daughter.

His Grace died in 1758, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES GEORGE, 7th Duke, who succeeded to the marquessate of Douglas and earldom of Angus (the latter created in 1389), upon the demise of Archibald, last Duke of Douglas, in 1761.

His Grace dying unmarried, in 1769, the family honours devolved upon his brother,

DOUGLAS, 8th Duke, who, in 1782, again mooted the point decided against his predecessor, in 1710, relative to his seat in the House of Lords; and obtaining, after the opinion of the judges was taken, a resolution in his favour, was summoned, as DUKE OF BRANDON.

His Grace dying without issue, in 1799, the family honours reverted to his uncle,

ARCHIBALD, 9th Duke, eldest son, by his 2nd wife, of James, 5th Duke of Hamilton.

His Grace wedded Lady Harriet, daughter of Alexander, Earl of Galloway, by whom he had issue,

ALEXANDER, 10th Duke.

HAMILTON PALACE, South Lanarkshire, was said to be the largest non-royal residence in the British Isles, possibly even in Europe.

It was the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Hamilton from at least 1591 until 1919, but subsidence caused by coal-mining led to its unfortunate demise and demolition in 1927.

The destruction of the Palace, and the dispersal of its contents, is now regarded as one of the greatest losses to national heritage ever to have happened in the United Kingdom.

The town of Hamilton takes its name from the Hamiltons, Dukes of Hamilton and Brandon, premier peers of Scotland.

The Palace stood in the Low Parks of the Hamilton estate, in the area now occupied by the Palace Sports Grounds.

There are references to an early Hamilton residence known as The Orchard, which may have been a tower house close to the site of the later palace.

However, in 1549, James Hamilton began building a new house to reflect his status as Regent of Scotland during the minority of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Later, in 1579, this "palace", together with the town and castle of Hamilton, was burnt and demolished during a siege by Mary's enemies.

The town seems to have recovered fairly quickly, and a date-stone of 1591 provides evidence that Lord John Hamilton had begun building a new palace in the Clyde meadows.

In 1684, the 3rd Duke and Duchess of Hamilton began their "Great Design", a major rebuilding programme, which was to turn Hamilton Palace into the largest country house in Scotland.

The new south front was the crowning glory, and included a magnificent entrance portico in a style that had never before been seen in Scotland.

The giant columns were 25 feet high.

The Palace reached its heyday in the time of Alexander, 10th Duke, who desired a country residence that would not only provide an appropriate setting for his famed art collection, but also reflect his family's proud history and status.

The Palace was now massively enlarged and enhanced, with work beginning in 1822 on a new north front (265 feet long and 80 feet in height); a servants' wing, and additional offices and stables, designed by David Hamilton, Glasgow's leading architect.

The interior was in keeping with the grandeur of the exterior, and the huge apartments were crammed with paintings, statues, furniture and art treasures from around the world.

It was enjoyed throughout the Victorian era by the highest echelons of British and European nobility, celebrities and socialites of the day. This golden age was not to last.

The programmes of rebuilding and art collecting by the 10th Duke and his successors had led to mounting debts and  put a strain on the estates.

A major sale of the Palace's art treasures took place in 1882 at Christies auctioneers in London, and raised the huge sum of £400,000, the equivalent of about £40 million today.

After the sale, the Hamilton family spent very little time in the Palace and, in 1919, moved to Dungavel House, their hunting lodge near Strathaven.

It was coal-mining which finally brought about the destruction of Hamilton Palace: The Hamilton family had been leasing out mineral rights in the Palace grounds since 1882, and by 1915, mining was threatening the stability of the Palace.

In 1919, the colliery company was asked to give up its lease, but it refused, and the Palace's fate was sealed.

The building was sold to demolition contractors in 1921, and took around 8 years to demolish completely, during which time the west wing was temporarily converted into houses for homeless miners' families.

The Palace grounds now contain a retail park and sports complex.

The Mausoleum, the hunting lodge at Chatelherault, and the ducal buildings that make up Low Parks Museum all survive as a reminder of the glory that once was Hamilton Palace.

LENNOXLOVE HOUSE, Haddington, East Lothian, has been the seat of the Dukes of Hamilton and Brandon since 1946.

First published in November, 2013.

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