James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran

James Hamilton
Earl of Arran
Predecessor New creation
Successor James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran
Spouse(s) 1st Elizabeth Home
2nd Janet Bethune of Creich


Helen Hamilton
James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran
Janet Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton (illegitimate)
Margaret Hamilton (illegitimate)
James Hamilton of Finnart (illegitimate)

Titles and styles

Earl of Arran, 2nd Lord Hamilton
Noble family Hamilton
Father James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton
Mother Mary Stewart, Princess of Scotland
Born ca. 1475
Died 1529
Kinneil House, West Lothian
Buried Hamilton, South Lanarkshire

James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran and 2nd Lord Hamilton (ca. 1475–1529) was a Scottish nobleman, naval commander and first cousin of James IV of Scotland.


He was the only son of James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton, and his wife, Mary Stewart, Countess of Arran. Mary was a daughter of King James II of Scotland and his Queen consort Mary of Guelders, and was a sister of King James III of Scotland.

Hamilton succeeded to his father's lordship and inherited his lands when his father died in 1479.[1] In 1489 his first cousin King James IV made him Sheriff of Lanark, a position his father had previously had,[1] and a Scottish Privy Counsellor.[2] By 28 April 1490 he was married to Elizabeth Home, daughter of Alexander Home, 2nd Lord Home.[1]

Between April and August 1502, he commanded a naval fleet sent to help King Hans of Denmark, James IV's uncle, defeat a Swedish rebellion.[1] He negotiated James's marriage to Margaret Tudor and was present at the wedding on 8 August 1503. On the same day Lord Hamilton was created Earl of Arran, with the formal grant three days later, "for his nearness of blood" and his services at the time of the marriage.[1] He was appointed Lieutenant General of Scotland and in May 1504 commanded a naval expedition to suppress an uprising in the Western Isles.[1]

In September 1507, James IV sent Hamilton as his ambassador on a diplomatic mission to the court of Louis XII of France. When returning in early 1508, he was briefly detained in the Kingdom of England by Henry VII, who was suspicious of a renewal of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France.[1]

When Henry VIII of England joined the War of the League of Cambrai by invading France in 1513, Scotland came under pressure to support France against England. Hamilton was given command of the Scottish naval fleet. He first sailed to Ulster and attacked Carrickfergus, the main English stronghold there. The fleet then sailed to France, arriving there in September 1513, too late to be much help as the Scottish army had been defeated at the Battle of Flodden in England on 9 September,[1] with James IV being killed in battle.

During the minority of King James V he opposed Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus and the English party. He plotted against the Regent John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany. He was president of the council of regency during Albany's absence in France from 1517 to 1520.

He was defeated in an attempt to overpower Angus in the streets of Edinburgh in 1520, a riot known as "Cleanse the Causeway". He was again a member of the council of regency in 1522 and Lieutenant of the South. He joined the Queen Dowager Margaret Tudor in ousting Albany and proclaiming James V in 1524.

Hamilton was compelled by Henry VIII of England to readmit Angus to the council. He supported Angus against John Stewart, 3rd Earl of Lennox in 1526 at the Battle of Linlithgow Bridge, but on the escape of James V from the Douglases, Hamilton received Bothwell from Angus's forfeited estates.

Marriage and children

Hamilton was married firstly, c.1490, to Elizabeth Home, daughter of Alexander Home, 2nd Lord Home. The marriage was dissolved in 1506, when it was found that her first husband Thomas Hay, a son of John Hay, 1st Lord Hay of Yester, was still alive at the time of the wedding. In November 1516 Hamilton married Janet Bethune of Easter Wemyss, daughter of Sir David Bethune of Creich,[3] and widow of Sir Robert Livingstone of Easter Wemyss, who had been killed in the Battle of Flodden Field. In November 1504 Hamilton had been granted a divorce from Elizabeth Home on the grounds that she had previously been married to Thomas Hay. Hay had apparently left the country and was thought to be dead when Hamilton married Home in or before 1490, but in fact he did not die until 1491 or later. This award of divorce was repeated in 1510, suggesting that Hamilton had continued living with her after 1504, and was held by some to undermine the dissolution of the first marriage as invalid.[4] It is likely that the real motive for divorcing Elizabeth was that she had not born any children and that Hamilton wanted a legitimate heir – he already had several illegitimate children, his eldest illegitimate son being James Hamilton of Finnart.[1] The complicated legal issues of the second marriage would continue to trouble his heir, whose legitimacy was questioned by his rivals in 1543.[5]

Arran and Janet Bethune had four children before Janet died c. 1522:

Hamilton had further illegitimate issue.

Children of James Hamilton and his mistress Beatrix Drummond, daughter of John Drummond, 1st Lord Drummond and his wife Lady Elizabeth Lindsay:[8]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Greig, Elaine Finnie (2004). "Hamilton, James, first earl of Arran (1475?–1529)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12079. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  2. "Earls of Arran". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  3. Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 234.
  4. HMC 11th report, part 6, Duke of Hamilton, (1887), 4-5, 49-52.
  5. Dickinson, Gladys, ed., Two Missions of de la Brosse, Scottish History Society (1942), 7-8, 19: Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol, 1 (1898), 691-694.
  6. HMC, 11th report, part 6, Duke of Hamilton, (1897), 5.
  7. Sanderson, Margaret HB., Cardinal of Scotland, John Donald, (1986), 166.
  8. G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume I, page 222.


James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran's ancestors in three generations
James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran Father:
James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton
Paternal Grandfather:
James Hamilton of Cadzow
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
possibly John Hamilton of Cadzow
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Janet, daughter of Sir James Douglas, 1st Lord Dalkeith
Paternal Grandmother:
Janet Livingston of Callander
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar
Paternal Great-Grandmother:
Mary Stewart, Princess of Scotland
Maternal Grandfather:
James II of Scotland
Maternal Great-Grandfather:
James I of Scotland
Maternal Great-Grandmother:
Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scots
Maternal Grandmother:
Mary of Guelders
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Arnold, Duke of Gelderland
Maternal Great-Grandmother:
Catherine of Cleves (1417–1479)
Peerage of Scotland
New title Earl of Arran
Succeeded by
James Hamilton
Preceded by
James Hamilton
Lord Hamilton
Military offices
Preceded by
Patrick Hepburn
Lord High Admiral of Scotland Succeeded by
Archibald Douglas
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