James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton

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James Hamilton
The 4th Duke of Hamilton
Born (1658-04-11)11 April 1658
Hamilton Palace, Lanarkshire
Died 15 November 1712(1712-11-15) (aged 54)
Hyde Park, London
Title 4th Duke of Hamilton
Other titles 1st Duke of Brandon
Marquess of Clydesdale
Earl of Arran, Lanark and Cambridge
Baron Dutton
Lord Aven, Polmont, Machansyre, and Innerdale
Nationality Scottish
Offices Master of the Great Wardrobe
Keeper of the Palace of Holyroodhouse
Master-General of the Ordnance
Predecessor Anne Hamilton, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton
Successor James Douglas-Hamilton, 5th Duke of Hamilton
Spouse(s) Lady Anne Spencer
Elizabeth Gerard
Parents William Douglas, 1st Earl of Selkirk
Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton

Lieutenant General James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton and 1st Duke of Brandon KG KT (11 April 1658 – 15 November 1712) was a Scottish nobleman, the Premier Peer of Scotland and Keeper of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. He was a Master of the Great Wardrobe, Master-General of the Ordnance, Ambassador, and Colonel-in-Chief of his regiment.[1] Hamilton was a major investor in the failed Darien Scheme, which cost many of Scotland's ruling class their fortunes, and he played a leading role in the events leading up to the Act of Union in 1707. He died on 15 November 1712 as the result of a duel in Hyde Park, Westminster, with Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, over a disputed inheritance.

Early life

The eldest son of William Douglas, 1st Earl of Selkirk (who was created Duke of Hamilton for his lifetime and changed his surname to Hamilton in 1660 and his wife Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton in her own right, Hamilton was born at Hamilton Palace, in Lanarkshire. He was a descendant through his mother of the Scottish House of Stewart and therefore had a significant claim to the thrones of both Scotland and England. He was educated by a series of tutors, until he was of age to attend the University of Glasgow. Following this he travelled to the continent on the Grand Tour, fashionable amongst young noblemen of the time. He was styled until 1698 as the Earl of Arran.

In 1679, Arran was appointed a Gentleman of the Bedchamber by Charles II. Later in 1683, he was accredited ambassador to the Court of Louis XIV of France. Arran remained in France for over a year, taking part in two campaigns in French service. On his return to Great Britain following the accession of James VII, he brought letters of personal recommendation from Louis to the new King. King James reaffirmed Arran in his offices. Arran was in the first cohort of James VII's royal Order of the Thistle in 1687, and following the deposition of James, Arran refused to join the party of the Prince of Orange, indeed he was imprisoned twice in the Tower of London, suspected of intrigues, but was released without charge.

Duke of Hamilton

Arran's father died in 1694, and in July 1698 his mother resigned all her titles into the hand of King William, who regranted them to Arran a month later in a charter signed at Het Loo, Netherlands. He was confirmed in the titles of Duke of Hamilton, Marquess of Clydesdale, Earl of Arran, Lanark and Cambridge and Lord Aven, Polmont, Machansyre, and Innerdale.[2] This regrant of title was presumably because of the loyalty of Arran's parents to the king, as his own affection to the House of Orange was questionable due to his suspected Jacobitism.

The Darien scheme and the Act of Union

Hamilton's formation of a Political grouping in support of the Darien Scheme, in the Parliament of Scotland, was a further break from the zeitgeist prevalent in London at the time. Hamilton and his mother had heavily invested in the doomed expedition.

Following the failure of Darien, and with the country's economy damaged, serious machinations began proposing the political union between the two realms of Scotland and England. Hamilton was assumed to be the head of the anti-union Cavalier Party, perhaps due to his serious claim to the throne of Scotland. Hamilton, being a descendant through his mother of the Scottish House of Stewart (prior to their accession to the English throne) was the senior-most claimant to the throne of Scotland in the event of that Scotland chose not to accept Sophia of the Palatinate as the Stuart heiress (see Act of Security 1704). Sophia was the most junior descendant of the most junior branch of the English Stuarts and Scotland, also being Protestant, would only accept a Protestant heir to Scotland. This meant that Hamilton and his heirs were next in the Scottish line of succession after the House of Hanover. To the detriment of his royal future, Hamilton's political conduct proved ineffective and he wavered between both the Court and the National parties. On the day of the final vote regarding the Anglo-Scottish union, Hamilton abstained and remained in his chambers at Holyrood Palace claiming to be indisposed by toothache. The highly unpopular Acts of Union were passed, and riots followed in the streets of Edinburgh. Hamilton had missed his chance to secure the Scottish succession for his family.

Post Union

Hamilton was chosen as one of 16 Scottish Representative Peers in 1708. He was created Duke of Brandon, Suffolk in the Peerage of Great Britain in 1711, this drew criticism as to legality of his position and ability to sit in the House of Lords, the situation was not resolved until 1782 for the 6th Duke of Hamilton. In addition to the Dukedom, Hamilton was created Baron Dutton in Cheshire. In October 1712 he was created a Knight of the Garter, making him the only Non-Royal to be a knight of both Thistle and Garter.

The Macclesfield inheritance and death

On 15 November 1712, Hamilton fought a celebrated duel with Charles, Lord Mohun, in Hyde Park, Westminster, in an episode narrated in Thackeray's The History of Henry Esmond. Following the death without an heir of Fitton Gerard, third Earl of Macclesfield, in 1702,[3] a disagreement had arisen over who should succeed to his extensive estates, based at Gawsworth Hall, Cheshire. Hamilton claimed the estates through his wife Elizabeth Gerard, a granddaughter of Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield. Mohun claimed them as the named heir of Charles Gerard, 2nd Earl of Macclesfield, to whom he had been a companion-in-arms. The years of litigation that followed culminated in Mohun calling Hamilton out. The duel took place on the morning of the 15th. The older Hamilton mortally wounded Mohun, and was mortally wounded in turn. Hamilton's second thereafter claimed that Mohun's second George Macartney had dealt the final stroke to Hamilton whilst pretending to attend to Mohun, but the evidence was wholly inconclusive. Questions about why John Hamilton didn't stay to attempt to arrest Macartney if he'd thought that such a crime had been committed brought suspicion on his testimony. A cry for justice went up amongst the Duke's friends, including Jonathan Swift, and Macartney escaped to the continent. After attempts to repatriate him, he was tried in absentia for murder, and stripped of his regiment, but was later pardoned.

Marriage and issue

In 1686 Hamilton married Lady Anne Spencer, a daughter of Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland. They had two daughters, although neither survived childhood. Anne died shortly after the birth of the second daughter in 1690.

Hamilton married secondly Elizabeth Gerard, daughter of Digby Gerard, 5th Baron Gerard in 1698, and had seven children:

In addition Hamilton had an illegitimate son, Lt. Col. Sir James Abercrombie, 1st Baronet, born prior to 1680, who died at Dunkirk in 1724. He had a second illegitimate son, Charles Hamilton, by Barbara FitzRoy, as well as two daughters named Ruthven.


  1. Lundy 2011, p. 10597 § 105968 cites Cokayne 2000, p. 1286; Mosley 1999, p. 1286
  2. Paul 1907, p. 383.
  3. James William Edmund Doyle, The Official Baronage of England, vol. 2 (London: Longmans, Green, 1886), p. 433
  4. [1] NAS Catalog, National Archives of Scotland
  5. Edwin family, Welsh Biography Online, National Library of Wales
  6. [2] NAS Catalog, National Archives of Scotland


  • Lundy, Darryl (29 December 2011), James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton, The Peerage, p. 10597 § 105968 External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Cokayne, George Edward; et al. (2000), The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, VI (reprint in 6 volumes ed.), Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, p. 269<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Mosley, Charles, ed. (1999), Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 1 (106th, 2 volumes ed.), Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books), p. 1286<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Paul, Sir James Balfour (1907), The Scots Peerage IX vols, IV, Edinburgh, p. 383<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Walford, Edward (1878), "Hyde Park", Old and New London, 4, pp. 375–405<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Stater, Victor (1999), Duke Hamilton is Dead!-A story of aristocratic life and death in Stuart Britain, New York<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton
House of Douglas and Angus
Born: 4 April 1658 Died: 15 November 1712
Military offices
Preceded by
(Regiment raised)
Colonel of the Earl of Arran's Regiment of Cuirassiers
Succeeded by
Charles Hamilton
Preceded by
The Duke of Berwick
Colonel of The Royal Regiment of Horse
Succeeded by
The Earl of Oxford
Preceded by
The Earl Rivers
Master-General of the Ordnance
Title next held by
The Duke of Marlborough
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
The Earl of Manchester
British Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
The Duke of Shrewsbury
Court offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Preston
Master of the Great Wardrobe
Succeeded by
The Earl of Montagu
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Earl of Derby
Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire
Title next held by
The Earl of Derby
Vice-Admiral of Lancashire
Title next held by
Lord Stanley
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Anne Hamilton
Duke of Hamilton
Succeeded by
James Hamilton
Peerage of Great Britain
New title Duke of Brandon
Succeeded by
James Hamilton