John Hamilton, Archbishop of St. Andrews

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John Hamilton, Archbishop of St Andrews

Death: April 6, 1571
Mercat Cross, Stirling, Stirlingshire, Scotland (Executed by hanging for his complicity, art and part ,in the murder of the Regent Moray and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley)
Immediate Family:

Son of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran and NN NN
Father of Margaret Bruce; William Hamilton of Blair; John Hamilton; James Hamilton; David Hamilton and 1 other
Half brother of John Hamilton of Clydesdale; Jean Hamilton; Euphemia Hamilton; James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran; Lady Janet Hamilton and 7 others

Occupation: Abbot of Paisley, Bishop of Dunkeld
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Hamilton, Archbishop of St. Andrews


Scottish prelate and politician: Abbot of Paisley, 1525-71; Bishop of Dunkeld 1546; Archbishop of St. Andrew's 1549-71; Keeper of the Privy Seal 1543-1546; Treasurer of Scotland 1543-54

John Hamilton is the bastard son of James, Earl of Arran. He had letters of legitimation under the Great Seal of Scotland on 20 June 1548. Hamilton Memoirs, page 235 The name of his mother and his date of birth are unknown. However, he is said to have been in his fourteenth year when he was appointed as abbot of Paisley in 1525, and this siuggests that he was born in or before about 1512. Catholic Encyclopedia More recently it has been claimed that he was born at Glasgow on 3 February 1512.


John Hamilton was executed at Stirling on 6 April 1571: "As the bell struck at six hours at even he was hangit at the mercat cross of Stirling upon the jebat." After his execution, his body was quartered, but those friends who had so curiously expressed their regret, probably carried his mangled remains to Paisley. There is in the church a tablet, which looks as it had marked his grave. It has upon it the Archbishop's coat of arms, the letters J. H., the initials of his name, and the motto he assumed - Misericordia et Pax." [J. Cameron Lees, D.D., \The Abbey of Paisley, from its Foundation till its Dissolution, with Notices of the Subsequent History of the Church, and an Appendix of Illustrative Documents (Alex Gardner, Paisley, 1878), pp. 204-05]

Biographical and Genealogical Accounts

  1. The Scots Peerage etc. (Edinburgh 1907), iv, p. 362 for John Hamilton
  2. The Scots Peerage etc. (Edinburgh 1910), vii, pp. 545-47 for Grizel Semple
  3. John Anderson, Historical and Genealogical Memoirs of the House of Hamilton, etc. (Edinburgh, 1825), 495 pp.
  4. Catholic Encyclopedia: John Hamilton

Biographical Account Copied from the Wikipedia page for John Hamilton, Archbishiop of St. Andrews:

The Most Rev. Dr. John Hamilton (3 February 1512 – 6 April 1571), Scottish prelate and politician, was an illegitimate son of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran.[1]

At a very early age he became a monk and Abbot of Paisley, and after studying in Paris he returned to Scotland, where he soon rose to a position of power and influence under his half-brother, the regent James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran. He was made Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland in 1543 and bishop of Dunkeld two years later; in 1546 he followed Cardinal Beaton as Archbishop of St Andrews, and about the same time he became treasurer of the kingdom.

In 1553 the Italian physician Gerolamo Cardano cured him of a disease that had left him speechless and was thought incurable. The diplomat Thomas Randolph recorded the "merry tales" rumoured about his methods still current in Edinburgh nine years later.[2] Cardano himself wrote that the Archbishop had been short of breath for 10 years, and after the cure was effected by his assistant, he was paid 1,400 gold crowns.[3] While the Archbishop was unwell, his brother was persuaded to give up the Regency of Scotland to Mary of Guise.[4]

He made vigorous efforts to stay the growth of Protestantism, but with one or two exceptions persecution was not the policy of Archbishop Hamilton, and in the interests of the Roman Catholic religion a catechism called Hamilton's Catechism (published with an introduction by TG Law in 1884) was drawn up and printed, possibly at his instigation.

Having incurred the displeasure of the Protestants, now the dominant party in Scotland, the Archbishop was imprisoned in 1563. After his release he was an active partisan of Mary, Queen of Scots; he baptised the infant James, afterwards King James VI, and pronounced the divorce of the queen from Bothwell. He was present at the Battle of Langside.

Assassination of Regent Moray

John Hamilton, with his brother James, acquired a house on the south side of Linlithgow High Street in 1550.[5] In 1570 from this house, his nephew or close kinsman, James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, assassinated James Stuart, Earl of Murray, the Regent of Scotland. During the aftermath, John Hamilton later took refuge in Dumbarton Castle.

The castle fell to a surprise night attack, led by Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill, and Archbishop Hamilton was captured. Concerned lest the English should seek to have the Archbishop spared, the leaders of the King's party had Hamilton speedily tried and convicted of art and part in the murder of the Regent Moray and King Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. At 6 pm on 6 April 1571, three days after his capture, he was hanged beside the Mercat Cross of Stirling.[6]

Archbishop Hamilton had three children by his mistress, Grizzel Sempill.


  • 1. ^ "John Hamilton". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  • 2. ^ Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol.1 (1898), p.592
  • 3. ^ Cardanus, Gerolamo, De Propria Vita Liber: His Own Life, Amsterdam, (1654), pp.136-7, (Latin)
  • 4. ^ Melville, James, Memoirs of his own life, Brookman, (1833), 21, 73
  • 5. ^ Protocol book of James Foulis, SRS (1926), nos. 85, 145.
  • 6. ^ Dawson, Janes E. A., Scotland Reformed, pp. 275–276.

Rainer Haas, Allerlei Protestanten – Christus-Zeugen aus der Tudor-Zeit, darin: 5. John Hamilton - war der spätere Erzbischof von St.Andrews 1527 als Student in Marburg an der Lahn?, Nordhausen, 2010

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Political offices

  • Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland (1542–1547)
    • Preceded by David Beaton
    • Succeeded by 2nd Lord Ruthven

Religious titles

  • Commendator-Abbot of Paisley (1525–1553)
    • Preceded by Robert Shaw
    • Succeeded by Claud Hamilton, 1st Lord Paisley
  • Bishop of Dunkeld (1544/1546–1547)
    • Preceded by George Crichton
    • Succeeded by Robert Crichton
  • Archbishop of St. Andrews (1547/1549–1571)
    • Preceded by David Beaton
    • Succeeded by Gavin Hamilton

Academic offices

  • Chancellor of the University of St Andrews (1547–1571)
    • Preceded by David Beaton, Archbishop of St Andrews
    • Succeeded by John Douglas, Archbishop of St Andrews

John James Hamilton, Archbishop of St Andrews Birth: 1496 Buteshire, Scotland Death: April 7, 1571 (75) Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland Son of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran Partner of Grizell Hamilton Father of Robert Hamilton and Paul Hamilton Half brother of Margaret Hamilton; Sir John Hamilton; James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran; Elizabeth Hamilton; Margaret Hamilton of The House of Hamilton; Gavin Hamilton; Lady Janet Cuninghame (Hamilton); Jane Hamilton; Lady Helen Hamilton and Elizabeth Hamilton « less


Mary Boyd


John Hamilton, Bishop of Dunkeld, Archbishop of St. Andrews(1,2) M, #78305, b. circa 1510, d. 7 April 1571

Father Sir James Hamilton, 2nd Lord Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran (3,2) b. c 1475 Mother Mary Boyd (4)

   John Hamilton, Bishop of Dunkeld, Archbishop of St. Andrews (DID NOT MARRY 5,6) married Grizel Semphill, daughter of Robert Semphill, 3rd Lord Semphill and Elizabeth Hamilton, DID NOT MARRY.(5,6) John Hamilton, Bishop of Dunkeld, Archbishop of St. Andrews was born circa 1510.1 He died on 7 April 1571 at Stirling, Scotland; Hanged by the victors of the Battle of Dumbarton.(1)

Family Grizel Semphill d. Oct 1575. Child Jean Hamilton (1)

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