Patrick Hamilton

1503 - 1528

Protestant reformer and martyr. Probably born in Linlithgow (West Lothian), he was the son of Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavil (d.1520) and nephew of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran (c. 1475 – 1529). Hamilton was a great grandson of King James II, through his mother. As a second son, he was destined for a career in the church and was appointed titular abbot of Fearn Abbey in 1517. The following year he was sent to university in Paris, where he first came across the writings of Martin Luther, the German Protestant theologian. He then studied at Leuven. Hamilton returned to Scotland in 1523 and continued his education at the University of St. Andrews, enrolling in St. Leonard's College. Here his Lutheran views came to attention of James Beaton, Archbishop of St. Andrews (c.1473 - 1539) and Hamilton was forced to flee to Germany. A few months later he returned to Scotland and initially avoided arrest due to his noble connections. He was allowed to preach in St. Andrews for a month before being summoned for trial before a council of bishops, presided over by Archbishop Beaton. With great haste, he was condemned as a heretic and executed before he could be rescued by his supporters. His monogram can be found in the pavement outside St. Salvator's Chapel in St. Andrews, the spot where he was burned at the stake. This was a particularly brutal execution, with gunpowder placed amongst the wood exploding and grievously injuring Hamilton before he died in the flames. John Knox was horrified and Hamilton's death did much to spread the Protestant faith in Scotland, becoming a significant factor in bringing about the Reformation in 1559.

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