William Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Hamilton

William Hamilton
Duke of Hamilton

after Adriaen Hanneman, 1625-1650
Predecessor James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton
Successor Anne Hamilton, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton
Spouse(s) Lady Elizabeth Maxwell
Father James Hamilton, 2nd Marquess of Hamilton
Mother Lady Ann Cunningham
Born 14 December 1616
Hamilton, South Lanarkshire
Died 12 September 1651
The Commandery, Worcester
Buried Worcester Cathedral

William Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Hamilton KG (14 December 1616 – 12 September 1651) was a Scottish nobleman who supported both Royalist and Presbyterian causes during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.


Hamilton was born at Hamilton Palace in December 1616, the younger son of James Hamilton, 2nd Marquess of Hamilton and Lady Ann Cunningham. Hamilton was educated at the University of Glasgow, and from there travelled to The Continent, where he spent time at the court of Louis XIII of France, on his return aged 21 he established himself as a favourite at the court of Charles I in London.[1]

He was created Earl of Lanark, Lord Machanshyre and Polmont in the Peerage of Scotland in 1639, and in April 1640 was elected Member of Parliament for Portsmouth in the House of Commons of England for the Short Parliament.[2] He became Secretary of State for Scotland. In 1643, he was arrested at Oxford on the orders of King Charles I for "concurrence" with his brother the Duke of Hamilton. He escaped and was temporarily reconciled with the Presbyterian party.

After taking part in the Battle of Kilsyth on the covenanter side, he was sent by the Scottish Estates of the Realm to treat with Charles I at Newcastle in 1646, when he sought in vain to persuade the king to consent to the establishment of Presbyterianism in England. On 26 September 1647 he signed, on behalf of the Scots, the treaty with Charles known as the "Engagement", at Carisbrooke Castle, and helped to organise the Second English Civil War.

In 1648 he fled to Holland to the court in exile of the Prince of Wales at The Hague. The following year he succeeded to the Dukedom of Hamilton, the Marquisate of Hamilton, the Earldoms of Arran and Cambridge and Lordhips of Aven and Innerdale following his brother's execution, making him the most senior figure among the Scots Royalist exiles. In 1650, Hamilton was conferred with the insignia of the Order of the Garter. He returned to Scotland with King Charles II in 1650, but, finding a reconciliation with the Marquess of Argyll impossible, he refused to prejudice Charles's cause by pushing his claims.

He retired to his estates on the Isle of Arran until the Scottish invasion of England during the Third English Civil War, when he acted as colonel of a regiment drawn mainly from his tenantry.

He died from the effects of wounds received at the Battle of Worcester, at The Commandery, Charles II's headquarters in that city. A neighbouring street, Hamilton Road, is named in his honour.


William Hamilton had no sons and, upon his death, the dukedom of Hamilton devolved on his eldest surviving niece.

Hamilton married Lady Elizabeth Maxwell, daughter to James Maxwell, 1st Earl of Dirletoun on 26 May 1638, and had issue:[3]

Leaving four daughters but no male heirs, according to the remainder, the dukedom of Hamilton devolved on his eldest surviving niece, Anne, who became Duchess of Hamilton in her own right.

In literature

A highly fictionalised Hamilton is depicted in Nigel Tranter's Montrose trilogy.



Parliament of England
Preceded by
Parliament suspended since 1629
Member of Parliament for Portsmouth
With: Henry Percy, 1st Baron Percy of Alnwick
Succeeded by
George Goring
Edward Dowce
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Stirling
Secretary of State, Scotland
With: Sir Robert Spottiswood 1644
Succeeded by
The Earl of Lothian
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
James Hamilton
Duke of Hamilton
Succeeded by
Anne Hamilton
New creation Earl of Lanark
Peerage of England
Preceded by
James Hamilton
Earl of Cambridge
4th creation
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