Clan Hamilton is a Scottish chiefly family
The Hamiltons were considered the most important of the Lowland families aspiring at one time even to the Scottish throne. Their chief is still the Premier Duke of Scotland, heir male of the house of Douglas and hereditary keeper of the Palace of Holyrood. <ref>http://www.electricscotland.com/webclans/htol/hamilto2.html</ref>
It is believed that this family descends from a Norman, Walter Fitz Gilbert of Hambledon, who appears in a charter to the Monastery of Paisley around 1294. <ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 158</ref> 'Hamel dun' is thought to mean 'bare hill' in Old English and Hambledon is a place name found in Hampshire, Surrey and Dorset. There are variants Hambleton and Hambleden in other English counties. <ref>David Dorward, Dictionary of Scottish Surnames, 132</ref>
Fitz Gilbert of Hambledon's lands appear to have been in Renfrewshire. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> For belated support of Robert the Bruce he was granted lands in Lothian and in Lanarkshire, the latter including the lands of Cadzow, which later became Hamilton town. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> Walter's son, David, fought for David II in1346 at the Battle of Neville's Cross, where he was captured and held prisoner until a substantial ransom was paid.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref>
Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
The chiefly family married into royalty during the fifteenth century when James, first Lord Hamilton, married Princess Mary, daughter of James III, in 1474.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> Their children were very clearly in the line of succession to the throne, and as a result Princess Mary's son was created Earl of Arran.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> This connection ensured the family's high status and involvement in royal politics. The second Earl of Arran was heir to the throne of both James IV and Mary, Queen of Scots.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref>
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. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> However Arran had been prominent in the marriage negotiations with France and was rewarded by being made Duke of Chatelherault in the French peerage in 1548.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref>
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. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref>
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.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> In 1599 he was advanced to the rank of Marquess.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> His brother, Claud, was created Lord Paisley in 1587, and later Lord Abercorn.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> This branch of the family also prospered, Abercorn being translated into an earldom and ultimately a dukedom in 1868.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> The Dukes of Abercorn now have their seat in Northern Ireland at Baronscourt, near Strabane.
War of the Three Kingdoms
The third Marquess was a supporter of Charles I- who rewarded him in 1643 with a Scottish dukedom, making Hamilton the premier peer of Scotland.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref>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.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref>
The title passed to his daughter, Anne. 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.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref>. She had married William Douglas, Earl of Selkirk.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref> She began the construction of a vast Ducal Palace in Lanarkshire from 1695. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_Palace</ref>
The fourth Duke of Hamilton was killed after a duel in London in 1712. The following Dukes sensibly concentrated on building, extending Hamilton Palace and the construction of a cast landscaped park surrounding it. From 1819 the 10th Duke of Hamilton began a wave of total refurbishment, using the almost limitless wealth falling upon the family from their ownership of the Lanarkshire coalfields.
The staterooms, which included extensive stucco-work, were by Smith and Adam. These held much fine furniture and by the mid-19th century housed one of the best private collections of paintings in Scotland, including works by Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, Anthony van Dyck.
This largely ensued from his wife Susanna's inheritance of an existing huge collection from her father- the eccentric builder and art collector, William Beckford. The 10th Duke lived in regal style and was nicknamed 'El Magnifico'. His royal ambitions reached their climax when he married his son, William, to Princess Marie of Baden, a cousin of Napoleon III.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref>
The demise of Hamilton Palace in the early twentieth century was the result of various factors: large and ostentatious houses had fallen from fashion; the cost of upkeep was prohibitive; and nearby coal mines resulted in dangerous subsidence as the coal beneath was removed. The decline began in 1882 when art was sold off to raise funds by William, the 12th Duke.
However, after Alfred, the 13th Duke lent his home for use as a naval hospital during World War I, the state of the palace was one of severe neglect necessitating vast sums for restoration. The Palace was demolished in 1921 after a sale of its fittings.
The fourteenth Duke inherited his family's sense of adventure and in 1933 piloted the first aeroplane to fly over Everest. He is perhaps best remembered for his involvement in the remarkable decision by Adolph Hitler's deputy Rudolph Hess, to fly to Scotland and meet the duke in an attempt to negotiate peace in 1941.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 160</ref>
The family continued to lose large properties during the twentieth century, with their seat at Dungavel being sold in 1947 and then becoming an open prison and most recently a highly controversial detention centre for asylum seekers. <ref>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungavel_House</ref>. The ancestral castle at Brodick on the Island of Arran is now curated by the National Trust for Scotland.
The current Duke of Hamilton and Chief of Clan Hamilton is Alexander Douglas Hamilton, 16th Duke of Hamilton (b.1978) He is an active member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.