Open main menu

Hamilton, John (1532-1604) (DNB00)


HAMILTON, JOHN, first Marquis of Hamilton (1532–1604), second son of James Hamilton, duke of Chatelherault (d. 1575) [q. v.], by his wife Lady Margaret Douglas, eldest daughter of the third Earl of Morton, was born in 1532. In 1541 he received the abbey of Arbroath in commendam, but he did not enter into possession till 1551. Lord Herries states that he was detained as a hostage in the castle of St. Andrews in 1546 (Memoirs, p. 17), but in all probability only his eldest brother, James Hamilton, earl of Arran (1530-1609) [q. v.], was so detained. Lord Hamilton was one of those who subscribed at Leith on 10 May 1560 the ratification of the treaty with Elizabeth, made at Berwick in the previous February (Knox, Works, ii. 53), and he also signed the order of parliament proposing a marriage between Elizabeth and his brother James, earl of Arran (Keith, History, ii. 8). On the imprisonment of Arran for his revelations regarding a scheme for carrying off the queen, Hamilton and other members of the family fell into partial disgrace, but on the advice of his father he in March 1563 went to court to attend upon the queen (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1563, entry 558), and, to the surprise of many, seemed to be in high favour (ib. 1563-4, entry 181). In the following year he went on a visit to Italy, obtaining license to be absent two years (ib. 665). He was in Edinburgh at the time of the murder of Darnley (Calderwood, ii. 353), and not improbably was aware that the murder was in contemplation, but nevertheless was one of the assize who formally acquitted Bothwell (Keith, ii. 545). He took a not unimportant part in furthering the schemes of Bothwell, and it was his relative -John Hamilton, archbishop of St. Andrews [q. v.], who granted Bothwell divorce from his wife Lady Jane Gordon. While Mary was at Carberry Hill, Hamilton and Huntly were marching to reinforce her with eight hundred men, when an order reached them to retire in consequence of an arrangement having been entered into with the insurgents ('Narrative of the Captain of Inchkeith' in Tettlet, Relations politiques, ii. 306). Shortly after Mary was sent to Lochleven, the rumour arose that Hamilton with Huntly and others was engaged in a plot for her deliverance (ib. p. 309; Du Croc to the King of France, ib. p. 326). On 14 July he and the Archbishop of St. Andrews sent a joint letter to Thrbckmorton to assure him of their own desire and that of most of the nobility to relieve their sovereign, to pursue the murderers of the king, and to secure the protection of the prince (Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. i. 252). Throckmorton suspected, however, that the Hamiltons really desired the ruin or death of the Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth gave them no encouragement to adopt direct measures for her deliverance. On being summoned to attend a meeting of the general assembly of the kirk on 21 July, Hamilton sent a letter declining to do so on the ground that the nobility were divided in regard to the detention of the queen, and that Edinburgh was in possession of those favourable to her detention, to whose opinion 'he was not adjoined as yet' (Letter in Keith, iii. 174-5). He was absent from the coronation of the young prince at Stirling (Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. i. 255), and continued in communication with Throckmorton in regard to a proposal for the deliverance of the queen. In the beginning of 1568 he went through England to France without :he license of the regent, his ostensible purpose being to obtain support in a scheme for the restoration of Mary (Calderwood, iii. 402; Cecil to Norris, 26 Feb. 1567-8). He had a fruitless interview in London with lizabeth. He appears to have been still in France at the time of Mary's escape from Lochleven, and was not present at her defeat at Langside, though stated to have been so by Sir James Melville (Memoirs, p. 201), who substitutes his name for that of his brother Claud [q. v.] Sir James Melville refers to a rumour that the Hamiltons were 'myndit to cause the Queen marry my Lord Hamilton in case their side won the victory,' and also states that he was informed by 'some that wer present, that the Quen hir self fearit the same' (ib. p. 200). Her desire therefore, according to Melville, was to escape to Dumbarton without giving battle till she had rallied sufficient forces, not merely to render victory more certain, but to protect her against the sinister designs of the Hamiltons.

At the parliament held by the regent at the close of the year Hamilton and other supporters of the queen were forfeited (Acta Parl. Scot. iii. 45-8), and it was doubtless to revenge this that he and his family furthered the plot for the assassination of the regent Moray [see under Hamilton, James, 1566-1580] (Herries, p. 121; Calderwood, ii. 511). According to Melville, Hamilton was also present at Stirling when the regent Lennox was slain (Memoirs, p. 241). Hamilton was deputed by his father to represent the family in the arrangements connected with the pacification signed at Perth 22 Feb. 1572-1573 (Reg. P. C. Scotland, ii. 194). On the death of his father, the Duke of Chatelherault, in 1575, the insanity of his elder brother, the Earl of Arran, made Lord John the recognised head of the family, and the nearest prospective heir after James VI to the Scottish crown. On 7 March of this year he and Lord Claud made public satisfaction to the Earl of Angus in the palace of Holyrood for the slaughter of his kinsman, Johnstone of Westerraw (Calderwood, iii. 346), and shortly afterwards he was married to Margaret, only daughter of the eighth Lord Glammis, widow of the Earl of Cassilis, and cousin of the regent Morton (ib. viii. 206). The reconciliation between Hamilton and the principal representatives of the Douglases was very displeasing to SirWilliam Douglas of Lochleven (d. 1606) [q. v.] on account of Hamilton's implication in the assassination of his relative the regent Moray. On a report that the murderer had been brought home by Hamilton from France, Sir William Douglas assembled a force of five hundred men and swore to have vengeance on both for the murder. On one occasion an attempt was made on Hamilton as he was coming from Arbroath, and he was compelled to take refuge in the abbey. Again, on 2 March 1576, Douglas and the Earl of Moray set out to attack him as he was on his way through Fife to Arbroath. Being hotly pursued, Hamilton baffled his enemies by separating himself from his followers, and escaped to the house of Learmont of Dairsie, who defended him against Douglas till the regent interfered and charged his relative to return home (Reg. P. C. Scotland, ii. 598 ; Hist. James the Sext, pp. 155-7 ; Calderwood, iii. 346). Hamilton and Douglas were on 22 March summoned before the council to inform the regent of 'their griefs, quarrels, and causes of complaint' (Rey. ii. 605). After the case had been fully heard, each was required to give assurance to the other, and Douglas refusing to comply was entered in ward in the castle of Edinburgh (ib. p. 612). On the renewal of the procedure against the Hamiltons in 1579 for the slaughter of the regents [see more particularly under Hamilton, Claud, Lord Paisley], Hamilton escaped to England, whence, with the connivance of Elizabeth and the aid of the French ambassador, M. de Castelnau (letter of Castelnau to the king of France, 29 July 1579, in Teulet, Relations politiques, ed. 1862, iii. 54-5), he passed over to France. At Paris he was harboured by Mary's representative the Archbishop of Glasgow (Hist. James the Sext, p. 175), and Henry intimated his intention to bestow on him a pension of four hundred livres a month (the king to Castelnau in Teulet, iii. 63). Mary's friends suspected the motives of the Hamiltons, and Hamilton was obnoxious because he remained a protestant. The king of Scots had granted the rich abbey of Arbroath, which Hamilton had held, to his new favourite, Esme Stuart, duke of Lennox, and the efforts of Castelnau to bring about an arrangement by which Stuart might be induced to resign it were entirely fruitless. The king of France also failed to fulfil his promise regarding the pension (Teulet, iii. 93). Mary wrote on 18 March to the Archbishop of Glasgow to sound Hamilton, and to assure him of her favour to his family (Labanoff, v. 134). On 23 July she wrote that his reply had much contented her (ib. p. 349). No doubt Hamilton preferred the help of France to the help of Elizabeth, if he could have secured it ; for after the death of the regent Morton, Elizabeth's influence in Scotland had sunk to zero ; but when he found that Captain James Stuart, the accuser of Morton, was not only put in possession of the baronies of Hamilton and Kinneil and other estates of his family, but was even allowed to assume the title of Earl of Arran, as the nearest legitimate heir of that title, he was unable to put further faith in the promise of restoration by the aid of the king of France. Elizabeth, on the other hand, had undoubtedly exerted herself sincerely and energetically to promote his recall, and he resolved meanwhile to trust entirely to her help. He therefore left the French court and joined his brother Lord Claud in England. Along with Lord Claud he took part in the unsuccessful attempt against Arran in 1584. In the attempt of the following year, undertaken with the co-operation of the Master of Gray, the Hamiltons were under the direction only of Lord John, who from this time began to follow a different policy from his brother. As a protestant he was naturally disinclined to entangle himself in the intrigues of France and Spain, and being indolent and unambitious, he had no special object in view beyond restoration to his estates. After a meeting with the banished lords at Berwick, Hamilton collected his followers, with whom he joined Morton at Dumfries previous to marching on Stirling. With the banished lords he was on 4 Nov. admitted into the presence of the king in Stirling Castle, where they fell on their knees before the king, and Hamilton in their name declared that 'they were come in all humility to beg his majesty's love and favour.' The king confessed that Hamilton had been the 'most wronged' of 'all this company,' and he was named one of the new council established on 10 Dec. following (Reg. P. C. Scotland, iv. 33). By a special act of parliament he was placed in possession of the estates of the family, with custody of his insane brother the Earl of Arran. On 1 Nov. 1586 he was made captain of the castle of Dumbarton for life ('Hamilton Papers' in Maitland Club Miscellany, iv. 138). Queen Mary, when under sentence of execution, is stated to have taken from her finger a ring to be delivered to Hamilton in witness of her gratitude for the devotion of the family. Nevertheless, in her last will she bequeathed the throne to Philip II, and thus made the best arrangement she could to destroy the chances of the Hamiltons succeeding to it. The death of Mary tended to strengthen the hopes of the Hamiltons, but Lord John never seems to have swerved in his loyalty to the young king. Personally, he was popular with James, and enjoyed a good deal of his confidence. When the Master of Gray in May 1587 was convicted of treason, his life was spared at the special intercession of Hamilton, who 'sat down in presence of the council on his knees and begged his life of the king' (Moysie, Memoirs, p. 63). In October of the same year ex-chancellor Arran, who after the disgrace of Gray had ventured to return to Scotland, was denounced at the instance of Hamilton (Reg. P. C. Scotland, iv. 221). Hamilton had no connection with the plots of his brother Claud for a Spanish invasion of Scotland ; and it was even proposed that he should be assassinated in the expectation that his dependents would at once transfer their allegiance to Claud ('Memoria de la Nobleza de Escocia,' in Teulet, Relations politiques, v. 453-4). In 1588 he was appointed head of the embassy to Denmark to negotiate a marriage between the king of Scots and the princess, 20,000l. Scots being granted out of the taxation to defray his expenses ('Hamilton Papers' in Maitland Club Miscellany, iv. 138). When the king went to Denmark in the following year to bring home his bride, he appointed Hamilton president of the council for governing the borders. Hamilton, supported by the Douglases, kept Edinburgh quiet, though there were rumours of an intended outbreak (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. Addit. 1580-1025, p. 300). At the coronation of the queen in the abbey of Holyrood, Hamilton bore the sword, and the crown was placed on her head by Hamilton, the Duke of Lennox, and two presbyterian ministers (Papers relating to the Marriage of King James the Sixth of Scotland, Bannatyne Club, p. 52). When Hamilton was annoyed at being refused free access to the king, James soothed him by saying that 'it ill became the heir-apparent to be angry with the auld laird.' Hamilton was present at the meeting of the noblemen and barons on 10 Jan. 1593 in the little kirk of Edinburgh, when resolutions were passed for the removal of all papists from office under the crown (Calderwood, v. 217). When the king afterwards spoke to him in favour of liberty of conscience, 'The Lord Hamilton crying aloud said, "Sir, then we are all gone, then we are all gone, then we are all gone! If there were no more to withstand I will withstand." ' The king, perceiving his servants to approach, smiled and said, 'My Lord, I did this to try your mind' (ib. p. 269). At the parliament of May 1594 Hamilton was chosen a lord of the articles. He accompanied the king in his expedition to the north against Huntly, having command of the vanguard, and he sat as one of the jury which found Huntly guilty of high treason. After the popish riots in Edinburgh in November 1597, which caused the king to retire to Linlithgow, Robert Bruce [q. v.] and other leading presbyterian ministers wrote a letter to Hamilton asking him to place himself at their head 'for the protection of the kirk and their cause' (ib. p. 515). Hamilton cautiously sent the letter to the king, and was accused by Bruce and his supporters of garbling the letter. The accusation is improbable, and their conduct was in any case discreditable. In December 1597 the castle of Dumbarton was taken from him and given to the Duke of Lennox. As a compensation for this the abbacy of Arbroath was erected into a temporal lordship to Hamilton and his heirs. On 15 April 1599 he was created a marquis on the same occasion as the Earl of Huntly. He died 12 April 1604. On his deathbed he wrote a letter to the king recommending his 'dear and only son to his majesty's kind patronage and care' (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vi. p. 68). By his wife, the widow of the fourth Earl of Cassilis, he had in addition to this son James, second marquis [q. v.], an elder son Edward, who died young, and a daughter, Lady Margaret, married to John, eighth lord Maxwell. He had also a natural son, Sir John Hamilton of Lettrick, father of the first Lord Bargeny, and a natural daughter, Jean, who married Sir Umfra Colquhoun of Luss.

[Hamilton Papers in Maitland Club Miscellany, vol. iv.; Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vi.; Reg. P. C. Scotl. vols. ii–v.; Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser.; ib. For. Ser., reign of Elizabeth, and Dom. Ser. 1603–4; Teulet's Relations politiques de la France et de l'Espagne avec l'Écosse, Paris ed.; Papiers d'État relatifs à l'histoire de l'Écosse au XVIe Siècle; Correspondance de Fénelon (Cooper and Teulet); Letters of Mary Stuart (Labanoff); Hist. of James the Sext (Bannatyne Club); Moysie's Memoirs (ib.); Sir James Melville's Memoirs (ib.); Gray Papers (ib.); Histories of Calderwood, Spotiswood, and Keith; John Anderson's Genealogical Hist. of the Hamiltons; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), i. 702–3.]

T. F. H.