Clan Hamilton

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The first record of Hamilton’s in Scotland was Sir Walter Fitz-Gilbert of Hameldone, an English knight with properties in Renfrewshire (south of Glasgow).

Sir Walter was Governor of Bothwell Castle for the English during the early part of the Scottish War of Independence.

He later joined Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn (Stirling) 1314. For his support, Bruce awarded him forfeited Comyn lands including properties of Cadzow east of Glasgow that became known as Hamilton. Cadzow Castle was built on the land to serve as the family’s main seat.

Sorn Castle image

1406, Andrew de Hamilton was awarded the lands of Sorn 8 miles east of Kilmarnock /Ayrshire by his mother Janet de Keith of Galston. Janet had married and divorced Sir David Hamilton of Cadzow. Andrew began work at that time on Sorn Castle.

Sir Walter's son Sir David, was captured by the English at the Battle of Neville's Cross (Durham) along with King David II, son of Robert the Bruce. As with the King, Hamilton was not released until a heavy ransom had been paid.

1474, James, 1st Lord Hamilton, married Princess Mary, daughter of King James II of Scotland.


1503, 2nd Lord Hamilton was created Earl of the Island Arran with which he made his home at Brodick Castle.

The 2nd Earl of Arran allowed Mary Queen of Scots to take refuge at Cadzow Castle for some time after her escape from Loch Leven.

The 3rd Earl of Arran became the 1st Marquess of Hamilton.

The 3rd Marquess, James, became the 1st Duke of Hamilton in 1643. The 1st Duke was captured by Cromwellian troops in 1648 as he led an army to free King Charles 1. Cromwell had him beheaded one month after Charles 1 in 1649.

The 2nd Duke was killed fighting for Charles 11 at the Battle of Worcester 1651 (last battle of the English revolution) at the age of 34; he was buried in Worcester Cathedral. It is thought that as many as 10,000 Scots were taken prisoner, many of whom were transported to English colonies in Staunton Virginia and Boston Massechusetts, amongst other destinations.

The 4th Duke was made Duke of Brandon by Queen Anne in 1711, an additional title that all Dukes have carried to this day. His was killed in a duel with Lord Mohun in 1712, probably over bribery allegations made against Scots who supported the union of the English and Scottish parliaments.

1732 - 1744, the Hamilton’s built Hamilton Palace close to Cadzow Castle east of Glasgow. The palace was considered the finest residence in Scotland outside that of the royals.

The 10th Duke, Alexander, was credited with turning Hamilton Palace into one of Scotland’s most spectacular residences, filling it with priceless art and furniture. He was Ambassador to Czarist Russia.

Sorn Castle was sold to the family of Loudoun in the 1600s. The Somerville’s of Hamilton Farm acquired the castle in 1795. Sorn is now run as a sporting estate most of the year, it is however open to the public the last two weeks in July and first two weeks in August 1400 - 1600. Contact details for visiting or fishing and shooting at Sorn can be found under Ayrshire Castles.

Brodick Castle and country estate on the Isle of Arran are now open to the public as a tourist attraction.

Hamilton Palace image

Cadzow Castle at Hamilton was allowed to descend into a ruin after the Hamilton’s built Hamilton Palace on the same estate. The palace was demolished in the 1920s due to subsidence. The estate is now run as a country park with the castle ruin, visitor centre and buildings associated with the palace as attractions.

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