From the Book of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee 1513 to 1885.

John, Lord Hamilton - 4th October 1586



The admission of JOHN, LORD HAMILTON, as a Burgess of Dundee at this time is a fact full of political significance. It shows how completely the position of parties had been reversed by the turning of the capricious wheel of Fortune during the preceding twenty years. LORD HAMILTON, an ardent adherent of the Romanist party under QUEEN MARY, and himself the Heir presumptive to the Throne of Scotland, is here seen swearing to support the true meaning the Protestant religion, and to be a dutiful subject of the KING, whom he had regarded as an usurper, and in whose Name he had been exiled for many years from his native land.

JOHN, LORD HAMILTON, was the second Son Of JAMES, second EARL OF ARRAN and DUKE OF CHATELHERAULT, who is known in history as the "GOVERNOR ARRAN", having been chosen Regent of Scotland on the death of JAMES V., and made guardian of the infant QUEEN MARY. JAMES, the eldest son of the GOVERNOR, had sought the hand of the QUEEN when she came to Scotland in 1561, but his violent opposition to the Romish creed had compelled her to decline the proposed alliance, and the unfortunate nobleman, disappointed by her refusal, had become a raving maniac. Hence, when the GOVERNOR ARRAN died in 1575, his eldest son was declared to be insane, and incapable of succeeding to the estates, and these were placed under the charge of his brother JOHN, LORD HAMILTON, who thus became practically the foremost of the Scottish nobility. As his father, the GOVERNOR, had been declared Heir presumptive to the Throne in 1543, LORD JOHN HAMILTON was nearest to the Crown, and would have succeeded had JAMES VI. Died without issue. When the church lands were virtually secularized by the appointŽment of laymen to ecclesiastical offices, he was made Commendator of the Abbey of Aberbrothock, with the title of LORD ARBROATH; but his connection with the EARL OF HUNTLY and the party opposed to the REGENTS MORAY and LENNOX was punished by his denunciation as a rebel, and by the forfeiture of this valuable benefice. When the EARL OF MORTON entered upon the office of Regent one of his first acts was the drawing up of the "Pacification of Perth," in February, 1572 3, whereby the HAMILTON, , and the other leaders of the Marian Party were pardoned for their offences. Seven years later, however (1579), MORTON found it expedient to revive the charge against LORD JOHN HAMILTON and his brother, LORD CLAUD, of being concerned in the assassinations of the REGENT MORAY and his successor the REGENT LENNOX, and both these noblemen were compelled to fly for their lives to England. According to SPOTTISWOOD, "the LORD JOHN HAMILTON, going on foot through the most part of England, in the habit of a seaŽman, fled into France," whilst his brother remained with some of his relatives in the northern parts of England. The Castles of Hamilton and Draffen were besieged and captured by the REGENT MORTON and the EARL OF ANGUS, and all the possessions of the HAMILTONS were confiscated.

The policy Of QUEEN ELIZABETH at this time required that she should keep KING JAMES, entirely under her control. She held his mother, QUEEN MARY, a close captive in her grasp, and she welcomed to her Court the exiled supporters of that captive, and all the discontented nobleŽmen who had been banished from Scotland, so that she might turn them loose upon that country, should the KING show the least signs of independence. LORD JOHN HAMILTON, in his two fold aspect as a supporter of QUEEN MARY and a possible claimant to the Scottish Throne, was a most valuable ally for QUEEN ELIZABETH, and he was treated accordingly. Finding it convenient for her to break with KING JAMES, ELIZABETH sent the banished Scottish Lords LORD JOHN HAMILTON, the EARLS OF ANGUS and MAR, and the MASTER OF GLAMIS to Berwick in October, 1585, for the purpose of invading the KING'S territory and capturing his person at Stirling Castle. They advanced, with their forces, from Berwick to Falkirk, and thence to St Ninians, within a mile of Stirling, where they encamped, and, after a slight skirmish, took possession of the town and castle. The rapidity of their movements terrified the KING, and, though on 29th October he had issued a proclamation denouncing them, on the 4th of November he not only pardoned their offences, but directed that the leaders should be "norninat, electit, and chosin" to be Members of the Privy Council. Immediately afterwards the HAMILTONS had their estates restored to them, and LORD JOHN was made Keeper of Dunbarton Castle, which formed the key to the West of Scotland. From that time forward till the period of his death, LORD JOHN HAMILTON was the most prominent noble at the Scottish Court.

Apart from the political reasons, there was a very special personal motive inducing the Burgh to enrol LORD JOHN HAMILTON as a Burgess in October, 1586. At the Convention of Estates, held at Holyrood House on 25th September preceding, in which LORD JOHN took a leading part, an important dispute had been decided betwixt the Burghs of Perth and Dundee. The "peir, bulwark, schoir, and havin" of Dundee had been exposed to tempestuous weather, and had "becum ruynous and likelie to decay," and the Provost, Bailies, Council, and Community had obtained a letter under the Privy Seal, authorizing them to levy a "towst and exactioun" from all ships using the harbour for the space of five years. The burghers of Perth objected to pay this imposition for the repair of a harbour which they admitted they used, contending that their own necessities were well known, and that they had more need "thameselffis of sic exactionis to supporte the commoun workis of their owne burgh, mair requisite to be bett and helpit nor the porte and heavyn of Dundee." JAMES SCRYMGEOURE of Dudhope, the new Provost, attended by four Bailies and the Treasurer, appeared before the Privy Council to defend the action of Dundee, and obtained a full confirmation of the right of taxation that had been conferred upon the Burgh. In this matter it is probable that they had obtained valuable support from LORD JOHN HAMILTON, as the name of that nobleman was enrolled in the Lockit Book immediately after the return of the PROVOST.

The career of LORD JOHN HAMILTON after this date need not be here detailed. For many years he was closely associated with LUDOVIC, DUKE OF LENNOX, in the government of the country, and was created MARQUESS OF HAMILTON, together with HUNTLY, who was raised to the same rank with him, at the baptism of the PRINCESS MARGARET, on 17th April, 1599. He died 12th April, 1604, and was succeeded by his only son, JAMES, second MARQUESS OF HAMILTON. He was married to MARGARET, daughter of JOHN, LORD GLAMIS, arid widow of GILBERT, fourth EARL OF CASSILIS.

Iain D. McIntosh, Friends of Dundee City Archives