James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Abercorn

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James Hamilton
Earl of Abercorn
SuccessorJames, 2nd Earl of Abercorn
Born12 August 1575
Died23 March 1618 (aged 42)
Monkton, Ayrshire, Scotland
BuriedPaisley Abbey
Spouse(s)Marion Boyd
James, Claud, George, & others
FatherClaud Hamilton, 1st Lord Paisley
MotherMargaret Seton

James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Abercorn PC (S) (1575–1618) was a Scottish diplomat for James VI and an undertaker in the Plantation of Ulster, Ireland.

Birth and origins[edit]

Family tree
James Hamilton with wife, parents, and other selected relatives.[a]
2nd Earl

c. 1516 – 1575
7th Lord

3rd Earl

1st Marquess

1st Lord


d. 1616
1st Earl

d. 1632
of Greenlaw
& Roscrea
d. bef. 1657
2nd Earl

d. c. 1670

c. 1590 – 1637
2nd Baron
of Strabane

d. 1638
1st Baronet

c. 1608 –
3rd Earl

c. 1636 –
bef. 1683
3rd Baron
H. of

4th Baron
H. of

1636/7 – 1668
c. 1630 – 1673
4th Earl

5th Earl

d. 1701
6th Earl

c. 1661 – 1734
XXXSubject of
the article
XXXEarls of
XXXEarls of
XXXLords of

James was born on 12 August 1575,[2] probably at Paisley, Scotland, the eldest son of Claud Hamilton and his wife Margaret Seton. At that time his father was only a younger brother of James Hamilton, 3rd Earl of Arran, but he would on 24 July 1587 be created Lord Paisley.[3][4] His paternal grandfather was James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran in Scotland and Duke of Châtellerault in France. His father's family descended from Walter FitzGilbert, the founder of the House of Hamilton,[5] who had received the barony of Cadzow from Robert the Bruce.[6]

James's mother was a daughter of George Seton, 7th Lord Seton.[3][7][b] His parents had married in 1574 at Niddry Castle, West Lothian, Scotland.[7][9] Both sides of the family were Scottish, Catholic, and supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots. His father and his father-in-law had both fought for her at Langside in 1568.

As eldest son he was given the courtesy title of Master of Paisley after the Scottish habit.[10] George had four brothers and one sister, who are listed in his father's article.

Marriage and children[edit]

Shortly before or in 1592, Master Paisley married Marion, daughter of Thomas Boyd, 6th Lord Boyd.[11] Marion was a prominent Roman Catholic and would in 1628 be excommunicated by the synod of the Church of Scotland in Glasgow[12] after his death.

James and Marion had nine children, five boys:

  1. James (c. 1603 – c. 1670), succeeded as the 2nd Earl of Abercorn[13]
  2. Claud (died 1638), established himself in Ireland[14]
  3. William (died 1681), was created Baronet Hamilton of Westport and represented Henrietta Maria, Charles I's widow, at the pope[15][16][17]
  4. George (c. 1608 – 1679), was created Baronet Hamilton of Donalong[18]
  5. Alexander (died before 4 May 1669), founded the German branch of the family[19]

—and four girls:

  1. Anne (1592–1620), married Hugh Sempill, 5th Lord Sempill in 1611[20]
  2. Margaret (died 1642), married Sir William Cunninghame of Caprington[21]
  3. Isobel (1600–1620)[22]
  4. Lucy (born before 1618), for whom a marriage was arranged with Randal MacDonnell, 1st Marquess of Antrim, but the wedding never took place[23]

Life in Scotland[edit]

In 1597, Master Paisley sat for Linlithgow in the Parliament of Scotland. He was also made a Gentleman of the Bedchamber and a member of the Privy Council to James VI of Scotland. In 1600, the King created him hereditary Sheriff of Linlithgow. [24]

On 24 March 1603 James VI also became King of England as James I and from there on reigned both kingdoms in personal union.

On 5 April 1603, Master Paisley was created Lord Abercorn, of Linlithgowshire.[25] This made him the first of the long line of earls, then marquesses, and finally dukes of Abercorn.

His wife was a close friend of Anne of Denmark. In May 1603 Anne of Denmark came to Stirling Castle hoping to collect her son Prince Henry, who was in the keeping of the Earl of Mar. Anne fainted at dinner and when Jean Drummond and Marion Boyd, Mistress of Paisley, carried her to bed she had a miscarriage. The lawyer Thomas Haddington wrote an account of these events, and said the queen had told her physician Martin Schöner and the Mistress of Paisley that she had taken "some balm water that hastened her abort".[26]

In 1604, Lord Abercorn, as he was now, served on a royal commission established to consider the union of the crowns of England and Scotland.[27] Though the project failed, the king was content with his services. He received large grants of lands in Scotland.

On 10 July 1606 he was further honoured by being created Earl of Abercorn,[28] Baron Paisley, Baron Hamilton, Baron Mountcastell, and Baron Kilpatrick.[29][30] The family tree shows how the Abercorn title was inherited moving at the death of the 3rd Earl to the descendants of the 2nd son, Claud, and then at the death of the 5th Earl to the descendants of his 4th son, George.

Plantation of Ulster[edit]

Lord Abercorn, as he was now, and his brothers Claud and George were undertakers in James I's Plantation of Ulster. He does not appear on the list of undertaker of 1609, but on the list of 1611 he is granted the great proportion of Donalong (2000 acres) and the small proportion of Strabane (1000 acres). He acquired the middle (medium-sized) proportion of Shean from Boyd at a later time.[31] He was given pieces of land called Strabane, Donnalonge and Shean in County Tyrone that had been confiscated from the O'Neill clan.[32] He built a castle at Strabane.[33] His brother Claude, called "of Shawfield", was given land in County Cavan.

On 11 March 1613/4, he was summoned to attend the Parliament of Ireland and was granted the precedence of an earl in Ireland (confirmed by royal warrant on 31 March), although he had never been created a peer in that realm. He was appointed to the Council of Munster on 20 May 1615.[34]

Death, succession, and timeline[edit]

Lord Abercorn died on 23 March 1618, at Monkton, Ayrshire, Scotland, predeceasing his father and was buried on 29 April 1618 in Paisley Abbey church.[c]

He predeceased his father by three years and therefore never became Lord Paisley, but, having been created Earl of Abercorn, he did not miss this title. His eldest son, James, aged 14, succeeded him as the 2nd Earl of Abercorn. His widow died in Edinburgh in 1632.[39] His brother, Sir George Hamilton of Greenlaw and Roscrea, helped to bring up the children and to convert them to the Catholic religion.[40]

Age Date Event
0 1575, 12 Aug Born, probably at Paisley[2]
17 1592, about Married Marion Boyd[11]
28 1603, 24 Mar Accession of King James I, succeeding Queen Elizabeth I[41]
27 1603, 5 Apr Created Lord Abercorn, of Linlithgowshire[25]
30 1606, 10 Jul Created Earl of Abercorn[30]
36 1611 Undertaker in James's Plantation of Ulster[32]
42 1618, 23 Mar Died in Monkton, Ayrshire, Scotland[c] predeceasing his father

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ This family tree is partly derived from the Abercorn pedigree pictured in Cokayne.[1] Also see the lists of siblings and children in the text.
  2. ^ Numbered as the 5th Lord Seton by James Balfour Paul.[8]
  3. ^ a b Born on 12 August 1575[2] and dead on 23 March 1618,[35][36] his final age was 42 years and seven months, but Cokayne and Paul both give it as 43.[37][38]


  1. ^ Cokayne 1910, p. 4. "Tabular pedigree of the Earls of Abercorn"
  2. ^ a b c Boyd 1907, p. 182, line 44. "On the 12th instant [i.e. August 1575] Lord Claud Hamilton's wife, daughter to Lord Seton, was brought to bed of a son."
  3. ^ a b Cokayne 1910, p. 2. "James Hamilton, Master of Paisley, s. and h. ap. of Claud (Hamilton), 1st Lord Paisley [S] by Margaret, da. of George [Seton], 6th Lord Seton [S. [Scotland]] was ..."
  4. ^ Paul 1904, p. 39, line 17. "The Abbey of Paisley was erected into a temporal barony, and he was made a peer of Parliament under the title of Lord Paisley 24 July 1587."
  5. ^ Chisholm 1910, p. 878, line nine. "... the first authentic ancestor is one Walter FitzGilbert. He first appears in 1294–1295 ..."
  6. ^ Paul 1907, p. 341, line 12. "At a later but uncertain date he received the barony of Cadzow from King Robert ..."
  7. ^ a b Burke & Burke 1915, p. 54, left column, line 69. "He [Claud Hamilton] was b. [born] 1543 and m. [married] 1 Aug. 1574 Margaret, dau. [daughter] of George 5th Lord Seton. She d. [died] before 18 Feb. 1616."
  8. ^ Paul 1904, p. 39, line 24. "He [Lord Paisley] died in 1621, having married ... Margaret, daughter of 5th Lord Seton ..."
  9. ^ Paul 1911, p. 290, line 19. "Margaret, married at Niddry Castle, on 1 August 1574 (contract 15 and 16 June 1574), to Lord Claud Hamilton, fourth and youngest son of James, second Earl of Arran ..."
  10. ^ Paul 1904, p. 46, line 1. "... commonly designated Master of Paisley."
  11. ^ a b Paul 1904, p. 47, line 9. "He [James Hamilton] married Marion, eldest daughter of Thomas, fifth Lord Boyd by Margaret ..."
  12. ^ Metcalfe 1909, p. 236. "In November, 1627, they were reported to the Synod, and on January 20, 1628, sentence of excommunication was pronounced against the Dowager countess ..."
  13. ^ Paul 1904, p. 48, line 22. "James, second Earl of Abercorn, born about 1603, succeeded his father 1618 ..."
  14. ^ Paul 1904, p. 50, line 7. "Dying 14 June 1638, he [Claude Hamilton] was buried in the church of Leckpatrick, County Tyrone."
  15. ^ Millar 1890, p. 177, line 32. "Sir William, the third son, represented Henrietta Maria, when queen dowager, at the papal court."
  16. ^ Burke 1869, p. 2, right column, line 80. "William (Sir), m. [married] Jane dau. [daughter] of Alexander Colquhoun, Laird of Luss, and widow of Alan, Lord Cathcart, but left no issue."
  17. ^ Paul 1904, p. 47, line 17. "Sir William died at South Shields, 25 June 1681"
  18. ^ Millar 1890, p. 177, left column, line 48. "On the Restoration he returned to England, was created a baronet of Ireland in 1660, and received other grants from Charles II in recompense for his services."
  19. ^ Paul 1904, p. 47, line 29. "Sir Alexander Hamilton, of Holborn, London, married Elizabeth, daughter of ... Bedingfield and died before 4 May 1669, when administration of his estate was granted to a creditor, leaving with three daughters one son, Alexander, settled at the court of Philip William Elector Palatine ..."
  20. ^ Paul 1910, p. 555. "He [Hugh Sempill] married in 1611 ... first Anne Hamilton, eldest daughter of James, 1st Earl of Abercorn."
  21. ^ Paul 1904, p. 48, line 9. "Margaret, married 1628 to Sir William Cunningham of Caprington, in the County of Ayr, Knight, and died without issue."
  22. ^ Paul 1904, p. 48, line 12. "8. Isobel named with her brothers and her sisters Margaret and Lucrece as parties to an action in the Court of Session on 4 November 1620."
  23. ^ Paul 1904, p. 48, line 15. "Lucy or Lucrece, contracted by her father, when very young, to Randal, Lord Dunluce, afterwards Marquess of Antrim, but he not abiding by the contract, she never married; and by letters from Whitehall, 28 October 1627, the Earl of Antrim was ordered to pay £3000 to James, Earl of Abercorn for his son's failure to implement the contract."
  24. ^ Cokayne 1910, p. 2, line 5. "... obtained in 1600 the office of Sheriff of co. Linlithgow to him and his heirs male and assigns whatever."
  25. ^ a b Cokayne 1910, p. 2, line 8"On 5 Apr. 1603 he was cr. [created] Lord Abercorn, co. Linlithgow [S. [Scotland]], to him and his heirs whatsoever."
  26. ^ William Fraser, Memorials of the Earls of Haddington, vol. 2 (Edinburgh, 1889), pp. 209–11: James Maidment, Letters and State Papers during the Reign of James the Sixth (Edinburgh, 1838), pp. 54–5.
  27. ^ Cokayne 1910, p. 2, line 10. "In 1604 he was on the Commission which treated of a proposed union of Scotland with England."
  28. ^ Millar 1890, p. 177. "... for his efforts in this matter he was rewarded with the title of Earl of Abercorn, by patent dated 10 July 1606."
  29. ^ Paul 1904, p. 46, line 17. "... on 10 July 1606 he was advanced to the dignity of Earl of Abercorn, Baron of Paisley, Hamilton, Mountcastell, and Kilpatrick."
  30. ^ a b Cokayne 1910, p. 2, line 11. "On 10 July 1606, he was cr. Earl of Abercorn, Lord Paisley, Hamilton, Mountcastell, and Kilpatrick [S. [Scotland]] to him and his heirs male whatsoever."
  31. ^ Masson 1889, p. lxxx. "Undertakers for 3000 acres each: ... James Hamilton, Earl of Abercorn (in County Tyrone) ... Undertakers for 2000 acres each: ... Sir Claud Hamilton (in County Tyrone) ... Undertakers for 1500 acres each: ... Sir George Hamilton (in County Tyrone)"
  32. ^ a b MacNevin 1846, p. 188. "1. Strabane 1000; 2. Donnalonge 1000; 3. Shean 1500 acres."
  33. ^ Paul 1904, p. 46. "At Strabane he built a very strong and fair castle ..."
  34. ^ Cokayne 1910, p. 2, line 14. "On 20 May 1615 he was appointed one of the Council of the province of Munster ..."
  35. ^ Burke & Burke 1909, p. 47, right column, line 50. "He [the 1st Earl] d.v.p. [predeceased his father] 23 March 1617-18 ..."
  36. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 43, line seven. "He died on the 23rd of March 1618."
  37. ^ Cokayne 1910, p. 3, line 1. "He [James Hamilton] d. v.p. at Monkton 23 Mar. and was bur. 29 Ap. 1618 in the Abbey Church, Paisley, aged 43."
  38. ^ Paul 1904, p. 47, line 5. "... he [James Hamilton] died in the parish of Monkton, a month after, in the life of his father, 23 March 1618, aged forty-three, and was buried 29 April following in the abbey church in Paisley."
  39. ^ Cokayne 1910, p. 3, line 3. "His widow, a prominent Rom. Cath., who was excommunicated in the kirk of paisley on 20 Jan. 1628, d. in the Canongate, Edinburgh, 26 Aug., and was bur. 13 Sep. 1632 with her husband."
  40. ^ Wasser 2004, p. 838, left column, line 36. "... was raised, along with his siblings, by his uncle Sir George Hamilton of Greenlaw, who converted them to Roman Catholicism."
  41. ^ Fryde et al. 1986, p. 44, line 1. "James I ... acc. 24 Mar. 1603 ..."


Peerage of Scotland
New creation Baron Abercorn
Succeeded by
Earl of Abercorn