HAMILTON, James (1658-1712)

HAMILTON, James (1658–1712)

styled 1658-98 earl of Arran [S]; cr. 9 July 1698 4th duke of HAMILTON [S] on mother’s resignation of title; cr. 10 Sept. 1711 duke of BRANDON

RP [S] 1708, 1710

First sat 16 Nov. 1708; last sat 21 Aug. 1711

b. 11 Apr. 1658, 1st 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 Charles Douglas, 2nd earl of Selkirk [S], George Hamilton, earl of Orkney [S], and Ld. Archibald Hamilton. educ. Hamilton sch.; Glasgow g.s.; Glasgow Univ. 1671-5; travelled abroad (France, Italy; John Bannantyne and James Forbes, governors) 1675–8; Mr Foubert’s acad. Paris 1676-7.1 m. (1) 10 Jan. 1688 (with £10,000),2 Anne (d. 2 July 1690), da. of Robert Spencer, 2nd earl of Sunderland, 2da. d.v.p.; (2) 17 July 1698, Elizabeth (d.1744), da. and h. of Digby Gerard, 5th Bar. Gerard of Gerards Bromley, 3s. 4da. (1 d.v.p.); 1s. 2da. illegit. (bef. 1683) with mother(s) unknown; 1s. illegit. (1691) with Lady Barbara Fitzroy, da. of Charles II and Barbara Palmer, duchess of Cleveland. KT 29 May 1687; nom. KG 25 Oct. 1712, never installed. d. 15 Nov. 1712; will 6 Apr. 1702; pr. 24 Sept. 1716.3

Gent. of bedchamber 1679-85 (extra), 1685-88;4 PC 13 Dec. 1710–d.

Burgess, Edinburgh 1682;5 kpr. (hered.), Holyroodhouse Palace 1698-d.; commr. supply, Lanark 1704; ld. lt. and custos rot., Lancs. 1710-d.; master forester and steward, Lancs. Forests (Quernmore, Myerscough, Amounderness, Bleasdale) 1710-d.,6 v.-adm., Lancs. and Cheshire Sept. 1712-d.

A.d.c. to Louis XIV of France 1684; col., 6th Regt. of Horse (cuirassiers) 1685-8,7 R. Horse Gds. Nov.-Dec. 1688;8 brig.-gen. of horse Nov.-Dec. 1688;9 master-gen. of ordnance Sept. 1712-d.

Amb. extraordinary France 1683-5, Sept. 1686;10 amb. France Sept. 1712-d.

Associated with: Kinneil Castle, Linlithgow; Hamilton Palace, Hamilton, Lanark; Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh; Sandon Hall, Staffs.; St James’s Sq., Westminster.11

Likenesses: oil on canvas by Sir G. Kneller, c.1700, Lennoxlove, Haddington, E. Lothian; oil on canvas, copy of preceding, National Galleries of Scotland, PG 840; oil on canvas by J.B. de Medina, 1703, R. Coll. Surgeons, Edinburgh.

Earl of Arran, 1678-98

Hamilton came from the premier noble family of Scotland, the dukedom of Hamilton being the senior dukedom in the kingdom’s peerage. The family enjoyed great prestige as hereditary keepers of the royal palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, the ducal chambers in the complex occupying more space than the royal ones, and vast estates in Lanarkshire, centred on the grandiose Hamilton Palace. Through his mother Hamilton could claim descent from the Scottish house of Stewart and thus nursed pretensions to the Scottish throne, which always added another level of ambiguity and suspicion to his unpredictable political actions. To his protégé George Lockhart of Carnwath, however, he seemed to display every signal virtue: ‘a heroic and undaunted courage, a clear, ready, and penetrating conception’, plus a necessary degree of political cunning, and an oratorical style that was powerful, if not necessarily eloquent, for:

he had so nervous, majestic, and pathetic a method of speaking, and applying what he spoke, that it was always valued and regarded. Never was a man so well qualified to be the head of a party; for he could, with the greatest dexterity, apply himself to and sift through the inclinations of different parties, and so cunningly manage them, that he gained some of all to his.12

But even Lockhart found Hamilton’s political opportunism hard to excuse, while others ironically termed him ‘the hero’ for his flair for dramatic flamboyance, and were alienated by the exalted sense of entitlement that fuelled his restless ambition.13 However, such was the force of his personality that, with the exception of his parents and his most bitter political enemies, those with whom he had dealings were prepared either to overlook his defects of character or put them down to external influences. Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, observed that Hamilton had ‘a fine natural disposition, but [was] apt to be influenced by people about him; hath a genteel address, much the manner of a man of quality’.14

The young Lord Arran, as he was styled, returned from his travels abroad in France in November 1678 and despite the fears of his censorious father that ‘he retains too much of the way he had when he was a child’, he made a good impression on Charles II, who became his protector. To ensure that he would have to stay in the English capital and not be forced to return to Scotland, Arran in the first weeks of January 1679 was able to procure from the king an appointment as an extra gentleman of the bedchamber.15 Through the influence of Robert Spencer, 2nd earl of Sunderland, he was able from 1683 to spend two years at the French court, where he was distinguished by being appointed an aide-de-camp to Louis XIV, ‘an honour’, as he assured George Legge, Baron Dartmouth, ‘that no stranger ever had but myself’.16

Arran was forced to return to England upon Charles II’s death. The new king James VII and II continued to extend royal favour to him. He was made a full gentleman of the bedchamber ‘in ordinary’ in May 1685 and in July received a commission as colonel of a newly established regiment of horse in order to help suppress the revolt of James Scott, duke of Monmouth.17 He was able to reinforce his connections with the court at Versailles when in September 1686 he was chosen as ambassador extraordinary to congratulate Louis XIV on the birth of the duc de Berry.18 In May 1687, he was one of the first members of the revived Order of the Thistle. By the end of that year his debts, amounting to about £10,000, forced him to consider the unpalatable path of marriage to an heiress, and negotiations were soon underway for a match with Lady Anne Spencer, a daughter of his patron Sunderland. The marriage was celebrated lavishly at court on 10 Jan. 1688, a union which Arran’s father considered politically advantageous but financially ruinous, despite the hefty portion of £10,000 Lady Anne was to bring to the marriage.19 On the invasion of William of Orange, Arran was further promoted to be colonel of the Royal Horse Guards and a brigadier-general.20 He was with the king at Salisbury and on 18 Dec., as a gentleman of the bedchamber, accompanied him part of the way on his journey to Rochester.21

Arran showed his continuing adherence to James’s cause when, at a gathering of Scottish magnates in London in early January 1689, he proposed that the king be recalled from France. For this and other ‘treasonable practices’ he was committed to the Tower in the first days of March. 22 His father, who served William as the president of the convention of estates in Edinburgh, thought his son ‘as foolish as ever as to his politics, and they say his wife is little better’ – but he still secured his son’s liberty on £10,000 bail and Arran left the Tower on 10 Nov. 1689 to return to Scotland, despite William III’s misgivings.23

During the first half of the 1690s Arran continued to involve himself in Jacobite conspiracy in Scotland, including the abortive ‘Montgomerie’s plot’, and conducted a furtive correspondence with James II concerning a proposed invasion.24 Lockhart later claimed that during these early years of William III’s reign Arran was ‘several times imprisoned and much harassed upon account of his loyalty’ to James.25 Arran did not succeed immediately as duke of Hamilton on his father’s death on 18 Apr. 1694 because the duke had only held the title for his lifetime. The title remained with his mother suo jure, as her father’s heiress, and she was by no means convinced that Arran would be the most appropriate heir. Evidently she considered passing over her eldest son and bestowing the dukedom on his younger brother Charles, 2nd earl of Selkirk. Added to this, in January 1696 another younger brother, the army officer George Hamilton, was created earl of Orkney [S]. The success of his younger brothers may have spurred Arran to try more seriously to placate his mother so that she would pass on her titles to him. Widowed in July 1690, he began to look seriously for a new wife. In April 1696 he gave his mother the first account of his negotiations for the hand of Elizabeth Gerard, a wealthy 13-year-old heiress, the daughter of the late 5th Baron Gerard, with extensive property in Staffordshire.26 It took over two years for the details of the marriage settlement to be ironed out and as the date of marriage finally approached, Arran was able to persuade his mother to resign her titles to him. On 9 July 1698 William III issued a patent creating Arran 4th duke of Hamilton and his marriage to the Gerard heiress was celebrated only a week later, on 17 July.27 However, while his mother lived he could not inherit the family estate that would have given him an annual income of £9,000, and so he depended on securing his wife’s disputed inheritance.28

‘Country’ opposition, 1699-1707

The new duke of Hamilton did not take his place in the Scottish Parliament until the session which met on 21 May 1700, where he quickly showed himself as a Scottish ‘patriot’, agitating for the rights of the Company of Scotland and its abortive colony at Darien against what he saw as the attempts of the English government to thwart Scottish trade and its ‘national interest’. The commissioner of the Scottish Parliament, James Douglas, 2nd duke of Queensberry [S], was forced to adjourn parliament prematurely in the face of Hamilton’s obstructionism. Queensberry had long nurtured a deep enmity towards Hamilton, derived from his and his father’s bitter political rivalry with the 3rd duke. The animosity was mutual, and was to colour much of Hamilton’s political career. 29

After William III’s death Hamilton made his way to London to profess loyalty to Queen Anne and also argued to all who would listen the case for an immediate general election in Scotland, made legally necessary by the accession of the new monarch.30 When the old Scottish Parliament, which had been sitting since June 1689, met again on 9 June 1702, Hamilton rose even before Queensberry’s commission could be read to protest against the illegality of the present assembly and formally withdrew from the chamber, accompanied by 73 other members, including his brother Selkirk.31 A deputation representing Hamilton and the ‘country party’ was sent to London to address the queen on this objection, and eventually succeeded in persuading her, or more to the point her minister Sidney Godolphin, Baron (later earl of) Godolphin, to proclaim a dissolution.

From 1702 Hamilton was also preoccupied with lawsuits against Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, the executor and chief beneficiary of the will of Charles Gerard, 2nd earl of Macclesfield, his wife’s maternal uncle. The dispute, which was to rumble on for the next several years and to lead indirectly to Hamilton’s death in 1712, arose from Macclesfield’s controversial decision to bequeath the entirety of his estate to his brother-in-law and military colleague Mohun, thereby disinheriting his heirs-at-law, among whom was his niece. As Hamilton had married principally for the prospect of this inheritance, this was a serious blow and recovering his wife’s legal right to the estate became an obsession.32 When it was rumoured in the autumn of 1702 that Hamilton would receive an English title, it was thought that he would chose the earldom of Macclesfield, to cement his claim to the late earl’s estate.33

By the autumn of 1702 there was also talk that Hamilton’s ‘country party’ was to be brought into the new Scottish ministry.34 But at the same time the duke damaged his position at court by making clear his opposition to an Anglo-Scottish union, which at that point was under negotiation by commissioners from both kingdoms. While some admired his ‘patriotism’ on this point, the leader of the court party, Queensberry, regarded him as an unscrupulous intriguer, who, lacking enough ‘interest’ of his own, was trying to take over leadership of one of the two principal opposition factions, Presbyterian ‘Revolutioners’ or Jacobite ‘cavaliers’.35

As none of the promises of favour made to him were realized, either in 1702 or subsequently, Hamilton became the leader of the opposition against the insistence of the court party that the Scottish parliament vest the succession to the throne in the Hanoverians. There was undoubtedly a strong element of self-interest in this position for, upon the queen’s death, Hamilton would (after the Pretender himself) have the strongest claim to the Scottish throne through his descent, via his mother, from the house of Stewart. In the first session of the new Scottish parliament beginning in 1703 he argued for limitations to be placed on any future monarch before the succession to the Scottish throne was determined.36 A result of the opposition’s activities in this session was the Act of Security, which was denied the royal assent. His relations with the court were further complicated by his role in the ‘Scotch Plot’ furore in the winter of 1703-4. He supported the objections of his brother-in-law John Murray, duke of Atholl, against the spurious allegations of Queensberry and agitated for an examination of the Plot to be conducted in Scotland. At a meeting of the country party leaders in Edinburgh Hamilton nominated three prominent members to act as a deputation to present to the queen their long list of grievances against Queensberry, but did not himself travel to London, despite the urgings of his wife as well as Atholl himself. 37 Hamilton was himself caught up in the English investigation of the Plot. On 20 Mar. 1704 the seven English peers, most of them Whig, assigned by the Lords to examine the Plot submitted their report, in which Hamilton was ‘often mentioned as much concerned’, although usually as the subject of criticism from Mary of Modena, who complained that he never responded to her letters.38

Hamilton’s own actions, and their motivations, in the two sessions of 1704 and 1705 (as in much the rest of his career) are difficult to fathom, but much depended on his expectations of reward from the English ministers. When the Scottish ministry was being reconstructed in the spring of 1704, he was again passed over while his country colleague John Hay, 2nd marquess of Tweeddale [S], replaced Queensberry as commissioner. Godolphin may have tried a direct approach to placate Hamilton, with promises of future favour for present good behaviour, but this also came to naught. Thus at the start of the session of the Scottish parliament beginning in July 1704 Hamilton was furious at his continued exclusion and determined once again to oppose any attempt to name a successor to the Scottish throne. Yet, for whatever reason or calculation, on 13 July he performed a stunning volte-face, the first of many, by proposing that the parliament ‘not proceed to the nomination of a successor until we have had a previous treaty with England in relation to our commerce and other concerns’, even though he had previously condemned any thought of a treaty of union as ‘damnation’. This proposal effectively blocked the immediate nomination of a Scottish successor, but did bring union that much closer. Hamilton then moved that the parliament refuse to consider granting a supply before it had confirmed conditions ‘for securing the independency and sovereignty of this kingdom’ through the passage of the Act of Security. This forced Godolphin to agree, highly reluctantly, to give the act the royal assent in August, in order to procure the necessary supply for continuing the war. 39

In the following session of 1705, Tweeddale was replaced as commissioner by John Campbell, 2nd duke of Argyll [S] (and earl of Greenwich). At first Hamilton and Atholl led a strong parliamentary campaign against the nomination of a successor or a treaty of union, but their obstructionist motions and proposals were defeated by the court with the assistance of members of the ‘Squadrone Volante’. With an act for a treaty now almost inevitable Hamilton performed perhaps his most astounding change of course when on 1 Sept. he moved that the nomination of commissioners ‘should be left wholly to the queen’. The vote on his motion was taken late in the day, in a thinly attended chamber, and won by a mere eight votes, including his own. This sudden and unexpected concession to the court enraged many of his followers and ‘made his whole party stare and look aghast’.40

In writing to his own mother and to George Lockhart Hamilton blamed his opposition colleagues for abandoning him on positions he had originally set out and gave further specious explanations for his actions. He was adamant that ‘I can hold up my face and will value myself upon my conduct and show that if I had been followed and seconded, as I should have been, the country would have reaped more benefit from my endeavours than in any Parliament wherein I have yet appeared’. The Presbyterians under Tweeddale had deserted the cause first, while on many occasions the cavaliers had been content to sit silent. Lockhart probably came closer to the truth when he suggested that Hamilton had long been negotiating with Argyll and the Scottish secretary of state John Erskine, 22nd earl of Mar, who had promised him a place on the treaty commission. When the prospect of a treaty appeared inevitable, Hamilton may well have calculated that, as a local grandee in receipt of promises from the court, he had a better chance of being chosen a commissioner by the queen than by Parliament.41

Hamilton was, however, again disappointed, for he was not named to the commission. In the following session of 1706-7, despite having been heavily wooed by Mar and the English secretary of state Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, Hamilton reverted to his former anti-unionism. He and Atholl led the opposition to any treaty through a variety of sometimes suspect parliamentary techniques. He also took delight in being lionized by the Edinburgh populace as a ‘patriot’ and saviour of the nation. 42 Yet his own financial health depended on the success of union, or the avoidance of a breakdown of relations with England, for, with huge debts to repay, he relied on the income from the large estates in Staffordshire and Lancashire he controlled through his wife and from the export of black cattle to England from his Scottish estates. 43 Lockhart suspected that ‘his too great concern for his estate in England occasioned a great deal of lukewarmness in his opposition to the Union and unwillingness to enter into several measures that were proposed to prevent the same’.44 Such considerations, as well as his own half-hearted claim to the Scottish throne, ultimately immobilized him with indecision, and in crucial votes he was absent from the Parliament, at one point claiming toothache, or gave obscure and ambiguous directions to his followers. His last defeat came shortly after the ratification of the treaty on 16 Jan. 1707, when he objected unsuccessfully to the proposal that the Scottish representative peers to the first Parliament of Great Britain be chosen by the existing Scottish Parliament.45 Naturally, he found himself out in the cold. Although Mar had thought it politically advisable that he be included among the first batch of representative peers, Queensberry had personally vetoed his nomination, alleging, as Hamilton reported, that ‘the queen had sent positive orders that none concerned in the government or in her service should vote for me’.46

With the Squadrone and the Whigs, 1708-10

From 1704 at least Hamilton had been enmeshed in Jacobite plotting. As this was well known to the English government, Hamilton immediately fell under suspicion in March 1708 when a French fleet with the Pretender and a body of troops on board approached Scotland.47 The duke was, however, in Staffordshire at the time and, protesting his innocence, hurried to London while application was made for assistance to his brother-in-law (by his first wife), Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, the secretary of state for the northern department. Hamilton now performed a tactical coup which bewildered friends and enemies alike: through his brother, Orkney, he proposed to the Squadrone and their allies in the Whig Junto (including Sunderland), a compact of mutual assistance in the forthcoming general election, in effect a revival of the old ‘country party’ alliance in Scotland. This was accompanied by a threat that if the offer was declined he was ready to join Queensberry. The bluff was successful, and in return for a promise of electoral support he secured his bail for £10,000.48 It was Hamilton’s task then to persuade the cavalier and Jacobite peers that the Scottish court party was to be blamed for their original arrests and that they should support his and the Squadrone’s slate of candidates for the election in return for their release from custody.49

By 21 May 1708 Hamilton was back at Holyroodhouse to oversee on behalf of the Squadrone the peers’ election scheduled to take place there on 17 June.50 He held the proxy of William Keith, 8th Earl Marischal [S], one of the arrested peers whom he had convinced to switch sides. Hamilton and the Squadrone carried four seats, including Hamilton himself and his brother Orkney.51 Hamilton also raised a number of objections against the right to vote of some of those supporting court candidates, and particularly targeted his rival Queensberry, claiming that Queensberry’s elevation into the British peerage as duke of Dover on 26 May 1708 invalidated his right to vote as a Scottish peer.52 Throughout the summer Hamilton was at the heart of the effort to compile the various complaints and petitions of the Squadrone against the election of a number of the court peers, co-ordinating his efforts on this with Sunderland. 53

Discharged from his bail, Hamilton took his seat in the House on the first day of the new Parliament, 16 Nov. 1708, and proceeded to attend 83 per cent of the sitting days of its first session. On the following sitting day, 18 Nov., he was placed on the committee to draw an address to the queen condoling with her on the recent death of the prince consort and also submitted to the House the petitions he and his colleagues had prepared against the election of the court members among the Scottish representative peers.54 Hamilton himself submitted the protestation against the votes cast by Queensberry, on the basis that as a peer of Great Britain, he could no longer act as a peer of Scotland at the election. Hamilton had long bitterly resented the British peerage conferred on Queensberry, an honour he expected for himself. Hamilton also submitted a protest against the proxy registered by George Forrester, 5th Lord Forester [S], who had not yet reached his majority.

The necessary papers relevant to these petitions were not laid before the House until 23 Dec., and on 10 Jan. 1709 the House appointed a large select committee to consider them, including Hamilton himself. On 17 Jan. the committee submitted its report, in which Hamilton’s objection against Queensberry’s voting was prominent, and four days later Hamilton joined his Junto and Squadrone allies in voting that Queensberry could not participate in elections of the Scottish representative peers under his new British title. Hamilton was present the following day, when it was further determined that the proxy votes cast by Queensberry at the elections should also be invalidated. On 26 Jan. Hamilton gave evidence on the minority of Lord Forrester, in order to invalidate his proxy. The final result of these protracted hearings was minimal: after the votes cast in the election were recalculated on 1 Feb. according to the various resolutions of the House regarding the petitions, Hamilton himself was deducted a mere five votes and retained his seat while only one representative peer lost his place, William Kerr, 2nd marquess of Lothian [S], who was replaced by the principal petitioner William Johnston, marquess of Annandale [S].55 Hamilton was at this time ‘reckoned as a very staunch Whig’ and no longer a ‘friend’ of the Pretender and there were rumours that he was to be appointed to some position at court or in the army.56 Like all the other Scottish peers Hamilton was also opposed to the bill to ‘improve’ the Union by extending the English treason laws to Scotland and was active in the proceedings surrounding this bill. On 22 Mar. he was a teller in a division in the committee of the whole House on whether to add an amendment to the bill.57 Six days later he joined 13 of his fellow Scottish representative peers in signing two protests against it: one against the rejection of a rider giving those accused of treason the right to receive and consider the indictment before trial; and another against the passage of the bill itself. On a more personal matter on 10 Mar. the House agreed to the appeal of Sir James Grey, bt., against a decree of the Council of Session which had exempted Hamilton and Selkirk from reimbursing Gray £1,000.58

Hamilton was again present for the opening day of the 1709-10 session, on 15 Nov. 1709, and on that day was named to the committee to draw up the address of thanks to the queen. There is little evidence of his activities in the House in the first part of the session, even though he attended 86 per cent of its sitting days. Throughout the winter of 1709-10 there were fears that Hamilton was becoming disaffected with the Squadrone-Whig alliance, most likely, as usual, because of a perceived lack of sufficient reward to him and other members of his family.59 Hamilton’s attitude towards the Whig ministry was undoubtedly affected by the favour it seemed to show Argyll in March 1710: first Argyll received the Garter, which Hamilton had long expected for himself, then he apparently persuaded ministers to reject Hamilton’s request for a British dukedom in recompense. 60 Such slights probably helped to determine Hamilton to oppose the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell: and it was reported in early March that Hamilton was among those who ‘hindered the pushing of several things the Junto designed in the House of Peers’.61 Between 14 and 18 Mar. Hamilton subscribed to five protests against resolutions which furthered the prosecution of Sacheverell, and on 20 Mar. voted Sacheverell not guilty and signed the protest against the guilty verdict. The following day he followed this up with a second vote in Sacheverell’s favour over the question of his future preferment. These votes surprised and angered John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, who included Hamilton among the nine court peers whom he thought and expected would have voted ‘on the other side’.62 Sunderland sought to explain Hamilton’s defection: ‘he was convinced that what he [Hamilton] did in that matter was to keep up his interest in Scotland, which was all Jacobite; and if he had lost that by voting on the other side, he would have been insignificant; and this he had often said to him, in such a manner as he could not well contradict’.63

In the months following the prorogation of 5 Apr. 1710 Hamilton continued to feel aggrieved about Argyll’s Garter, as well as a host of other perceived snubs, as he and his brothers failed to receive the honours and offices he felt were due to them.64 Thus the uncertain months during which the Whig ministry was dismantled and a new one constituted under Robert Harley were filled with discussions and speculation about which way the disgruntled Hamilton would turn, ‘trusted entirely by no side’, but courted by all because of his important electoral influence.65 By mid-August there was speculation that he might insist on taking over from the Whig James Stanley, 10th earl of Derby, as lord lieutenant of Lancashire and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster.66 Harley appeared to comply, as in early September he included Hamilton in a working list of peers to be given office with a view to bringing them over to the ministry.67 Hamilton, and even more urgently and persistently his wife, pressed Harley to hasten these appointments so that he could manage the elections in Lancashire following the dissolution of Parliament. Harley, however, hesitated to make the change and Derby remained in office throughout the autumn elections. 68 Hamilton’s electoral influence was felt more immediately in Scotland. Before he left London on 7 Oct. to go north, ‘Mr Harley was two nights with him’, and it was reported that renewed promises had been made of a British peerage, so that he promised to use his electoral interest in Scotland for the new ministry.69 Hamilton was one of the peers entrusted with managing the Scottish elections for the court and, with Mar and Argyll, drew up a slate of representative peers suitable to Harley. With the Squadrone boycotting the peers’ election, Hamilton himself was chosen a representative peer once again at the election on 10 Nov. 1710 and was categorized as a ‘court Tory’ by Richard Dongworth, chaplain to the duchess of Buccleuch. 70 In another analysis drawn up shortly after the election he was classed as a ‘Jacobite’.

With the Tories, 1710-1712

Hamilton was present in the House when the new Parliament met on 25 Nov. 1710 and attended 71 per cent of sittings in its first session. On 13 Dec. he was rewarded for his efforts in the election by being sworn a privy councillor and made lord lieutenant of Lancashire and ranger of the five forests of Lancashire. Yet despite his services and his continuing importunities, he was not made chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and the queen still refused to grant him a British peerage.71 There is little evidence of Hamilton’s activity in the first weeks of the session. He was absent the day following his swearing-in on the council, 14 Dec. 1710, and on 2 Jan. registered his proxy with Annandale, which was vacated upon Hamilton’s return to the House on 12 January. John Elphinstone, 4th Lord Balmerino [S], complained in May of Hamilton’s ‘odd conduct this winter’, suggesting that the snobbish duke only socialized with him when he was in the company of Annandale, the true object of Hamilton’s attention. When, on one occasion of conviviality, Hamilton actively sought Balmerino’s approval for his conduct in the debate on the appeal of the Scottish Episcopalian minister James Greenshields on 1 Mar. 1711, Balmerino could only reply that Hamilton had acted better than Atholl.72 Since May, Balmerino had found Hamilton surprisingly solicitous of him, but was also perturbed that Hamilton was associating with known Squadrone Members of the Commons, which made him fear that the duke would consequently ‘fall through betwixt stools’. This wooing probably arose from the duke’s continuing campaign to gain either his long-sought British dukedom or, his new target, Queensberry’s office of secretary of state for Scotland.73

From 12 to 31 May 1711 Hamilton was one of the 15 peers who managed four conferences on the amendments to the bill for the preservation of game and on 14 May he received the proxy of his brother Orkney, which he maintained for the remainder of the session. Balmerino also recorded Hamilton’s surprising opposition to the Tory bill to establish a commission to consider the resumption of William III’s land grants, which was narrowly rejected by a tied vote on 20 May.74 On 1 June, at the third reading of the Scottish linen bill, Hamilton spoke against the amendment banning exports of unmanufactured linen yarn from Scotland, insisting

that whatever they had promised to Ireland [regarding the export of linen yarn] yet now that we were all one with England charity must begin at home, and that he hoped they would be as careful of our linen manufacture as they were of their own woollen manufacture, especially since our woollen manufacture was destroyed.

This prompted Sunderland to answer that ‘he did own that he would as soon prefer the interest of Ireland to that of any one county in England’.75 By the time of the prorogation on 12 June, Hamilton was seen as a firm Tory. On 8 June he was admitted to the high Tory drinking club the Board of Brothers as its only Scottish member and he was listed as a ‘Tory patriot’ that is to say one of those intent on ‘easing the nation of the heavy burden and taxes, by putting an end to the expensive and bloody war’.76

By at least 6 June 1711 a warrant had been prepared to make Hamilton a British peer, and by 9 June Balmerino was referring to him as duke of Brandon, even though the patent had not yet passed the seals.77 The delay in passing the patent arose from ministerial awareness that both Whigs and Tories were firmly opposed to Hamilton’s right to sit in the House independent of his status as one of the sixteen representative peers, which English peers considered would set a dangerous precedent and threaten a Scottish invasion of the House. Hamilton did have a precedent on his side, since Queensberry had been sitting in the House as the British duke of Dover, and not as a representative peer, since the 1708 Parliament. Even on this point Hamilton’s erstwhile brother-in-law Sunderland warned him that both Tories and Whigs were intending in the next session to question Queensberry’s right to sit under that title. 78 Queensberry’s death on 6 July 1711 presented Hamilton with unexpected opportunities, for now Queensberry’s presence for two years in the House as a British duke was an established fact, and it was beyond the English lords to rescind it retrospectively. Hamilton could also now petition for the late duke’s office as Scottish secretary of state, but was again disappointed, as the queen did not immediately appoint a successor.79

The patent creating Hamilton duke of Brandon was passed on 10 Sept. 1711, but the political battle was far from over, and became even more partisan after the Tory ministry signed peace preliminaries with France on 28 September. The Whigs saw the Brandon peerage as an easy way to attack the ministry, but were genuinely fearful that it was the thin edge of the wedge, the first of many such creations which would swamp the House with a corps of Scottish peers compliant with the ministry.80 Both Hamilton and Mar were anxious and strongly urged Harley, now earl of Oxford, to ensure that the full complement of the Scottish peers be present for the beginning of the session, while the queen considered other measures to be taken to avoid the inevitable confrontation.81

When the session opened on 7 Dec. 1711, Hamilton did not take his seat, awaiting the issue of his controverted patent. He was thus not present for the votes on the first two days of the session regarding the addition of the ‘No Peace without Spain’ clause in the Address, and could not bring his own vote, or his proxies, to help Oxford avoid defeat.82 Nevertheless, the lord treasurer still included him on a list of ‘loyal peers’ who were to be gratified for their service. Hamilton did what he could to help in bringing the representative peers up to Westminster to assist his claim, but only nine were present in the otherwise well-attended House of 114 members on 20 Dec. when the Lords took his case into consideration, with the queen attending, incognita, and hoping that her prerogative would be upheld.83 The ensuing debate was long, lasting until 8 o’clock, and the queen was said to have remained for its entirety. The case against the patent was opened (with what Balmerino termed ‘sophistical trifling reasons’) by Heneage Finch, Baron Guernsey (later earl of Aylesford), and followed by his brother Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham. The Whigs, though, were at the vanguard of the campaign against Hamilton’s right to sit, seeking to prove that that 22nd article of the Act of Union, that which determined the election of representative peers, restricted the rights of the Scottish peerage and limited to 16 the number of Scots who could sit in the House. Hamilton’s opponents avoided as much as possible the ministry’s most powerful argument, advanced by Montagu Bertie, 2nd earl of Abingdon, which was the example of Queensberry. The Whigs were aware that the judges would most likely support Hamilton’s right to sit and they and Hamilton’s opponents among the Tories were able to defeat a motion that the judges’ legal opinion should be heard. Shortly afterwards the House divided again to resolve, by a majority of five, that no Scottish peer had the right to sit in the House by virtue of a British title created after the Union. Some attributed the outcome to the fact that six representative peers had still not come up to Parliament, and certainly the nine Scottish representative peers present in the House took the resolution as a national insult, all signing a protest against the vote.84

The Scottish peers met on 28 Dec. 1711 to discuss their response and on 1 Jan. 1712 presented the queen with a memorial of their grievances, drawn up by Hamilton, Mar and Argyll’s brother, Archibald Campbell, earl of Ilay [S], and signed by all the representative peers and Members, against what they saw ‘as a breach of the Union, and a mark of disgrace put upon the whole peers of Scotland’.85 The mood among the Scots was hardening and there was even talk of the dissolution of the Union or their defection from the ministry to join with the Whigs.86 Oxford called a meeting of Scottish peers on 13 Jan. and was able to persuade them for the moment to continue to support the ministry pending an address from the queen, delivered four days later, asking the House to reconsider its ruling. The same day Hamilton convened a meeting of Scottish peers at his house, where Annandale alone insisted that there should be a general boycott, while the rest agreed to wait to observe the outcome of the queen’s request. One of the ministry’s suggestions was to replace the current system of 16 elected representative peers with a set number of permanent hereditary peers, chosen by an extraordinary convention of the Scottish nobility. Hamilton supported this proposal, sure that he was bound to be one of those placed permanently in the House. The project foundered over disagreement over the precise number of hereditary peers who were to sit, and the objection, forcefully put by Balmerino, that the project would entail a reconvening of all the estates of the Scottish parliament to obtain approval of this fundamental change in the Treaty of Union.87 On 25 Jan. the committee of the whole House resolved that the House could alter the elected status of the representative peers of Scotland, at the ‘request’ of the Scottish nobility, ‘without any violation of the Union’. Mar had originally sought to use the words ‘at the desire and with the consent of the Scots peers’, and Balmerino immediately saw that the revised wording spelled the effective end of this proposal, since it was impossible that the whole body of the Scottish peerage would ever actively ‘request’ such a change.88

From the time of the last, inconclusive, meeting of the committee of the whole on 4 Feb. 1712, almost all the Scottish peers joined Balmerino, Annandale, and of course Hamilton himself, in a general boycott of the House. This broke down almost immediately, however, as at another meeting in Hamilton’s house on 8 Feb. seven representative peers resolved to return to Parliament to assist the passage of the Episcopal communion toleration bill.89 The following day ten Scottish peers were present in the House, much to Hamilton’s disgust, and by the end of February only Hamilton and Annandale still stood out in their refusal to attend.90 Indeed Hamilton, whose case so preoccupied the House, was never recorded as present during the entire session, determined as he was to sit as duke of Brandon, or not at all.

At almost exactly the same time Hamilton brought his long-running dispute with Mohun to the attention of the House. In October 1711 chancery had issued a decree ordering Mohun to pay Hamilton’s wife £15,000, but from November Mohun had sought to obstruct and delay its enactment by convincing the lord keeper to establish a commission to examine witnesses. None were produced and Hamilton decided to proceed upon the report. Mohun, though, warned him through his counsel on 24 Jan. 1712 that he would insist on his privilege. Five days later a petition was presented to the House on Hamilton’s behalf insisting that in his initial proceedings in this matter Mohun had waived his privilege and requesting liberty to proceed with the suit.91 Mohun gave in his answer on 2 Feb. and six days later counsel was heard before the committee of privileges, which decided on a division that Mohun still enjoyed privilege. On 8 Feb. the House agreed with the committee, the Whigs perhaps enjoying their opportunity to injure Hamilton’s interests on two fronts simultaneously. It was suggested that Hamilton’s cause was not helped by the Scottish boycott, which he himself was encouraging, as Mohun prevailed in the final division by only 3 votes, and those were proxies.92

Despite the frustration of the failure of his patent, Hamilton, true to form, continued to press for further honours and offices. Throughout January 1712 there were rumours that he would be given the office of master of horse, to replace the disobedient court Whig Charles Seymour, 6th duke of Somerset.93 In September he was made vice-admiral of Lancashire, as the ministry eased Derby out of his last remaining local role in the county. Hamilton was also unexpectedly given the post of master-general of the ordnance, at which he was reported to be happy, even though he had not asked for it; one observer commented ‘I wonder how he forgot it, for it is the first he has missed asking for these four years’. 94 Most prominently, though, he was nominated a Knight of the Garter on 25 Oct. and at about the same time was appointed, with the approval of the Jacobite court at St Germain, ambassador to France, now that peace between the two countries seemed imminent.95

Before he could fully enter into any of these posts, or even be installed at Windsor, Hamilton was challenged to a duel by a drunken Mohun after ‘brutal’ words were exchanged between them during a meeting in the rooms of a master in chancery. 96 On the morning of 15 Nov. 1712 the two men fought in Hyde Park and both were killed, Hamilton allegedly by Mohun’s second, General George MacCartney, when already wounded and on the ground. A contemporary verse eulogy saw Hamilton as ‘a hero murdered, by a saucy fool’, while others saw this incident as evidence of a Whig plot to dispose of a leading Tory grandee on the eve of his embarking on an important diplomatic mission to seal the peace between Britain and France. 97 MacCartney fled into hiding in the Netherlands, but returned in 1716, after the Whigs had come to power, when he was tried for murder and acquitted.

While his widow and sister-in-law Lady Orkney wrangled over where in England he should be buried, Hamilton’s body, after a temporary burial in Westminster Abbey, was transported back to Scotland in 1718 for interment with his ancestors at Hamilton.98 He was succeeded in his titles by his nine-year-old son James Hamilton, 5th duke of Hamilton [S] and 2nd duke of Brandon. During her son’s long minority the dowager duchess of Hamilton, joined by her maternal aunt Lady Charlotte Orby and her first cousin John Elrington, continued the legal case against Mohun’s heirs and executors, thus perpetuating the dispute between the two men well beyond their untimely deaths.


  • 1 NAS, GD 406/1/5997.
  • 2 NAS, GD 406/1/7807, 7808.
  • 3 TNA, PROB 11/556.
  • 4 CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 439; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 155.
  • 5 Scot. Rec. Soc. lix. 38.
  • 6 Somerville, Office Holders of Duchy of Lancaster, 144.
  • 7 CSP Dom. 1685, p. 280.
  • 8 CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 366.
  • 9 CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 345.
  • 10 CSP Dom. 1686-7, pp. 264, 273, 447.
  • 11 London Jnl. xviii. 27; Dasent, History of St James’s Sq. App. A.
  • 12 Lockhart Pprs. i. 55-6.
  • 13 HMC Portland, iv. 202, 206, 210–11.
  • 14 Macky Mems. 180.
  • 15 NAS, GD 406/1/8130, 8144, 8145, 8148, 8150, 8151, 10336, 11412.
  • 16 NAS, GD 406/1/3127-30; HMC Dartmouth, i. 115-16.
  • 17 CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 155, 280.
  • 18 CSP Dom. 1686-7, pp. 264, 273, 447.
  • 19 NAS, GD 406/1/6241-44, 7068, 7675, 7676, 7723, 7724, 7726, 7755, 7806-9, 8795, 8798.
  • 20 CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 345, 366.
  • 21 Beinecke Lib. OSB mss, fb 210, ff. 361-2.
  • 22 Ibid. ff. 331-2; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 392; P.W.J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Pols. 14-15.
  • 23 CSP Dom. 1689-90, pp. 11, 12, 76, 95, 317, 319, 335; NAS, GD 406/1/6339, 6341, 6391, 6392, 6394, 6396, 6416, 6417, 6446-51, 6525, 6526, 6567, 6589, 7814, 10838.
  • 24 CSP Dom. 1690-1, pp. 93-94, 414; Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Pols. 39-41; HMC Finch, iii. 321-3; Bodl. Carte 181, ff. 529-533, 563-5, 582.
  • 25 Lockhart Mems. 21.
  • 26 NAS, GD 406/1/8464, 8469, 8570.
  • 27 CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 372, 376; NAS, GD 406/1/8457, 9067-8.
  • 28 Pols. in Age of Anne 393; SHR, lx. 62.
  • 29 Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Pols. 14, 128, 133-4, 137-8, 146-7; Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 69-70; NLS, ms 7020, f. 178; Crossrig Diary 47-52, 58.
  • 30 Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 162; NAS, GD 406/1/6572, 7508, 8437; Add. 61474, f. 44; Carstares SP, 714.
  • 31 P.W.J. Riley, Union of England and Scotland, 36; NAS, GD 406/1/7872, 8084.
  • 32 NLS, ms 14414, f. 137; NAS, GD 406/1/7572, 8466; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 115.
  • 33 Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 253.
  • 34 NAS, GD 205/34/2/4–5; GD 406/1/8396; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 225, 228; Add. 70073-4, newsletters of 29 Sept., 3 Oct., 29 Dec. 1702.
  • 35 Riley, Union, 57; NAS, GD 406/1/7981; Edinburgh Univ. Lib. Laing mss, La. I. 180. 50d.
  • 36 NAS, GD 406/1/7981.
  • 37 Riley, Union, 75; Lockhart Pprs. i. 94; NAS, GD 406/1/7865, 8069.
  • 38 Add. 70075, newsletter of 21 Mar. 1704.
  • 39 Riley, Union, 81, 84, 86-89, 97-99; NAS, GD 406/1/7947, 7983, 8020; HMC Laing, ii. 68-70; NLS, ms 7121, f. 28; Macpherson, Orig. Pprs. i. 685.
  • 40 Riley, Union, 145-51; HMC Portland, iv. 228-9, 239, 240; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 235; HMC Laing, ii. 118; Seafield Letters, 56–57, 59, 60, 63, 65, 69, 87; Baillie Corresp. 19, 51, 85, 114; Lockhart Pprs. i. 132–3.
  • 41 Riley, Union, 150-51; NAS, GD 406/1/7918; Lockhart Pprs. 134-7; Baillie Corresp. 112, 127.
  • 42 HMC Portland, iv. 340; viii. 255-6; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 296, 298; NAS, GD 406/1/7850, 8032, 8073.
  • 43 Riley, Union, 268-70, 275, 277, 280, 287-9, 332; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 278-9, 290, 292, 300, 304, 309, 311, 323, 325, 352; HMC Portland, viii. 252, 259, 261-2, 265-70.
  • 44 Lockhart Mems. 22.
  • 45 APS, xi. 415.
  • 46 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 374; NAS, GD 406/1/7922.
  • 47 Macpherson, Orig. Pprs. i. 623, 645–6, 671–2, 678, 702–3; HMC Portland, iv. 258-9, 276, 307, 375, 466–7; N. Hooke, Secret Hist. (1760), 16 et seq.; Lockhart Pprs. i. 232–3.
  • 48 Baillie Corresp. 192-3; NAS, GD 220/5/172/1; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 300.
  • 49 Add. 61628, ff. 80-99, 154-6; Priv. Corr. D.M. ii. 256-63, 265-8, 271-4, 276-82; NAS, GD 124/15/801/3, GD 124/15/802/5, GD 124/15/831/15, GD 124/15/867/1.
  • 50 Add. 61628, ff. 86-92, 96, 140.
  • 51 Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 306; NLS, ms 1026, ff. 23, 28, 39-40.
  • 52 NLS, ms 1026, ff. 7-8, ms 14415, f. 155; Add. 61628, ff. 100-107, 110-12, 114-17; Priv. Corr. D.M. ii. 281-2.
  • 53 P. W. J. Riley, English Ministers and Scotland, 107, 111; Add. 61628, ff. 102-8, 118-34, 163-4; NAS, GD 158/1174/33-34; NLS, ms 1026, ff. 53-55.
  • 54 NLS, ms 14413, f. 162.
  • 55 HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 2-7; NAS, GD 406/1/8034–5.
  • 56 Wentworth Pprs. 72, 73.
  • 57 HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 287.
  • 58 Ibid. 12-13.
  • 59 NLS, ms 7021, ff. 194-5; NAS, GD 158/1117/3/1, GD 158/1117/5/3, GD 406/1/7265, 7267.
  • 60 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. iii. 1431-2; HMC Portland, iv. 538.
  • 61 NLS, ms. 7021, ff. 207-10.
  • 62 Priv. Corr. D. M. i. 281; G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 210, 225; Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. iii. 1445.
  • 63 Add. 61461, ff. 50-51.
  • 64 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. iii. 1467, 1473; Add. 61136, ff. 145-6, 149-53, 157-8; Add. 61418, f. 150; NLS, ms 7021, ff. 217-18.
  • 65 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. iii. 1509-10; NLS, ms 7021, ff. 223, 226-7, 230, 240; NAS, GD 124/15/975/2, 4, 6, 10, 11; GD 158/1178; GD 220/5/244; HMC Portland, iv. 558.
  • 66 NLS, ms 7021, f. 237; Add. 70315, E. Lewis to R. Harley, 15 Aug. 1710; NAS, GD 248/572/5/1/13.
  • 67 Add. 70333, memo, 12 and 26 Sept. 1710; NLS, ms 7021, ff. 244, 245.
  • 68 HMC Portland, iv. 608; Add. 70223, duchess of Hamilton to R. Harley, 7, 15, 22 Oct. 1710; NLS, ms 8262, ff. 40, 42, 43; HP Commons, 1690-1715, ii. 322.
  • 69 HMC Portland, x. 342, 349-50; Wentworth Pprs. 144-5; Atholl mss at Blair Atholl, 43/II/F/52; NLS, Wodrow Letters Qu. v, f. 54; NLS, ms 7021, f. 247.
  • 70 Add. 61155, ff. 81-82; NLS, ms 1026, ff. 62, 65-67; Add. 72495, ff. 28-29; Wodrow, Analecta, i. 308; SHR, lx. 62.
  • 71 HMC Portland, ii. 222; x. 330-1, 333.
  • 72 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 133.
  • 73 Ibid. 132, 133, 134; Add. 61461, ff. 120-21.
  • 74 Ibid. 131.
  • 75 Ibid. 135-7, 138.
  • 76 Ibid. 140; Add. 49360, f. 57.
  • 77 Wentworth Pprs. 204; Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 138; NAS, GD 124/15/1024/9.
  • 78 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 139; NLS, ms 1032, ff. 97–98; NAS, GD 220/5/257/8.
  • 79 NLS, ms 1032, f. 99; Wentworth Pprs. 242; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 491; NAS, GD 124/15/1024/15; Add. 61461, f. 141.
  • 80 NLS, ms 16503, f. 32; ms 14419, f. 112; Haddington mss at Mellerstain, 4, G. Baillie to his wife, 4 Nov., 4 Dec. 1711.
  • 81 HMC Portland, v. 109-10; x. 332; NAS, GD 124/15/1024/28; Q. Anne Letters ed. Brown, 355, 357.
  • 82 Wentworth Pprs. 224-5.
  • 83 NAS, GD 406/1/7582; Hamilton Diary, 34.
  • 84 G. Holmes, Pols. Relig. and Soc. 89-94; Wentworth Pprs. 226–9; Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 144-6; Burnet, vi. 89-90; Haddington mss, 4, Baillie to his wife, 20 Dec. 1711.
  • 85 Add. 70269, ‘Memorial presented to her Majesty in Duke Hamilton’s case, 1711’; NAS, GD 124/15/1024/30; HMC Laing, ii. 164–7.
  • 86 BLJ, xix. 158.
  • 87 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 140-43, 146-7; HMC Portland, v. 138.
  • 88 Scot Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 146-51; HMC Polwarth, i. 6; BLJ, xix. 160.
  • 89 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 147.
  • 90 Haddington mss, 5, Baillie to his wife, 28 Feb. 1712; Holmes, Pols. Relig. and Soc. 104.
  • 91 Add. 70056, petition of duke and duchess of Hamilton, 29 Jan. 1712.
  • 92 HMC Lords, n.s. ix. 187-9; Wentworth Pprs. 248.
  • 93 Wentworth Pprs. 242, 257, 258.
  • 94 HMC Portland, v. 211; Wentworth Pprs. 295.
  • 95 Macpherson, Orig. Pprs. ii. 325; Add. 61461, ff. 187-8.
  • 96 Bolingbroke Corresp. iii. 182, 546; Post Boy, 20–22 Nov. , 11–13 Dec. 1712; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 127.
  • 97 HMC Portland, v. 246-7; Jnl. to Stella ed. Williams, 457–8; Durham Univ. Jnl. lvii. 159–63; An Epitaph on His Grace James Duke of Hamilton ... (1712).
  • 98 NAS, GD 406/1/7243, 8088.