James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton

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James Hamilton
The 4th Duke of Hamilton
Born(1658-04-11)11 April 1658
Hamilton Palace, Lanarkshire
Died15 November 1712(1712-11-15) (aged 54)
Hyde Park, London
Title4th Duke of Hamilton
Other titles1st Duke of Brandon
Marquess of Clydesdale
Earl of Arran, Lanark and Cambridge
Baron Dutton
Lord Aven, Polmont, Machansyre, and Innerdale
Offices Master of the Great Wardrobe
Keeper of the Palace of Holyroodhouse
Master-General of the Ordnance
Predecessor Anne Hamilton, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton
Successor James Douglas-Hamilton, 5th Duke of Hamilton
Spouse(s)Lady Anne Spencer
Elizabeth Gerard
IssueLady Elizabeth Hamilton
Lady Catherine Hamilton
Lady Charlotte Edwin
James Hamilton, 5th Duke of Hamilton
Lord William Hamilton
Lady Susan Hamilton
Lord Anne Hamilton
Sir James Abercrombie, 1st Baronet
Charles Hamilton
Parents William Douglas, 1st Earl of Selkirk
Anne Hamilton, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton
Quartered arms of James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton, KG Coat of arms of James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton, KG.png
Quartered arms of James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton, KG

Lieutenant General James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton and 1st Duke of Brandon KG KT (11 April 1658 – 15 November 1712) was a Scottish nobleman, the Premier Peer of Scotland, and Keeper of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. He was a Master of the Great Wardrobe, Master-General of the Ordnance, Ambassador, and Colonel-in-Chief of his regiment. [1] Hamilton was a major investor in the failed Darien Scheme, which cost many of Scotland's ruling class their fortunes, and he played a leading role in the events leading up to the Act of Union in 1707. He died on 15 November 1712 as the result of a celebrated duel in Hyde Park, Westminster, with Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, over a disputed inheritance.

Order of the Garter Order of chivalry in England

The Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by Edward III in 1348 and regarded as the most prestigious British order of chivalry in England and later the United Kingdom. It is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.

Order of the Thistle order of chivalry associated with Scotland

The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland. The current version of the Order was founded in 1687 by King James VII of Scotland who asserted that he was reviving an earlier Order. The Order consists of the Sovereign and sixteen Knights and Ladies, as well as certain "extra" knights. The Sovereign alone grants membership of the Order; he or she is not advised by the Government, as occurs with most other Orders.

The Peerage of Scotland is the section of the Peerage of the British Isles for those peers created by the King of Scots before 1707. Following that year's Treaty of Union, the Kingdom of Scots and the Kingdom of England were combined under the name of Great Britain, and a new Peerage of Great Britain was introduced in which subsequent titles were created.


Early life

Hamilton Palace - seat of the Dukes of Hamilton Hamiltonpalacemorris edited.jpg
Hamilton Palace - seat of the Dukes of Hamilton

The eldest son of William Douglas, 1st Earl of Selkirk (who was created Duke of Hamilton for his lifetime and changed his surname to Hamilton in 1660 and his wife Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton in her own right, Hamilton was born at Hamilton Palace, in Lanarkshire. He was a descendant through his mother of the Scottish House of Stewart and therefore had a significant claim to the thrones of both Scotland and England. He was educated by a series of tutors, until he was of age to attend the University of Glasgow. Following this he travelled to the continent on the Grand Tour, fashionable amongst young noblemen of the time. He was styled until 1698 as the Earl of Arran.

Anne Hamilton, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton Scottish peeress

Anne Hamilton, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton was a Scottish peeress.

Hamilton Palace

Hamilton Palace was a large country house located north-east of Hamilton in Lanarkshire, Scotland. The former seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, it was built in 1695 and subsequently much enlarged. Widely acknowledged as having been one of the grandest houses in Britain, the palace was demolished in 1927, due to the prohibitive cost of upkeep and the subsidence caused by the nearby mine at Bothwellhaugh.

Lanarkshire Historic county in Scotland

Lanarkshire, also called the County of Lanark is a historic county in the central Lowlands of Scotland.

In 1679, Arran was appointed a Gentleman of the Bedchamber by Charles II. Later in 1683, he was accredited ambassador to the Court of Louis XIV of France. Arran remained in France for over a year, taking part in two campaigns in French service. On his return to Great Britain following the accession of James VII, he brought letters of personal recommendation from Louis to the new King. King James reaffirmed Arran in his offices. Arran was in the first cohort of James VII's royal Order of the Thistle in 1687, and following the deposition of James, Arran refused to join the party of the Prince of Orange, indeed he was imprisoned twice in the Tower of London, suspected of intrigues, but was released without charge.

Gentleman of the Bedchamber was a title in the royal household of the Kingdom of England from the 11th century, later used also in the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Charles II of England King of England, Ireland and Scotland

Charles II was king of England, Scotland and Ireland. He was king of Scotland from 1649 until his deposition in 1651, and king of England, Scotland and Ireland from the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 until his death.

Louis XIV of France King of France and Navarra, from 1643 to 1715

Louis XIV, known as Louis the Great or the Sun King, was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who reigned as King of France from 1643 until his death in 1715. Starting on 14 May 1643 when Louis was 4 years old, his reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country in European history. In the age of absolutism in Europe, Louis XIV's France was a leader in the growing centralisation of power.

Duke of Hamilton

Arran's father died in 1694, and in July 1698 his mother resigned all her titles into the hand of King William, who regranted them to Arran a month later in a charter signed at Het Loo, Netherlands. He was confirmed in the titles of Duke of Hamilton, Marquess of Clydesdale, Earl of Arran, Lanark and Cambridge and Lord Aven, Polmont, Machansyre, and Innerdale. [2] This regrant of title was presumably because of the loyalty of Arran's parents to the king, as his own affection to the House of Orange was questionable due to his suspected Jacobitism.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba— it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Jacobitism political ideology

Jacobitism was the name of the political movement in Great Britain and Ireland that aimed to restore the House of Stuart to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The movement was named after Jacobus, the Latin form of James.

The Darien scheme and the Act of Union

Hamilton's formation of a Political grouping in support of the Darien Scheme, in the Parliament of Scotland, was a further break from the zeitgeist prevalent in London at the time. Hamilton and his mother had heavily invested in the doomed expedition.

Parliament of Scotland legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland

The Parliament of Scotland was the legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland. The parliament, like other such institutions, evolved during the Middle Ages from the king's council of bishops and earls. It is first identifiable as a parliament in 1235, during the reign of Alexander II, when it was described as a "colloquium" and already possessed a political and judicial role. By the early fourteenth century, the attendance of knights and freeholders had become important, and from 1326 commissioners from the burghs attended. Consisting of the "three estates" of clergy, nobility and the burghs sitting in a single chamber, the parliament gave consent for the raising of taxation and played an important role in the administration of justice, foreign policy, war, and all manner of other legislation. Parliamentary business was also carried out by "sister" institutions, such as General Councils or Convention of Estates. These could carry out much business also dealt with by parliament – taxation, legislation and policy-making – but lacked the ultimate authority of a full parliament.

The Zeitgeist is a concept from 18th- to 19th-century German philosophy, translated as "spirit of the age" or "spirit of the times". It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch in world history.

Following the failure of Darien, and with the country's economy damaged, serious machinations began proposing the political union between the two realms of Scotland and England. Hamilton was assumed to be the head of the anti-union Cavalier Party, perhaps due to his serious claim to the throne of Scotland. Hamilton, being a descendant through his mother of the Scottish House of Stewart (prior to their accession to the English throne) was the senior-most claimant to the throne of Scotland in the event of that Scotland chose not to accept Sophia of the Palatinate as the Stuart heiress (see Act of Security 1704). Sophia was the most junior descendant of the most junior branch of the English Stuarts and Scotland, also being Protestant, would only accept a Protestant heir to Scotland. This meant that Hamilton and his heirs were next in the Scottish line of succession after the House of Hanover. To the detriment of his royal future, Hamilton's political conduct proved ineffective and he wavered between both the Court and the National parties. On the day of the final vote regarding the Anglo-Scottish union, Hamilton abstained and remained in his chambers at Holyrood Palace claiming to be indisposed by toothache. The highly unpopular Acts of Union were passed, and riots followed in the streets of Edinburgh. Hamilton had missed his chance to secure the Scottish succession for his family.

The Act of Security 1704 was a response by the Parliament of Scotland to the Parliament of England's Act of Settlement 1701. Queen Anne's last surviving child, William, Duke of Gloucester, had died in 1700, and both parliaments needed to find a Protestant successor. The English Parliament had settled on Electress Sophia of Hanover, granddaughter of King James VI and I, without consulting the Scottish Parliament.

House of Hanover German royal dynasty

The House of Hanover, whose members are known as Hanoverians, is a German royal house that ruled Hanover, Great Britain, and Ireland at various times during the 17th through 20th centuries. The house originated in 1635 as a cadet branch of the House of Brunswick-Lüneburg, growing in prestige until Hanover became an Electorate in 1692. George I became the first Hanoverian monarch of Great Britain and Ireland in 1714. At Victoria's death in 1901, the throne of the United Kingdom passed to her eldest son Edward VII, a member of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The last reigning members of the House lost the Duchy of Brunswick in 1918 when Germany became a republic.

Holyrood Palace official residence of the British monarch in Scotland

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.

Post Union

Hamilton was chosen as one of 16 Scottish Representative Peers in 1708. He was created Duke of Brandon, Suffolk in the Peerage of Great Britain in 1711, this drew criticism as to legality of his position and ability to sit in the House of Lords, the situation was not resolved until 1782 for the 6th Duke of Hamilton. In addition to the Dukedom, Hamilton was created Baron Dutton in Cheshire. In October 1712 he was created a Knight of the Garter, making him the only Non-Royal to be a knight of both Thistle and Garter.

The Macclesfield inheritance and death

Hamilton and Mohun duelling in Hyde Park James Douglas, 4th Duke of Hamilton; Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun from NPG.jpg
Hamilton and Mohun duelling in Hyde Park

On 15 November 1712, Hamilton fought a celebrated duel with Charles, Lord Mohun, in Hyde Park, Westminster, in an episode narrated in Thackeray's The History of Henry Esmond . Following the death without an heir of Fitton Gerard, third Earl of Macclesfield, in 1702, [3] a disagreement had arisen over who should succeed to his extensive estates, based at Gawsworth Hall, Cheshire. Hamilton claimed the estates through his wife Elizabeth Gerard, a granddaughter of Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield. Mohun claimed them as the named heir of Charles Gerard, 2nd Earl of Macclesfield, to whom he had been a companion-in-arms. The years of litigation that followed culminated in Mohun calling Hamilton out.

The duel took place on the morning of the 15th. The older Hamilton mortally wounded Mohun, and was mortally wounded in turn. Hamilton's second thereafter claimed that Mohun's second George Macartney had dealt the final stroke to Hamilton whilst pretending to attend to Mohun, but the evidence was wholly inconclusive. Questions about why John Hamilton didn't stay to attempt to arrest Macartney if he'd thought that such a crime had been committed brought suspicion on his testimony. A cry for justice went up amongst the Duke's friends, including Jonathan Swift, and Macartney escaped to the continent. After attempts to repatriate him, he was tried in absentia for murder, and stripped of his regiment, but was later pardoned.

Marriage and issue

In 1686 Hamilton married Lady Anne Spencer, a daughter of Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland. They had two daughters, although neither survived childhood:

Anne died shortly after the birth of the second daughter in 1690.

Hamilton married secondly Elizabeth Gerard, daughter of Digby Gerard, 5th Baron Gerard in 1698, and had seven children:

In addition Hamilton had an illegitimate son, Lt. Col. Sir James Abercrombie, 1st Baronet, born prior to 1680, who died at Dunkirk in 1724. He had a second illegitimate son, Charles Hamilton, by Barbara FitzRoy, as well as two daughters named Ruthven.


  1. Lundy 2011 , p. 10597 § 105968 cites Cokayne 2000 , p. 1286; Mosley 1999 , p. 1286
  2. Paul 1907, p. 383.
  3. James William Edmund Doyle, The Official Baronage of England, vol. 2 (London: Longmans, Green, 1886), p. 433
  4. NAS Catalog, National Archives of Scotland
  5. Edwin family, Welsh Biography Online, National Library of Wales
  6. NAS Catalog, National Archives of Scotland

Related Research Articles


Further reading

James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton
House of Douglas and Angus
Born: 4 April 1658 Died: 15 November 1712
Military offices
Preceded by
(Regiment raised)
Colonel of the Earl of Arran's Regiment of Cuirassiers
Succeeded by
Charles Hamilton
Preceded by
The Duke of Berwick
Colonel of The Royal Regiment of Horse
Succeeded by
The Earl of Oxford
Preceded by
The Earl Rivers
Master-General of the Ordnance
Title next held by
The Duke of Marlborough
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
The Earl of Manchester
British Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
The Duke of Shrewsbury
Court offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Preston
Master of the Great Wardrobe
Succeeded by
The Earl of Montagu
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Earl of Derby
Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire
Title next held by
The Earl of Derby
Vice-Admiral of Lancashire
Title next held by
Lord Stanley
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Anne Hamilton
Duke of Hamilton
Succeeded by
James Hamilton
Peerage of Great Britain
New title Duke of Brandon
Succeeded by
James Hamilton