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Hamilton, James (1811-1885) (DNB00)

HAMILTON, JAMES, first Duke of Abercorn (1811–1885), eldest son of James, viscount Hamilton (d. 1814), and his wife Harriet, daughter of the Hon. John Douglas, earl of Morton, was born on 21 Jan. 1811. He succeeded to the title of Marquis of Abercorn in 1818, on the death of his grandfather, John James, first marquis, who was only son of John Hamilton (d. 1755) [q. v.] For some years he was under the care of his guardian, George Hamilton Gordon, fourth earl of Aberdeen [q. v.], who married Abercorn's mother in 1815, Abercorn was educated at Harrow and at Christ Church, Oxford. In the House of Lords he voted against the Reform Bill of 1832. His maiden speech was not made until 1842, when he moved the address to the queen. In 1844 he was created a knight of the Garter. From 1846 to 1859 he held the office of groom of the stole to the prince consort. He was an active, considerate, and popular landlord on his Irish estates.

In June 1866 Abercorn was appointed by the Earl of Derby lord-lieutenant of Ireland, a post which he retained after Lord Derby's resignation in February 1868. His firm and conciliatory policy was of much service during the difficulties caused by the Fenian agitation. The Prince and Princess of Wales visited Ireland in April 1868. In St. Patrick's Cathedral the lord-lieutenant presided at the installation of the Prince of Wales as a knight of the national order of St. Patrick. On Disraeli's retirement from office after the general election of November 1868, Abercorn resigned with the rest of the ministry. He was raised to the dukedom of Abercorn 10 Aug. 1868.

Upon Disraeli's accession to office in 1874, Abercorn again accepted the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland. On the death of the Duke of Leinster in 1874 he became grand master of the Irish freemasons, and he was also appointed lord-lieutenant of Donegal. Abercorn's anxiety to place within the reach of Roman catholic children all the advantages of intermediate and university education was gratified by the promises of the Intermediate Education Act and the Royal University Act. Abercorn was named first chancellor of the Royal University. In December 1876 he resigned the viceroy alty on account of his wife's health. In 1878 he went to Rome to present the order of the Garter to King Humbert. He occasionally spoke in the House of Lords, and moved several important amendments to the Irish Land Bill of 1880, some of which were accepted by the government. At the opening of the session of 1883 he severely criticised the policy of the liberal government.

The duke claimed the dukedom of Chatelherault in France as heir male of the house of Hamilton. Napoleon III in 1864 decided in favour of the Duke of Hamilton ; but the validity of his decree is disputed by the Abercorn branch of the family. The duke was major-general of the royal archers, the queen's bodyguard of Scotland, a governor of Harrow, a privy councillor, and honorary D.C.L. of Oxford and LL.D. of Cambridge. He died at Baronscourt, Tyrone, on 31 Oct. 1885.

Abercorn married in 1832 Lady Louisa Jane Russell, second daughter of John, sixth duke of Bedford, by whom he had six sons and seven daughters. He was succeeded in the dukedom by his eldest son, James, marquis of Hamilton.

[Times, 2 Nov. 1885; Men of the Time, llth edit.; Burke's Peerage; Celebrities of the Century; Dublin Evening Mail, 2 Nov. 1885.]

G. B. S.