The Story of Nell Gwyn/Appendix B.



"The beauties at Windsor," says Walpole, "are the Court of Paphos, and ought to be engraved for the Memoirs of its charming historiographer, Count Hamilton." If the reader is of Walpole's way of thinking, how much more necessary is it that something should be said about "the charming historiographer" himself!

Anthony Hamilton (who never appears himself in any part of his work) was the third son of the Honourable Sir George Hamilton, by Mary Butler, third daughter of Walter, Viscount Thurles, eldest son of Walter, eleventh Earl of Ormond. His father, who died in 1667, leaving six sons and three daughters, was the fourth son of James, first Earl of Abercorn. His mother died in August, 1680, as appears from an interesting and affecting letter of her brother, the great Duke of Ormond, dated Carrick, August 25, in that year.

Of the six sons of the Honourable Sir George Hamilton, James, the eldest, was groom of the bed-chamber and colonel of a regiment of foot to Charles II. I can find no earlier mention of him than the following passage in a letter from Edward Savage to Sancroft, then Dean of St. Paul's, and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. The letter is dated, "From the Cockpit at Whitehall, 25 October, 1664," and the passage is as follows:—"Mr. O'Neale, of Bedchamber, dyed yesterday, very rich, and left his old lady all. Mr. James Hamilton, the Duke of Ormond's nephew, shall have his groome of the Bedchamber's place, and Sir William Blakestone his Troop of Horse."[1] Savage was right in his intelligence; Hamilton received the appointment. But this was not the first time the king had shown a friendly feeling towards him. He had previously interested himself in obtaining for him the hand in marriage of Elizabeth Colepepper, eldest daughter of John, Lord Colepepper, of Thoresway, but it is uncertain when the marriage took place, Wood, in his edition of Douglas's Peerage, puts it under 1661, a year, I think, at least, too late; the parish register of St. Margaret's, Westminster, recording the baptism of George, their second son, on the 18th March, 1662-3. Nor did the king's regard for James Hamilton cease with the Bedchamber appointment. By a privy seal of the 29th November, 1671 (Harl, MS. 7344) he made him ranger of Hyde Park, from which appointment Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, derives its name. By letters patent of the 15th May, 1672, he granted him a pension of 850l. per annum; but this he did not live very long to enjoy. In the engagement against the Dutch, 4th June, 1673, he had one of his legs taken off by a cannon-ball, and dying on the 6th, was buried next day, as the register records, in Westminster Abbey.

"1673, Coll. Hamilton, recd his death wound in ye engagemt agst ye Dutch, was bd wthn ye north mont door, June 7."

It deserves to be told, to the credit of the king, that he was not forgetful of the widow and children of James Hamilton. I have letters patent before me, dated 20th July, 1673, granting a yearly pension of 850l. to Mrs. Hamilton, in trust for her three sons, and a yearly pension of 500l. for herself. Mrs. Hamilton died in 1709, aged seventy-two. Of her three sons, James, the eldest, was sixth Earl of Abercorn; George, the second, was killed at the battle of Steinkirk, in 1692; and William, the youngest, settled at Bocton Place, near Lenham, in Kent, and acquired a large property there.[2] And this is all I have been able to discover of the elder brother, the handsome James Hamilton, the hero of the celebrated adventure at Bretby, with, or rather without, the Countess of Chesterfield. His portrait was at the Marquis of Abercorn's, at Stanmore, but, I suppose, was sold with the rest of the Stanmore pictures, at Christie and Hanson's, a few years back.

George, the second son of Sir George and Lady Hamilton, married "the lovely Jennings;"—Frances Jennings, elder daughter and coheir of Richard Jennings, of Sandridge, in Hertfordshire, and sister of Sarah Jennings, the celebrated Duchess of Marlborough. He had three daughters (his elder brother had three sons), all nobly married: Elizabeth to Richard, Viscount Ross;[3] Frances to Henry, Viscount Dillon; and Mary to Nicholas, Viscount Kingsland. The king, by a warrant before me, dated 20th April, 1666, granted him a pension of 500l. a-year, "the better to enable him to support himself and family." He is there called "George Hamilton, Esq., Lieutenant of our troop of Guards." He was in love with Miss Stewart, and a most amusing account of the doings in her chamber is put into his mouth by his brother Anthony. This is the Hamilton who served in the French army with distinction. I know not when he died. Evelyn, however, is of some assistance in determining the time. "12 November, 1675. There was in my lady ambassadress's company my Lady Hamilton, a sprightly young lady, much in the good graces of the family, wife of that valiant and worthy gentleman, George Hamilton, not long after slaine in the warrs. She had been a maid of honour to the Dutchesse, and now turned Papist." His widow married Tall Talbot, afterwards Earl and Duke of Tyrconnell (d. 1691), the hero of the famous Lillibullero ballad, and dying in Dublin, 6th March, 1731, was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Anthony, "the charming historiographer," was the third son. He is said to have been born at Roscrea, in the county of Tipperary, in 1646, in which year Owen O'Neale took Roscrea, and, as Carte says, "put man, and woman, and child, to the sword, except Sir George Hamilton's lady, sister to the Marquis of Ormond, and some few gentlewomen whom he kept prisoners." His father and mother were Roman Catholics; Anthony therefore was bred in the religion to which he adhered conscientiously through life. He was twenty-two years old when his sister. La Belle Hamilton, married the Count de Grammont; about which time he went abroad, and, unable as a Roman Catholic to find employment at home, entered the army of Louis XIV. "He distinguished himself," it is said, "in his profession, and was advanced to considerable posts in the French service." When James II. succeeded to the throne, and the door of preferment was open to Roman Catholics, Anthony Hamilton entered the Irish army, where we find him, in 1686, a lieutenant-colonel in Sir Thomas Newcomen's regiment. Other appointments were in store for him, and he was subsequently constituted governor of Limerick, colonel of a regiment, and a privy councillor. Lord Clarendon, the son of the chancellor, and then lord-lieutenant of Ireland, was very kind to him at this time. He speaks of him in several of his letters. "If Lieutenant-colonel Anthony Hamilton may be believed, and I take him to be the best of that sort." "If Lieutenant-colonel Hamilton may be believed, who understands the regiment better than the colonel, for he makes it his business." And to his brother. Lord Rochester, he writes, "He is a very worthy man, and of great honour, and will retain a just sense of any kindness you may do him. He has been in very good employment and esteem when he served abroad, and men of honour cannot always brook the having little men put over their heads, who, in the judgment of all the world, are not equal to their stations."[4]

After the total overthrow of James's affairs in Ireland, he retired to St. Germain, acquired the confidence of the Duke and Duchess of Berwick (the Duke was King James's son by Arabella Churchill), cultivated his taste for poetry, wrote one or two agreeable novels, translated Pope's Essay on Criticism into French, carried on a correspondence with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in the name of his niece, the Countess of Stafford; and having sent his Mémoires de Grammont to the press, died at St. Germain, 21st April, 1720, aged about seventy-four.[5]

Thomas, the fourth son, was bred to the sea service, became captain of a ship of war, and died in New England. Richard, the fifth son, was a brigadier-general in King James's army in Ireland, and a lieutenant-general in the French service. He led King James's cavalry at the Battle of the Boyne, and died in France. John, the sixth and youngest son, was a colonel in King James's army, and was killed at the battle of Aghrim in Ireland, in 1691.

Of the six sons of Sir George and Lady Hamilton, three were killed in action, one died in New England, and two in France. Of the three daughters, Elizabeth, the eldest, the only one of whom anything is known, was married to the Count de Grammont, by whom she also had three daughters. She was Anthony's senior by five years, and was twenty-seven years old when married. The Count was forty-seven. One of their three daughters was the Countess of Stafford, described by Lord Hervey in his Memoirs, as "an old French lady, daughter of the famous Count de Grammont, who had as much wit, humour, and entertainment in her as any man or woman I ever knew, with a great justness in her way of thinking, and very little reserve in her manner of giving her opinion of things and people."[6]


  1. Harl. MS. 1785.
  2. They would appear to have had another son, who probably died young:—
    4 Nov. 1664.—John Hambleton, S. to James Hambleton, Esq., by Dame Eliz. his wife.—Baptismal Register of St. Margaret's, Westminster.
  3. 21 March, 1666-7, Eliz. Hambleton, d. to George, Esq., by Frances.—Baptismal Register of St. Margaret's, Westminster.
  4. See Clarendon's Diary and Correspondence, by Singer, pp. 421, 423, 553.
  5. For the fate of Mr. Hamilton's Correspondence with Mr. Le Poer, see Preface to "Hanmer Papers," p. vii.
  6. Lord Hervey's Memoirs ii. 116.