Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, William (d.1724)

HAMILTON, WILLIAM (d. 1724), antiquary, was son of William Hamilton of Wishaw, and grandson of John Hamilton of Udston, who was descended from Thomas, younger brother of James, first lord Hamilton [q. v.] His mother was Beatrix, daughter of James Douglas of Morton, and though he was a younger son in a large family, he ultimately succeeded to the estate of Wishaw, as his elder brothers died during their father's lifetime. The family to which he belonged claimed descent from John Hamilton of Broomhill, natural but legitimated brother of James, first earl of Arran, and he was nearly related to Baron Belhaven and Stenton, to which dignity his own descendant afterwards attained. William Hamilton seems to have enjoyed a high reputation among his contemporaries as an antiquary and genealogist. He is referred to by George Crawford, the historian of Renfrewshire, as 'that fam'd antiquary, William Hamilton of Wishaw,' and Nisbet acknowledges his obligations to him in the production of his standard book on 'Heraldry,' The only work which Hamilton has left is a manuscript 'Account of the Shyres of Renfrew and Lanark,' which is now preserved in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. The date of this manuscript is variously given as 1696 and 1710. Nisbet states that he saw it in 1722, while Crawford alludes to it in the preface to his work published in 1710. Though largely used by these two writers, the work remained in manuscript until 1832, when it was published as one of the volumes of the Maitland Club, edited by William Motherwell [q. v.] In his preface to that volume the editor acknowledges his inability to supply particulars of the life of the author, but quotes from a manuscript then in the possession of James Maidment, which showed that Hamilton's work was regarded as authoritative. The volume consists of brief topographical descriptions of the principal castles and mansions in Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire, with much valuable genealogical information regarding the leading local families.

Hamilton married, first, in 1660, his first cousin, Anne, daughter of John Hamilton of Udston, by whom he had six sons and a daughter; Robert, the second, died during his father's life; his son William inherited Wishaw on the death of his grandfather; secondly, in 1676, Mary, eldest daughter of the Hon. Sir Charles Erskine, son of John, seventh earl of Mar, by whom he had five sons and six daughters. William Hamilton, the third son of this marriage, was the father of William Gerard Hamilton [q. v.]; Alexander, the fifth, was grandfather of William Richard Hamilton [q. v.] William Hamilton of Wishaw died at an advanced age in 1724, and was succeeded by his grandson, also named William. By an entail executed by John Hamilton, second lord Belhaven [q. v.], Robert, son of the last-named William Hamilton, should have succeeded to that title. He did not assume the dignity, however, and his eldest son, who claimed the title, became seventh Lord Belhaven. His son, Robert Montgomery Hamilton (1793-1868), was eighth Lord Belhaven and Stenton. The title was adjudged to a distant cousin, the present Lord Belhaven, by the House of Lords in 1875.

[Belhaven Peerage Case; Nisbet's Heraldry; Crawford's History of Renfrewshire, ed. 1710; Robertson's continuation of ditto, 1818; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland, ed. Wood, sub voce 'Belhaven;' Hamilton of Wishaw's Account of the Shyres of Renfrew and Lanark; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. vols. vi. vii. xii.]

A. H. M.