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HAMILTON, JAMES, first Earl of Abercorn (d. 1617), was the eldest son of Claud Hamilton, lord Paisley [q. v.], and the grandson of James Hamilton, second earl of Arran [q. v.], governor-regent of Scotland and heir-presumptive of the Scottish crown. His father's position brought him early into notice, and as he had considerable ability he soon attained an eminent place among the statesmen of the time. With James VI he seems to have been an especial favourite, and the influence of his maternal grandfather, George Seton, father of the first earl of Dunfermline, was largely exercised in his behalf. He was appointed a gentleman of the bedchamber by the king, and appeared in the famous convention of the nobility and council held at Holyrood House on 6 Jan. 1596-7. When the 'privy council was definitely constituted at the convention of estates held on 14 Dec. 1598, he was named one of the thirty-two members of that body under his designation of Master of Paisley ; but he did not appear at any of their meetings until 10 Feb. 1601. In the preceding year he obtained from the king the office of hereditary sheriff of Linlithgow, and shortly afterwards he received a charter of lands in Renfrewshire and West Lothian, which were incorporated into the free barony of Abercorn in 1603, from which he took his title of Baron Abercorn. When the Articles of Union were prepared and signed in 1604, he was one of the twenty-eight Scottish commissioners who appended their names, and for his efforts in this matter he was rewarded with the title of Earl of Abercorn, by patent dated 10 July 1606. To this title were attached the minor dignities of Baron Hamilton, Mount Castle, and Kilpatrick, which are still enjoyed by his present representative. Large grants of land in the barony of Strabane, Ireland, were made to him, and his eldest son was created Baron of Strabane in 1617; the Irish estates descended to the younger sons. Though Abercorn was a faithful attendant at the meetings of the Scottish privy council during an important period of its history, the share which he took in public affairs is not easily identified. He died during the life of his father on 16 March 1617. He is now represented by his descendant, the present Duke of Abercorn.

Abercorn married Marion, eldest daughter of Thomas, fifth lord Boyd, by whom he had five sons and four daughters. James, the eldest son, became second earl of Abercorn and inherited the extensive estates of his grandfather, Baron Paisley, at that nobleman's death in 1621; in 1634 he resigned the barony of Strabane to his next brother, Claud, who died 14 June 1638, and was grandfather of Claud and Charles, fourth and fifth earls of Abercorn. Sir William, the third son, represented Henrietta Maria, when queen-dowager, at the papal court. George, the fourth, is noticed below. Sir Alexander, the fifth, went to Germany, and was in the service of Philip William, elector palatine, who sent him as his envoy to James II; he was eventually created a count of the empire.

Hamilton, Sir George (d. 1679), held property at Dunalong in Tyrone and Nenagh in Tipperary. In 1641 he was in Scotland with Charles I, served in Ireland during the rebellion, and was governor of Nenagh Castle during the viceroyalty of his brother-in-law, the Marquis of Ormonde, whom he followed to Caen in the spring of 1651 with his wife and family. On the Restoration he returned to England, was created a baronet of Ireland in 1660, and received other grants from Charles II in recompense for his services. He married Mary, third daughter of Walter, viscount Thurles, eldest son of Walter, eleventh earl of Ormonde; by her, who died in August 1680, he had six sons and three daughters; his third and fifth sons, Anthony and Richard, and his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, are noticed separately; some account of the other sons will be found under their brother, Anthony Hamilton (1646?–1720). Sir George Hamilton died in 1679.

[Crawford's Hist, of the Shire of Renfrew, Semple's Continuation, 1782; Register of Privy Council, vols. v. vi. vii.; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, ed. Wood.]

A. H. M.