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Hamilton Palace

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Hamilton Palace, a seat of the Duke of Hamilton, is situated in the parish of Hamilton, on low ground between the town of that name and the river Clyde. The site of the old part of the town called Netherton is partly included within the walls of the park; and even yet the houses of Hamilton approach the palace near enough almost to intrude upon its privacy. The germ of the structure was a small square tower, but the oldest part of the present palace was erected about 1591, while a very large addition was made in 1705This erection, described by Dorothy Wordsworth in 1803 as `a large building without grandeur, a heavy lumpish mass,' was further added to in 1822 and subsequent years, and is now one of the most magnificent piles in the kingdom. t comprises a N front 265 feet long and 60 high, adorned -with a splendid Corinthian portico of monolithic columns 25 feet high and 10 in circumference, modelled after the temple of Jupiter Stator at Rome. The interior is planned on a scale of equal magnificence. The principal apartments are the tribune or saloon, the dining-room, 71 feet by 30, the library built to contain the famous Beckford collection, and a gallery 120 feet long, 20 wide, and 20 high. The treasures of art in cabinets and furniture, pictures, statuary, china, and glass, which, till 1882, filled and adorned the princely rooms of the palace, formed the most splendid assemblage of the kind in Scotland. This collection was made chiefly in the early years of the 19th century by Alexander, the tenth duke, and his father-in-law, the famous William Beckford, author of Vathek, and it was perhaps the brightest gem in the ducal coronet of Hamilton. Between 17 June and 20 July 1882 the magnificent treasures were dispersed by the auctioneer's hammer. The sale, which created a stir in every artistic circle throughout the world, produced the sum of £397, 562, a total that far exceeds any other modern sale of the same character. The 2213 lots brought an average of £180 each; enormous sums were given for the numerous unique art-treasures, which, exclusive of pictures by the old masters, were chiefly of the 17th and 18th centuries. The picturesalone, including the miniatures, brought upwards of £123, 000; Rubens' famous `Daniel in the Lions 'Den,' on which Wordsworth composed his well-known sonnet, was sold for £5145; and a portrait of Philip IV-, by Velasquiz, for 6000 guineas. Perhaps the specialty of the collection, if, indeed, it could be said to have a specialty, was the fine old French furniture. Two secretaires that had belonged to Marie Antoinette were sold for £9450 each; and a pair of Buhl armoires brought £11, 500. The library of Duke Alexander was also sold, as well as Mr Beckford's library, which had been removed to Hamilton Palace, where, however, it was kept distinct.

The policies surrounding the Palace extend for 2½ miles along the Clyde, and for 2¾ miles along the Avon, and include woods, gardens, and lawns. The wild white cattle are noticed under Cadzow. Near the Palace stands a mausoleum erected, at a cost of £130,000, from designs by David Bryce, in imitation of the castle of St Angelo at Rome. It includes an octagonal chapel adorned with sculptures by A. H. Ritchie, and lighted by a dome 120 feet high. Hither, in 1852, were transferred the remains of the Hamilton family. A moathill towards the N of the park is 30 feet in diameter at the base, and 16 high, and it has been referred to at least as far back as the time of Malcolm Ceannmor. The runic stone-cross, 4 feet high, in the vicinity, is supposed to have been the market-cross of NethertonHamilton gives the titles of Baron and Duke in the peerage of Scotland to the noble family of HamiltonDouglas, and that of Marquess to the Duke of Abercorn. Both of these illustrious families are said to be descended from Robert de Bellomont, third Earl of Leicester, whose grandson, Sir Gilbert Hamilton, fled to Scotland in 1323, in consequence of having slain in combat John de Spencer. The crest of the dukes of Hamilton-an oak tree with a saw through it-commemorates his escape in the disguise of a woodcutt r; whilst the motto 'Through' was Sir Gilbert' exclamation on seeing his pursuers ride unsuspectingly past the place where he and his servant were in the act of sawing through an oak tree. Sir Walter de Hamilton, Sir Gilbert' son, acquired the barony of Cadzow, in the sheriffdom of Lanark, with other lands. His descendant, Sir James, sixth Lord Cadzow, was created a lord of parliament in 1445 as Lord Hamilton; and as a reward for changing to the king' side during the armed revolt of Earl Douglas, he obtained a grant, dated 1 July 1455, of the office of sheriff of Lanark, and extensive grants of lands at later dates. He married for his second wife in 1474, Mary, eldest daughter of James II-, and widow of Thomas Boyd, Earl of Arran. His son, who succeeded in 1479, obtained in 1503 a charter of the lands and earldom of Aran, and was appointed lieutenant-general of the kingdom, warden of the marches, and one of the lords of regency in 1517His son, James, the second Earl of Arran, was declared in 1543 heir-presumptive to the crown, and was appointed guardian to Queen Mary, and governor of the kingdom during her minority. In recognition of his services in opposing the English alliance, and in bringing about the marriage of Mary with the Dauphin, Henry II. of France conferred upon him the title of Duke of Chatelherault, with a pension of 30, 000 livres a year. In 1557 his eldest son, James, succeeded to the earldom of Arran, the dukedom of Chatelherault having been resumed by the French crown; and on Mary' arrival in Scotland in 1561, this nobleman openly aspired to her hand. His strong opposition to her majesty' religion completely estranged her favour, and the unfortunate earl was not long afterwards declared to be insane, while his estates devolved upon his brother, Lord John Hamilton, commendator of Aberbrothock. This fourth earl assisted in procuring Queen Mary' escape from Loch Leven Castle in 1567; and it was to his estate in Hamilton that she first fled. After the battle of Langside, the castle of Hamilton was taken, and its owner went into banishment. He was restored by James VI-, and created in 1599 Marquess of Hamilton. His son, James, the second Marquis (1604-25), obtained an English peerage as Baron of Innerdale in Cumberland and Earl of Cambridge. James, the third Marquess, was created in 1643 Marquess of Clydesdale, and later Duke of Hamilton, with a grant of the office of hereditary keeper of Holyrood Palace.

This nobleman, the first Duke of Hamilton, warmly espoused the cause of Charles I.; and being defeated and captured at the Battle of Preston, he was condemned by the same court as had condemned the king, and was beheaded in London, 9 March 1649. His brother and successor William, who had been previously raised to the peerage as Lord Mackanshire and Polmont and Earl o Lanark, was mortally wounded in the cause of Charles II. at the Battle of Worcester. He was excepted from Cromwell' Act of Grace in 1654, and his estates were forfeited, with the reservation of a pittance for his duchess and her four daughters. His own honours fell under the attainder, and his English dignities expired; but the dukedom of Hamilton, in virtue of. the patent, devolved upon his niece, the eldest daughter of the first duke. The male representation of the house of Hamilton passed to his next male heir, the Earl of Abercorn, whose descendant, the Duke of Abercorn, is the head of the family.

Lady Anne Hamilton, Duchess of Hamilton, introduced the Douglas name into the family by marrying Lord William Douglas, eldest son of William, first Marquis of Douglas; and she obtained by petition for her husband, in 1660, the title of Duke of Hamilton for life. His Grace had previously been elevated to the peerage as Earl of Selkirk. This peer sat as president of the convention parliament which settled the crown upon William and Mary. He died in 1694, and was succeeded by his eldest son, James, Earl of Arran, who, upon the Duchess, a few years afterwards, surrendering her honours, became then, by patent, Duke of Hamilton, with the precedency of the original creation of 1643 in the same manner as if he had originally inherited. He was created an English peer, in 1711, as Baron of Dutton in the county of Chester, and Duke of Brandon in the county of Suffolk; but upon proceeding to take his seat in the House of Lords, it was objected, that by the 23d article of the Union, `no peer of Scotland could, after the Union, be created a peer of England;' and the house sustained this objection after a lengthy debate. James George, the seventh Duke, succeeded to the marquisate of Douglas and earldom of Angus on the death, in 1761, of Archibald, last Duke of Douglas; and the unsuccessful attempt of his guardians to vindicate his claim to the Douglas estates also, on the ground that Mr Stewart, son and heir of the Duke of Douglas' sister, was not her son, led to the celebrated Douglas cause. His brother, eighth duke, succeeded in 1782 in obtaining a reversal of the decision as to his right to sit in the House of Lords. William Alexander, eleventh Duke of Hamilton, succeeded in 1852, and died in 1863. William . Alexander . Louis . Stephen DouglasHamilton (b. 1845) succeeded as twelfth Duke of Hamilton and ninth of Brandon, and received by imperial degree of Napoleon III. of 20 April 1864 the revived title of Duke of Chatelherault. His other titles are Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale, Earl of Angus, Arran, and Lanark, Lord Hamilton, Avon, Polmont, Mackanshire, Innerdale, Abernethy, and Jedburgh Forest in the peerage of Scotland, and Baron of Dutton. Besides Hamilton Palace, his seats are Kinneil House in Linlithgowshire, Brodick Castle in Arran, and Easton Park, in Suffolk. He holds 152,445 acres in Scotland, valued at £132,508 per annum, viz-, 45,731 in Lanarkshire (£95,362), 102, 210 in Buteshire (£18,702), 3694 in Linlithgowshire (£l5, 522), and 810 in Stirlingshire (£2922).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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