James Hamilton (English army officer)

Colonel James Hamilton (c.1630 – 1673) was the son of an Irish royalist and became a courtier to Charles II after the Restoration. He appears in the Mémoires du comte de Grammont, written by his brother Anthony. The king appointed him ranger of Hyde Park and groom of the bedchamber. In 1673 he lost a leg in a sea-fight with the Dutch and died from the wound a few days later. In 1701 his eldest son became the 6th Earl of Abercorn.

James Hamilton
Bornc. 1630
Died6 June 1673
Allegiance Kingdom of England
Service/branch Royal Navy

Birth and origins

James was born about 1630[1][2][lower-alpha 1] in Ireland. He was the eldest of the nine children, six boys and three girls,[3] of George Hamilton and his wife Mary Butler. His father was Scottish, the fourth son of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Abercorn, and would in 1660 be created baronet of Donalong and Nenagh.[4] James's mother was Irish and belonged to the Butler Dynasty, an influential Old English family. She was the third daughter of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles and a sister of the future 1st Duke of Ormond.[5] His parents married in 1629.[1]

Family tree
James Hamilton with wife, children, parents, and other selected relatives. His eldest son succeeds as the 6th Earl of Abercorn. Earls 3 to 5 are not shown. Earl 3 descends from Earl 2. Earls 4 & 5 descend from Claud Hamilton of Strabane.
1st Earl


d. 1632

d. 1619
2nd Earl

d. 1670
2nd Baron
H. of

d. 1638
1st Bt.

c. 1607 –

d. 1680
1st Duke

d. 1667
d. 1687
d. 1691
c. 1630 –

d. 1709
c. 1645–
c. 1655 –
6th Earl

c. 1661 –

d. 1754
d. 1692
after 1662 –
7th Earl

XXXDuke of
XXXEarls of
This family tree is partly derived from the Abercorn pedigree pictured in Cokayne.[6] Also see the lists of siblings and children in the text.

He heads the list of siblings below as the eldest:

  1. James (c. 1630 – 1673), the subject of this article;
  2. George (died 1676), who married Frances Jennings[7] and was killed in French service;[8]
  3. Elizabeth (1641–1708), who was a famous beauty and married Philibert de Gramont;[9]
  4. Anthony (c. 1645 – 1719), who fought for the Jacobites and wrote the Mémoires du comte de Grammont;[10]
  5. Thomas (died 1687), who served in the Royal Navy and died in Boston, Massachusetts;[11][12][13]
  6. Richard (died 1717), who fought for the Jacobites and was taken prisoner at the Boyne;[14]
  7. John (died 1691), who fought for the Jacobites and fell at Aughrim;[15]
  8. Lucia (died 1676), who married Sir Donough O'Brien;[16] and
  9. Margaret, who married Mathew Forde of Seaforde.[17]

Both his parents were Catholic, but some relatives on his father's as on his mother's side were Protestants. His grandfather, James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Abercorn, had been a Protestant,[18] but his father and all his paternal uncles were raised as Catholics due to the influence of his paternal grandmother, Marion Boyd, a Scottish recusant.[19] Some branches of the Hamilton family were Protestant, such as that of his father's second cousin Gustavus (1642–1723), who would become the 1st Viscount Boyne. His mother's family, the Butlers, were generally Catholic with the notable exception of the future 1st Duke of Ormond, his maternal uncle. He himself would later turn Protestant as seen below. His brother Thomas seems to have made the same choice as he became a captain in the Royal Navy.[20]

Irish wars and exile

His father served in the Irish army and fought for the royalists under his uncle James Butler, Earl of Ormond, in the Irish Confederate Wars (1641–1648) and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649-1653) until he was forced into exile in 1651.[21]

He probably was born in Strabane, County Tyrone, Ulster, near the Dunnalong (or Donalong) estate, which was his father's share of the land granted to his grandfather Abercorn during the Plantation of Ulster.[22] His uncle Claud had lived in the Castle of Strabane until his death in 1638. The family probably fled before Phelim O'Neill burned the Castle of Strabane in 1641 during the Rebellion and took his aunt Jean, Claud's widow, prisoner.[23]

He was about 16 on 17 September 1646, when Owen Roe O'Neil, who had taken over from Phelim as leader of the Confederate Ulster army, captured Roscrea Castle where he lived. The confederates spared him, his siblings, and his mother but put everybody else to the sword.[24][25] Owen O'Neill was leading his army south after his victory over the Scottish Covenanters at Benburb in June and was now attacking the royalists as directed by Rinuccini, the papal nuncio.[26][27]

His father was governor of Nenagh Castle, 30 kilometres (19 mi) west of Roscrea, in October 1650 when the Parliamentarian army under Henry Ireton attacked and captured the castle on the way back from the unsuccessful siege of Limerick to their winter quarters at Kilkenny.[28]

Early in 1651, when he was about 21, his family followed Ormond into French exile.[29] They first went to Caen[30] where they were accommodated for some time by Elizabeth Preston, the Marchioness of Ormond. He seems then to have been employed at Charles II's wandering exile court in some ways,[31] whereas his mother went to Paris where she lived in the convent of the Feuillantines, together with her sister Eleanor Butler, Lady Muskerry.[32]


He returned with his parents and siblings from France to London in 1660 with the advent of the English Restoration. They were now well connected at court. His father was created Baronet Donalong in 1660 by Charles II.


In 1661, he married Elizabeth, daughter of John Colepeper, 1st Baron Colepeper.[33] The king himself obtained the bride's hand for him. She had been a maid of honour to Mary, the Princess Royal.[34] As the bride was a Protestant, he changed religion to marry her.[35] This move opened him a career in the English Army. He was appointed colonel of a regiment of foot. This avoided him problems similar to those experienced by his younger brother George, who was dismissed from the Life Guards in 1667 due to his religion.[36] George then took French service; Anthony and Richard, the third and the fifth of the brothers, followed his example.

Hyde Park

He was appointed ranger of Hyde Park on the death, on 13 September 1660, of the previous ranger, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the king's brother[37][38][39][40] While a ranger, he was responsible for the partial enclosure of Hyde Park and its re-stocking with deer.

He was given a triangular piece of ground at the southeast corner of the Park where the street called Hamilton Place, named after him, is now.[41] During the Interregnum buildings were erected for the first time between what is now Old Regent Street and Hyde Park Corner. After the Restoration they were leased to James Hamilton. A new lease of 99 years was obtained by Elizabeth, his widow, in 1692.[42]


Hamilton was known for his fine manners, his elegant dress, and his gallantry. His brother, Anthony Hamilton, describes him in the Mémoires du comte de Grammont as follows:

L'ainé des Hamiltons, leur cousin, étoit l'homme de la cour qui se mettoit le mieux. Il étoit bien fait de sa personne, et possédoit ces talens heureux qui mènent à la fortune et qui font réussir en amour. C'étoit le courtisan le plus assidu, l'esprit le mieux tourné, les manières les plus polies et l'attention la plus régulière pour son maître qu'on pût avoir. Personne ne dansoit mieux, et personne n'étoit si coquet; mérite qu'on comptoit pour quelque chose dans une cour qui ne respiroit que les fêtes et la galanterie. [43]

Horace Walpole translated this as follows:

The elder of the Hamiltons, their cousin, was the man who of all the court dressed best: he was well made in his person, and possessed those happy talents which lead to fortune, and procure success in love: he was a most assiduous courtier, had the most lively wit, the most polished manners and the most punctual attention for his master imaginable: no person danced better, nor was any one a more general lover: a merit of some account in a court entirely devoted to love and gallantry.[44]

An admirer of the Countess of Chesterfield, his first cousin, he carried on a romance with her by turning her husband's suspicion on the Duke of York, the future King James II, only to discover that York was courting her as well.[45]

He was appointed groom of the bedchamber on 28 October 1664.[46][47]

He was elected to the House of Commons of the Parliament of Ireland for the Constituency of Strabane and sat as Member of Parliament (M.P.) in Chichester House between 3 July and 7 August 1666.[48]

On 21 August 1667 he was appointed Provost Marshal-General of Barbados.[49] This was a sinecure, which provided him an income without any duty. He never travelled to Barbados.


His wife bore him three sons:

  • James (c. 1661  1734), who became the 6th Earl of Abercorn;[50]
  • George (died 1692), who was killed as a colonel in the Battle of Steenkerque;
  • William (after 1662  1737), who married his cousin Margaret Colepeper and became the ancestor of the Hamiltons of Chilston.

Death and succession

He was killed in the Third Anglo-Dutch War. One of his legs was hit by a cannonball on 3 June 1673 when the ship on which he and his regiment were embarked came under fire from the Dutch.[51] He died three days later on 6 June 1673 of the consequences of the wound.[52][53] The incident happened four days before the first Battle of Schooneveld, which was fought on 7 June 1673. He was buried on 7 June in Westminster Abbey where his uncle James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, erected a monument to his memory.[54] His wife died in 1709.[55]

Despite being the eldest son, he never inherited his father's titles and land because his father outlived him by six years. However, on 2 December 1701 his eldest son, James, on the death of a second cousin, the last heir-male of the Strabane line of the Abercorns, became the 6th Earl of Abercorn.


As the birth date is approximate,[lower-alpha 1] so are the ages.

01630, aboutBorn in Ireland.[lower-alpha 1]
111641His sister Elizabeth was born; he must have been born before.[2]
161646, 17 Sep.Spared by O'Neill at the capture of Roscrea Castle.[25]
201650, Oct.Father defended Nenagh Castle against the Parliamentarians.[28]
211651Fled to France; is employed at Charles II's wandering court like his father.[31]
301660Returned from France to England. Became a courtier at Whitehall.
301660 or 1661Married Elizabeth Colepeper and became a Protestant.[35]
341664, 28 Oct.Appointed groom of the bed chamber.[46]
371667, 21 Aug.Appointed Provost Marshall-General of Barbados, a sine cure.[49]
411671Appointed Ranger of Hyde Park.[40]
431673, 6 Jun.Died predeceasing his father in the Third Anglo-Dutch War.[53]

Notes and references

  1. Strictly speaking, his birth date is constrained by the marriage of his parents (mid 1629)[1] and the birth of his sister Elizabeth (1641)[2] minus the gestation of his younger brother George, but it is likely that he was conceived soon after his parents' marriage and born in 1630.
  1. Burke 1949, p. 3, right column, line 2: "[Sir George] m. (art. dated 2 June 1629) Mary, 3rd dau. of Thomas, Viscount Thurles, ..."
  2. Rigg 1890, p. 146, left column: "[Elizabeth] was born in 1641."
  3. Debrett 1816, p. 92, line 17: "He m. Mary, 3d daughter of Thomas, Viscount Thurles, son of Walter, 11th earl of Ormond and sister of James, duke of Ormond, and had issue 6 sons and 3 daughters, ..."
  4. Burke 1949, p. 3, right column, line 1: "George (Sir) of Donalong, co. Tyrone, and Nenagh, co. Tipperary, created a baronet of Scotland, about 1660;"
  5. Burke 1949, p. 3, right column, line 3: "... Mary 3rd dau. of Thomas Viscount Thurles and sister of the 1st Duke of Ormonde. He d. 1679. She d. Aug 1680, ..."
  6. Cokayne 1910, p. 4: "Tabular pedigree of the Earls of Abercorn"
  7. Burke 1949, p. 3, right column, line 12: "George (Sir), Count of France, and Maréchal du Camp; m. 1665 Frances dau. and co-heir of Richard Jennings ..."
  8. Sergeant 1913, p. 217: "At the beginning of June he took part in the battle of Zebernstieg and was engaged in covering the French retreat on Saverne when he was killed by a musket-shot."
  9. Burke 1869, p. 3, left column, line 29: "Elizabeth, the beautiful and accomplished wife of Philibert, comte de Grammont; she d. 1708."
  10. Burke 1949, p. 3, right column, line 17: "Anthony, the celebrated Count Hamilton, author of 'Mémoires de Grammont', Lieut.-Gen. in the French service, d. 20 April 1719, aged 74."
  11. Burke 1869, p. 3, left column, line 25: "Thomas, in the sea service; d. in New England."
  12. Clark 1921, p. 74: "[Thomas Hamilton] rendered James no small service in capturing, off the west coast of Scotland, some of the ships which the Earl of Argyle had equipped to aid Monmouth in his rising."
  13. Sewall 1878, p. 176: "May 9 [1687]. Hamilton, Capt. of the Kingsfisher dies."
  14. Boulger 1911, p. 155: "Richard Hamilton had been wounded and taken prisoner by the time that William's cavalry came down from Donore on the right flank of the Irish infantery commanded by him in and behind Oldbridge."
  15. Burke 1869, p. 3, left column, line 27: "John, Colonel in the army of James II., killed at the battle of Aughrim."
  16. Burke 1869, p. 3, left column, line 31: "Lucia, who married Sir Donogh of Lamineagh, Bart"
  17. Burke 1869, p. 3, left column, line 33: "Margaret, m. to Mathew Forde, Esq. of Seaforde."
  18. Metcalfe 1909, p. 234, line 10: "Her [Marion Boyd's] husband had been a staunch Protestant, an elder in the Kirk, and a member of the General Assembly."
  19. Metcalfe 1909, p. 234, line 12: "During his [James Hamilton's] lifetime she had evidently conformed; but after his death she had evidently relapsed."
  20. Clark 1921, p. 13: "... Thomas, Anthony's junior had entered the Navy in 1666 or earlier."
  21. Millar 1890, p. 177, left column, line 46: "... the Marquis of Ormonde, whom he [Sir George Hamilton] followed to Caen in the spring of 1651 with his wife and family."
  22. Lodge 1789, p. 110: "The great proportion and manor of Donalong on his third son George and his heirs ... [footnote]"
  23. Paul 1904, p. 50, line 12: "[Jean Gordon] who was taken prisoner by Sir Phelim O'Neile, in the rebellion of 1641, when he burned and destroyed the castle of Strabane, but whom she afterwards married, ..."
  24. Sergeant 1913, p. 145, line 21: "For some reason, when the rebel leader Owen O'Neill took Roscrea, Tipperary, the home of the Hamiltons, in September 1646, and put the inhabitants to the sword, he spared Lady Hamilton and her young children ..."
  25. Carte 1851, p. 265: "... after taking Roscrea on Sept. 17, and putting man, woman, and child to the sword, except sir G. Hamilton's lady, sister to the marquis of Ormond, ..."
  26. Hayes-McCoy 1990, p. 197: "He [Owen Roe O'Neill] listened to the nuncio's plea, 'quitted the opportunity of conquest in Ulster' and marched south."
  27. Coffey 1914, p. 178: "Now seemed the time to follow up the victory of Benburb and subdue the whole North of Ireland; but it was not to be for letters from the Nuncio caused O'Neill to withdraw from the North and move South ..."
  28. Warner 1768, p. 228: "... taking Nenagh and two other castles, on the tenth of November, he came to his winter quarters at Kilkenny."
  29. Clark 1921, p. 5: "In the spring of 1651 took place, at last, the event which had such a determining influence on the fate of the young Hamiltons. Sir George Hamilton left his country for France with his family ..."
  30. Millar 1890, p. 177, left column: "Marquis of Ormonde, whom he followed to Caen in the spring of 1651 with his wife and family."
  31. Clark 1921, p. 8, line 14: "... James the eldest also joined the wandering court, though the precise nature of his connexion is not known."
  32. Clark 1921, p. 8: "... his [Anthony Hamilton's] mother and his aunt, Lady Muskerry, had apartments at the couvent des Feuillantines in Paris ..."
  33. Burke 1949, p. 3, right column, line 6: "1. James, col. in the service of CHARLES II and Groom of the Bedchamber, m. 1661, Elizabeth, dau. of John, Lord Colepeper."
  34. Clark 1921, p. 14, line 17"... [the King] obtained the hand of one of the Princess Royal's maids of honour for him."
  35. Clark 1921, p. 16: "James Hamilton's marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Colepeper ... took place as early as 1660 or 1661. As the lady was a Protestant, James Hamilton left the Church of Rome shortly before his marriage, to the great sorrow and anger of his devout mother ..."
  36. Walpole 1888, p. 3: "Charles II, being restored to his throne brought over to England several Catholic officers and soldiers who had served abroad with him and his brother the Duke of York and incorporated them with his guards; but the parliament having obliged him to dismiss all officers who were Catholics, the king permitted George Hamilton to take such as were willing to accompany him to France ..."
  37. Walford 1878, p. 380: "The king appointed his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, to the office of keeper; he, however, held it only for two months and after his death it was granted to James Hamilton, one of the Grooms of the Bedchamber, whose name, as we have already seen, survives in Hamilton Place."
  38. Green 1860, p. 270: "[1660] Sept. 19. Whitehall. Warrant for a grant for James Hamilton of the office of ranger or keeper of Hyde Park"
  39. Green 1860, p. 368: "[1660] Nov. Grant to James Hamilton of the keeping of Hyde Park and all houses therein for life; fee 8d. per day."
  40. Paul 1904, p. 57, line 2: "He [James Hamilton] was appointed Ranger of Hyde Park 29 November 1671."
  41. Larwood 1874, p. 58: "Being considerably in the king's favour, Hamilton received some grants in connexion with the Park. One of theses was the triangular piece of ground between the Lodge (which stood on the site of Apsley House) and the present Park Lane; during the Commonwealth the fort and various houses had been built upon it. This was now granted to Mr. Hamilton with the covenant that he should make leases to purchasers to be appointed at half the improved rents. Of course it is from him that this site still bears the name of Hamilton Place."
  42. Knight 1841, p. 207: "On this several houses were subsequently erected during the Protectorate, which were after the Restoration granted to James Hamilton, Esq., the Ranger. Upon his death, the lease was renewed for ninety-nine years to Mrs. Elizabeth Hamilton in 1692."
  43. Hamilton 1811, p. 119.
  44. Hamilton 1888, p. 118.
  45. Pepys 1893, p. 360: "He tells me also how the Duke of York is smitten in love with my Lady Chesterfield (a virtuous Lady, daughter of my Lord Ormond); and so much, that the duchess of York hath complained to the king and her father about it, and my Lady Chesterfield is gone into the country for it."
  46. Debrett 1816, p. 93, line 4: "he was groom to the bed-chamber to Charles II."
  47. Sainty & Bucholz 1997, p. 13: "1664 28 Oct. Hamilton J."
  48. Paul 1904, p. 56, bottom: "In 1666 he [James Hamilton] was elected Member of Parliament for the borough of Strabane, and took the seat on 3 July in that year ..."
  49. Sainsbury 1880, p. 493: "Warrant for the grant to James Hamilton, Groom of the bedchamber, for the place of Provost Marshal-General of Barbadoes for life, to be exercised by his sufficient deputy ... "
  50. Henderson 1890, p. 185: "HAMILTON, JAMES, sixth EARL OF ABERCORN (1656–1734)"
  51. Cokayne 1910, p. 6, line 7: "... who died v.p., being mortally wounded 3 June in a sea-fight with the Dutch ..."
  52. Debrett 1816, p. 93, line 7: "d. of a wound in 1673 received commanding a regiment of foot, on board of the navy, with the Duke of York in one of his sea expeditions against the Dutch."
  53. Paul 1904, p. 57, line 3: "His [James Hamilton's] regiment being embarked on board the navy, in one of the expeditions of the Duke of York against the Dutch, Colonel Hamilton had one of his legs taken off by a cannon ball of which wound he died 6 June 1673, ..."
  54. Paul 1904, p. 57, line 7: "... was buried 7 June [1673] in Westminster Abbey, under a monument erected to his memory by his uncle, James Duke of Ormond."
  55. Burke 1949, p. 3, right column, line 10: "She [Elizabeth] d. 1709"
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