Hamilton Clan History
Taking 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. Among his new properties was the Barony and lands of Cadzow which would in time be the town of Hamilton.

The family’s power grew from their continued loyalty to the Crown. In 1346, whilst fighting for David II at the Battle of Neville’s Cross, Walter’s son, Sir David, was captured with his King and the two were not released until after the payment of an immense ransom.

The two families became yet closer when, in 1474, James, the 1st Lord Hamilton, married Princess Mary, the daughter of James II. Their son was created the Earl of Arran and stood next in line for the throne.

Hamilton Palace, former seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, was built in 1695. Once considered one of the finest houses in Scotland, it was demolished in 1927.

The family made their home on the island of Arran in 1503 and for most of that century a Hamilton was close to inheriting the Crown. The 2nd Earl was heir to the throne both with James IV and Mary, Queen of Scots. As Mary’s Regent, he squandered her wealth and his allegiance to England or France was a question of simple bribery.

A free gift he brought to Scotland was Henry VIII’s wrath.

The 4th Earl was the keeper of both Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, and became a Marquess in 1599. Earlier, in 1587, his brother, Claude, was made the first Lord Paisley and then Lord Abercorn. Claude’s descendants also became extremely wealthy, carving themselves a part of Ulster and raising the Abercorn title to an Earldom then a Dukedom by 1868.

The third Marquess, for his support of Charles I, became a Duke in 1643. He was beheaded in London with his King in 1649.

When subsidence meant the end of Hamilton Palace, the chief family moved their seat to Lennoxlove, Haddington.