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Hamilton Clan

  • Crest: Dexter, in a decal coronet an oak tree fructed and penetrated transversely in the main stem by a frame saw Proper, the frame Or (Hamilton); sinister, on a chapeau Gules turned up Ermine a salamander in flames Proper (Douglas).
  • Badge Standing on a ducal coronet, an oak tree fructed and penetrated transversely by a frame saw, proper, the frame Or.
  • Gaelic Name: Hamultun
  • Motto: Through Explanation
  • Origin of Tartan:
  • Name Variations: Hamilton, Hameldon, Hamildune, Hamildone, Hameldone, Hamiltun, Hamiltune, Hamildone, Hambledon, Hamblenden, Hambeden, Hambeldene, Hameledene, Hamelden, Hamilden, Hameldon, Hamelton, Hambleton.
  • Lands Renfrewshire, Arran
  • Seat: Hamilton Palace in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, had been the family's seat from 1695. Excessive subsidence of the palace caused by the family's mines led to its condemnation and demolition in 1921. The 13th Duke then moved to Dungavel House, near Strathaven. This was where deputy-führer Rudolf Hess aimed to reach during his doomed peace mission to see the Douglas, 14th Duke of Hamilton in 1941. In 1947, Dungavel was sold to the coal board, and then on to the government, who turned it into an open prison. Currently, it is the site of a controversial holding centre for asylum-seekers.

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The family moved to Lennoxlove House in East Lothian, which remains the residence of the current Duke.

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Origins of the name

In Old English Hamel Dun means bare hill and as a place name is found in Hampshire, Surrey and Dorset.

The Hamilton Clan took the name of a town in England, a Norman named Walter fitz-Gilbert of Hambledon, moved to Renfrewshire. He is first mentioned in a 1294 charter given to Paisley monastery giving the privilege of fishing for herring in the Clyde, to which he is a witness. Later, during the Wars of Independence, fitz-Gilbert was governor of Bothwell Castle on behalf of the English, but he came across to Bruce’s side and was rewarded with a portion of confiscated Comyn lands.

Walter fitz-Gilbert's support for Robert the Bruce rewarded him with lands in Lanarkshire and the Lothians. These lands included Cadzow, which later became the town of Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.

Walter’s son, David fitz Walter of Cadzow, fought for David II in 1346 at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, where he was captured and held prisoner until a substantial ransom was paid.

James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton married Princess Mary, daughter of James III, in 1474. The issue of this marriage were clearly in line of succession to the throne, and Princess Mary’s son was created Earl of Arran.

The family extended the simple Castle of Brodick on the island of Arran, and in the nineteenth century the chiefs developed it into a stately home. The son of James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton and Princess Mary was James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran. The second Earl of Arran, http://www.geni.com/people/James-Hamilton-2nd-Earl-of-Arran/5260071237400138842 James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran] was the heir to the throne of both James IV and Mary, Queen of Scots. He was made Regent of Scotland while the queen was a child and to secure his claim to the throne he proposed to marry his son to her. In the end the match did not take place, and Mary married the heir to the French throne. However, Arran had figured prominently in the marriage negotiations with France and, as a reward, he was created Duke of Chatelherault in the French peerage in 1548.

When Mary’s marriage to the Dauphin of France ended with his death, the Hamilton hopes of a royal match were again rekindled. He was sent into exile for five years in 1561 when he openly opposed Mary’s marriage to Lord Darnley, but on his return he tried to save the ill-fated queen, who stayed at Cadzow after her escape from Lochleven.

The fourth Earl of Arran and third Duke of Chatelherault became Chancellor of Scotland and keeper of both the strategic Castles of Edinburgh and Stirling. In 1599 he was advanced to the rank of Marquess. His brother, Claud, was created Lord Paisley in 1587, and later Lord Abercorn. This branch of the family also prospered, Abercorn being translated into an earldom and ultimately a dukedom in 1868. The Dukes of Abercorn now have their seat in Ulster in the splendid house of Baronscourt.

The third Marquess was a staunch supporter of Charles I, who rewarded him in 1643 with a Scottish dukedom, making Hamilton the premier peer of Scotland. Hamilton led an army into England after the Scots had handed Charles over to Parliament, but strategic errors and the superiority of the English army resulted in his defeat at Preston in 1648. He was beheaded at Whitehall in 1649 shortly before the king. His brother, the second Duke, was a brave but less than competent soldier who was killed at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

The title passed to Anne, the daughter of the first Duke. A woman of great intellect and determination, she inherited the title and estates heavily burdened by debts, a situation made worse by a legal dispute with her kinsman, the Earl of Abercorn, who challenged her right to succeed. She had married William Douglas, Earl of Selkirk, and set out to re-establish the family seat, laying the foundations for the building of a great palace. Her son, Lt. Gen. James Douglas-Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton met his death in a duel in London in 1712. The affair was something of a scandal, as the parties’ seconds also joined in, and after Hamilton killed his opponent, Lord Mohun, one McCartney promptly killed the duke. James Hamilton, 5th Duke of Hamilton and James Douglas-Hamilton, 6th Duke of Hamilton extended the palace and built the hunting lodge named Chatelherault, now part of a public park.

Alexander Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton, completed the enlargement of Hamilton Palace and adorned it with spectacular works of art collected from all over the world. He was nicknamed ‘Il Magnifico’ and lived in regal style. He crowned his royal ambitions by marrying his son, William Alexander Archibald Hamilton, 11th Duke of Hamilton, to Princess Marie of Baden, a cousin of Napoleon III. William Alexander Louis Stephen Hamilton, 12th Duke of Hamilton piloted the first aeroplane to fly over Everest in 1933. Angus Douglas-Hamilton, 15th Duke of Hamilton was an engineer, a former RAF test pilot and an author.

Hamilton Palace was demolished because of mining subsidence and the seat is now Lennoxlove, near Haddington.

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References, Sources and Further Reading