DOUGLAS, Charles (1663-1739)

DOUGLAS (formerly HAMILTON), Charles (1663–1739)

suc. fa. 6 Oct. 1688 as 2nd earl of SELKIRK [S] (title regranted by charter of novodamus)

RP [S] 1713, 1722, 1727, 1734

First sat 12 Jan. 1714; last sat 9 Feb. 1739

b. 3 Feb. 1663, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of William Hamilton (formerly Douglas) (d.1694), 3rd duke of Hamilton [S], and Anne (d.1716), da. of James Hamilton, duke of Hamilton [S] and suo jure duchess of Hamilton [S]; bro. of James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], George Hamilton, earl of Orkney [S], and Ld. Archibald Hamilton. educ. travelled abroad, France 1682-4. unm. d. 13 Mar. 1739; will 4 May 1734, pr. 27 June 1739.1

Gent. of bedchamber 1689-1702, 1714-d.; PC [S] 1696-1702, 1704-?5;2 ld. clerk reg. [S] 1696-1702, 1733-d.; ld. of treasury [S] 1704-5; PC 1 Nov. 1733-d.

Amb. extraordinary Denmark 1691, 1699.

Burgess, Edinburgh 1693; sheriff principal, Lanark 1694-d.; gov. Edinburgh castle 1737–8.

Col. 6th regt. of horse Nov.-Dec. 1688.3

Associated with: Crawford Douglas, Lanark; Crawford John, Lanark.

Likenesses: oil on canvas by Sir G. Kneller, c.1700, Lennoxlove, Haddington, E. Lothian.

Like his siblings, Lord Charles Hamilton was initially given the surname of his mother, Anne Hamilton, suo jure duchess of Hamilton, rather than that of his father, William Douglas, earl of Selkirk, who changed his surname to Hamilton as part of the marriage settlement of 1656. On 20 Sept. 1660, upon the request of the duchess, Charles II created Selkirk duke of Hamilton for life, the title to be held coterminously with his wife. On 6 Oct. 1688, when their second surviving son, Lord Charles Hamilton, was 25 years old, his father resigned to him, by charter of novodamus, his own earldom of Selkirk, and Charles then adopted his father’s old surname of Douglas for himself.4

Selkirk had connections with James II’s court, and had received a grant of money from the royal purse in 1687. At the time of William of Orange’s invasion, only a few weeks after receiving his title, Selkirk briefly served as colonel of the regiment of horse raised in 1685 by his elder brother James then styled earl of Arran [S], as Arran himself was moved on to command the Royal Horse Guards. Yet unlike his brother, Selkirk quickly proved himself a firm supporter of the Revolution.5 He was appointed a gentleman of the bedchamber to William III in 1689, at a salary of £1,000.6 Over the following few years he sedulously attended William at court in England, on campaign in Ireland, and in his journeys to the continent. 7 In 1691 he was employed by William as his envoy to take a message of condolence to Christian V of Denmark.8 In about 1693 his father Hamilton made his future more secure by settling on him the lands of Crawford Douglas and Crawford John in Lanarkshire.9 However, through all his travels with his royal master on the battlefield, Selkirk never enjoyed a military appointment and Hamilton, then acting as William III’s principal agent in Scotland, felt the need to ask the king that his favoured son be given command of a troop of guards.10 Instead, in 1696 Selkirk was appointed lord clerk register in Scotland, as part of the reconstruction of the Scottish ministry which brought into power the triumvirate of James Douglas, 2nd duke of Queensberry [S], Archibald Campbell, duke of Argyll [S], and John Murray, marquess of Atholl [S]. Fortunately Selkirk was able to employ a deputy to discharge his duties, so that he was able to remain in the king’s entourage.11 In 1699 he was sent to Denmark again on another mission. This prompted a correspondent of William Johnston, marquess of Annandale [S], to observe maliciously that the king, having

tried to make Earl Selkirk, your cousin, a soldier, and a courtier, and a comrade, and a statesman, and that he finds omnipotency was only able to do these things, he now is to try how he is qualified to be an ambassador. He is to go to Denmark and Sweden. The jests that pass on this occasion cannot be written; they lose their edge in writing. But the misery is there is not so much as one to his advantage.12

With one short-lived deviation, Selkirk followed the political line set by his elder brother Arran, who became 4th duke of Hamilton, upon their mother’s resignation of the title, in 1698.13 Although he was identified in 1702 as a member of the Scottish court party, Selkirk seceded from Parliament in that year with Hamilton and other members of the country party in protest at the failure to call a new election. In this he gambled his office of lord clerk register, and lost. He was quickly removed, and lost his place on the Scottish Privy Council at the same time, by the queen’s direct order.14 Selkirk responded by taking an active part in the Scottish general election of that year on behalf of the country party alliance headed by his brother, and made it his particular concern to try and enlist ministers and other representatives of the Presbyterian interest.15 For some time he remained bitterly opposed to the ministry.16 Two years in the wilderness were sufficient, however. In 1704, having deserted Hamilton in the vote in July on the Act of Security, an action which caused a temporary rift between the brothers, Selkirk joined the ‘New Party’ administration as a lord of the treasury.17 None the less, family loyalties remained potent, and he was reported in December as resisting any attempt by his ministerial colleagues to come to terms with Queensberry, whose hostility to the Hamilton family he feared, alleging that Queensberry ‘desired nothing so much as to brue his hands in their blood’.18 By the time the New Party experiment came to an end, in 1705, Selkirk had already rebuilt bridges with Hamilton, who welcomed him back as a ‘returning prodigal’.19 He was turned out of office again when the Parliament met in June 1705, having been specified by John Campbell, 2nd duke of Argyll as one of those to whom particular exception was to be taken, and was left feeling highly dissatisfied.20 In consequence he reverted to opposition, and in the Union Parliament voted against the treaty, having solicited Presbyterian interests to oppose it.21 For some reason George Lockhartof Carnwath later condemned him for voting in favour of the Union, as an ‘impudent wretch’ who had betrayed his country. 22 At the time of the Union he was owed over £900 in arrears from the Scottish treasury; it is not clear that this was ever paid.23

In the 1708 general election Selkirk made efforts to assist his younger brother, Lord Archibald Hamilton, to be returned for Lanarkshire against the rival candidate George Lockhart.24 He was also active among the peers who, on Hamilton’s behalf, lobbied for the Squadrone slate of candidates for Scottish representative peers, which had been promoted by the Whig Junto. Hamilton sent Selkirk and their other brother Orkney, to visit their brother-in-law John Murray, duke of Atholl, and John Campbell, earl of Breadalbane [S], both under arrest for their alleged involvement in that spring’s Jacobite uprising, in order to persuade them to turn to the Whigs for their release. After the Hamilton brothers’ return to Edinburgh on 12 June, Selkirk was able to write to Breadalbane that Atholl had promised Orkney his proxy.25 Selkirk himself was not on the Hamilton-Squadrone ticket, sacrificing his place to ensure success for the other candidates. James Graham, duke of Montrose, commented to Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, that Selkirk and three others were among ‘some of our best friends [who] did most generously drop themselves for the public interest’. Selkirk was however at Edinburgh for the election on 17 June, when he voted for the complete slate of other Squadrone members.26

Selkirk was himself in the English capital for most of the session of 1708-9 and kept in close contact with his brothers in Parliament: Lord Archibald in the Commons and Hamilton and Orkney in the House.27 By the winter of 1709 Selkirk, now back in Scotland, had become disillusioned with the Junto, as his brothers Orkney and Archibald failed to receive the military patronage and preferment they had expected and he felt they deserved.28 Perhaps as a result he did not attend the peers’ election on 16 Nov. 1710, despite his vote having been earnestly solicited by the unsuccessful Squadrone candidate Patrick Hume, earl of Marchmont [S] and the government slate having been organized in large part by his brother Hamilton.29 He was even reluctant to ‘meddle’ in the election of James Ogilvy, 4th earl of Findlater [S], to replace the deceased William Keith, 8th Earl Marischal, in August 1712. 30 Likewise he was absent later in November of that year when James Livingston, 5th earl of Linlithgow [S], was chosen to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Hamilton during a duel with Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun.

With his eight-year-old nephew succeeding to the Hamilton dukedom, Selkirk was obliged to take more responsibility for the family’s business. In February 1713 he went to France to press their claim to the pension granted in 1549 to their ancestor James, 2nd earl of Arran [S], when he was created duke of Châtelherault in the French peerage.31 He was encouraged in this by the 22nd article of the Treaty of Utrecht which promised ‘justice to be done to the family of Hamilton, concerning the dukedom of Châtelherault’. To pursue this claim, Selkirk stayed in Paris for eight months, and in June was part of the retinue accompanying Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury, to present his credentials to Louis XIV as Anne’s ambassador extraordinary.32 In his struggles with the French administration Selkirk evidently received some help from the lord treasurer, Robert Harley, earl of Oxford, who furnished him with a letter of recommendation to the French court, full of praise for Selkirk’s illustrious family. On 22 July, however, Selkirk wrote at length to the lord treasurer with a long tale of the obstructions he was finding at Versailles, and asked Oxford ‘to finish what your Lordship has brought to so great a length as the affair of Chastelherault’.33

In preparation for the autumn elections in Scotland Selkirk wrote from Paris with detailed instructions, doing all he could to advance the interests of his family and to heal potential rifts between Orkney and their sister-in-law, Hamilton’s widow, who were backing rival candidates.34 The protracted negotiations at the French court meant there was some doubt whether he would attend the representative peers’ election at Edinburgh. He arrived in London at the end of September 1713, and having waited on the queen, set out immediately for Scotland.35 On 6 Oct. John Erskine, 22nd earl of Mar [S], informed Oxford that ‘Lord Selkirk has made more haste than people thought he could possibly have done; he arrived here two nights ago’.36 Two days later Selkirk was chosen a representative peer. 37 His election was confirmed in the House on 12 Nov. 1713, the first sitting after the elections, before Parliament was prorogued that day. Alexander Hume-Campbell, styled Lord Polwarth (later 2nd earl of Marchmont), informed his contacts in Hanover in early 1714 that Selkirk was a supporter of the Hanoverian succession. Selkirk, however, attended for only one day of the 1713 Parliament, on 12 Jan. 1714, when Parliament was quickly prorogued. By the time it reassembled in February he had returned to France to continue his pursuit of the family’s debt, and he did not attend again in this Parliament. In June 1714 Orkney was informed that Selkirk would shortly be returning from France.38 The following month Selkirk agreed to compensation from the French of 500,000 livres, but this sum was never paid.39

Despite his scant attendance in the House during Anne’s last parliament, Selkirk remained involved in parliamentary politics after the accession of George I. As early as September 1714 he was discussing with his mother, the old duchess of Hamilton, prospects for the elections in Lanarkshire.40 He himself was not, however, re-elected in 1715. Under the new king Selkirk was reappointed to a post in the household, as a gentleman of the bedchamber, and eventually resumed his place as a representative peer in 1722.41 His parliamentary career after 1715 will be examined in the next volumes of this work. Selkirk died in London on 13 Mar. 1739, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. At the time of his death his very considerable estate was valued at £100,000.


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/697.
  • 2 CSP Dom. 1696, pp 167–8; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 405; CSP Dom. 1702–3, p. 464; Lockhart Letters ed. Szechi, 6.
  • 3 CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 366.
  • 4 HMC Buccleuch, i. 163.
  • 5 HMC Hamilton, ii. 110.
  • 6 CTB 1689-92, ix. 300; xxviii. 433.
  • 7 CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 223; CTB 1693-6, x. 275; HMC Hamilton, ii. 127.
  • 8 HMC Hamilton, ii. 116; CTB 1689-92, ix. 1272.
  • 9 Douglas, Scots Peerage, vii. 517.
  • 10 HMC Hamilton, ii. 133.
  • 11 APS, x. 121; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 463; 1699–1700, p. 217.
  • 12 HMC Johnstone, 111.
  • 13 HMC Portland, viii. 203, 204.
  • 14 Lockhart Mems. 10, 17; HMC Hamilton, ii. 154; CSP Dom. 1702–3, p. 464; P.W.J. Riley, Union, 17.
  • 15 NAS, GD 406/1/7212, 7576.
  • 16 Chrons. Atholl Fam. 13–14.
  • 17 CSP Dom. 1704–5, p. 62; HMC Laing, ii. 71, 74; Lockhart Pprs. i. 98; Riley, Union, 79; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 470.
  • 18 Riley, Union, 127.
  • 19 HMC Portland, iv. 198.
  • 20 Lockhart Letters, 15; Seafield Letters, 52, 58; Lockhart Pprs. 112.
  • 21 NAS, GD 406/1/8122, 9110, 9111; Riley, Union, 332.
  • 22 Lockhart Mems. 158.
  • 23 CTB 1708, p. 112.
  • 24 NLS, ms 1032, ff. 63, 66, ms 1033, f. 41; NAS, GD 406/1/6521, 7255, 8083.
  • 25 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 447-8; NAS, GD 112/39/217/17, GD 124/15/802/4–5, GD 406/1/7926.
  • 26 Add. 61628, ff. 143-4; NLS, ms 1026, ff. 23-35, 39-40; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 476.
  • 27 NLS, ms 1032, f. 68; TNA, C 104/113, pt 2, (Ossulston Diary), 2 and 6 Mar. 1709.
  • 28 NAS, GD 406/1/7265, 7267.
  • 29 NLS, ms 1026, ff. 62, 65v; NAS, GD 158/967/32-33.
  • 30 NAS, GD 248/561/47/27.
  • 31 Evening Post, 7-10 Feb. 1713.
  • 32 Post Boy, 9-11 June 1713.
  • 33 Add. 70295, Oxford to ‘Monsieur’, n.d.; Add. 70230, Selkirk to Oxford, 22 July 1713.
  • 34 Lennoxlove, Hamilton mss, C3/325, 1585, 1592, 1635.
  • 35 Post Boy, 29 Sept.-1 Oct. 1713.
  • 36 HMC Portland, x. 303.
  • 37 NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto, 7, ff. 181-2.
  • 38 NLS, ms 1033, f. 129.
  • 39 Douglas, Scots Peerage, vii. 517-18.
  • 40 Lennoxlove, Hamilton mss, C3/1653.
  • 41 Wentworth Pprs. 428.