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James Douglas, 4th Duke of Hamilton (1658-1712)









Portrait of James, 4th Duke of Hamilton and 1st Duke of Brandon (1658-1712), by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) and studio - click for SCRAN ResourceJames Douglas, 4th duke of Hamilton (1658-1712), eldest son of the preceding and of Duchess Anne, succeeded his mother, who resigned the dukedom to him in 1698, and at the accession of Queen Anne he was regarded as leader of the Scottish national party. He was an opponent of the union with England, but his lack of decision rendered his political conduct ineffective.

Coming into favour with the Tory regime after 1710, he was made privy councilor (1710), duke of Brandon (1711), and ambassador to Paris (1712). He was killed in a duel by Lord Mohun(1), who also died, before he could go to France. Suspicion of foul play caused the Tories to accuse the Whigs of murdering him, alleging that the Whigs feared he was about to engineer a Jacobite restoration from France. The duel is described in Thackeray's Henry Esmond.

His son, James (1703-1743), became 5th duke, and his grandson James, 6th duke of Hamilton and Brandon (1724-1758), married the famous beauty, Elizabeth Gunning, afterwards duchess of Argyll. James George, 7th duke (1755-1769), became head of the house of Douglas on the death in 1761 of Archibald, ; duke of Douglas, whose titles but not his estates then devolved on the duke of Hamilton as heir-male.

Archibald's brother Douglas (1756-1799) was the 8th duke, and when he died childless the titles passed to his uncle Archibald (1740-1810). His son Alexander, 10th duke (1767-1852), who as marquess of Douglas was a great collector and connoisseur of books and pictures (his collections realized £397,562 in 1882), was ambassador at St. Petersburg in 1806-1807. His sister, Lady Anne Hamilton, was lady-in-waiting and a faithful friend to Queen Caroline, wife of George IV.; she did not write the Secret History of the Court of England . . . (1832) to which her name was attached. 



James died in 1712, and in 1713, he was installed as a Knight of the Garter(2)


1. James actually met his end in the pursuit of money. A disputed inheritance caused trouble with Charles, 4th Duke of Mohun. Mohun had married Charlotte Orby, granddaughter of Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, in 1691 with the hope that this match would alleviate some of his debt. Unfortunately he received no dowry for the marriage, and the couple separated shortly thereafter.

In 1701, he had accompanied the 3rd Earl of Macclesfield on a diplomatic mission to Hanover. Following the death of Macclesfield without an heir later in the year, Mohun was left most of his extensive estates, based at Gawsworth Hall, Cheshire. He spent over a decade defending his inheritance from rival claimants, most famously from James Douglas, 4th Duke of Hamilton.

Hamilton claimed the estates through his wife Elizabeth Gerard, a granddaughter of Charles Gerard, 1st Earl of Macclesfield. Mohun claimed them as the named heir of Charles Gerard, 2nd Earl of Macclesfield, to whom he had been a companion-in-arms. By 1712, Mohun's legal dispute with Hamilton over his inheritance of the Macclesfield estate was going badly and culminated in Mohun calling Hamilton out. The duel took place on the morning of the 15th November 1712 in Hyde Park. The older Hamilton mortally wounded Mohun, and was mortally wounded in turn. Hamilton's second thereafter claimed that Mohun's second George Macartney had dealt the final stroke to Hamilton whilst pretending to attend to Mohun, but the evidence was wholly inconclusive. Questions about why John Hamilton didn't stay to attempt to arrest Macartney if he'd thought that such a crime had been committed brought suspicion on his testimony. A cry for justice went up amongst the Duke's friends, including Jonathan Swift, and Macartney escaped to the continent. After attempts to repatriate him, he was tried in absentia for murder, and stripped of his regiment, but was later pardoned.

The duel so shocked polite society that the law was subsequently changed so duellers could only fight with pistols.


2. stallplateThe stallplate of James, 4th Duke of Hamilton, is found amongst the many hundreds of stallplates that adorn the quire of St George’s Chapel. These stallplates seem like jewelled windows, providing brief glimpses into the history of the Order of the Garter. The coat-of-arms, style and achievements of the Duke glint brightly when the light falls on them, but intriguingly, it is perhaps the date of the Duke’s installation, 4th August 1713, that is the most dazzling feature of the Duke’s stallplate. Why? On this date, James, 4th Duke of Hamilton was dead.

James, 4th Duke of Hamilton, was a Scottish nobleman, born to William Douglas, 1st Earl of Selkirk, and Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton, in 1658. He had a strong claim to both the Scottish and English thrones through his mother, a descendant of James I on her paternal side.

As Earl of Arran, he was appointed a Gentleman of the Bedchamber by Charles II, and was an ambassador to the court of Louis XIV. Following the Glorious Revolution, he favoured the deposed James II, while his father supported William III. His father died in 1694, and his mother surrendered her titles in 1698 to William III, who granted them back to Arran that same year.

As Duke of Hamilton, he took his seat in the Scottish parliament in 1700. He opposed the union of England and Scotland, but his own political stance oscillated between the parties involved. Following the union, he entered the parliament as a representative peer in 1708. The Duke’s profile rose with the success of the Tory party, culminating in his election as a Knight of the Garter on October 26th 1712. In 1712, he was also appointed as an ambassador to Paris, where he was due to travel before his infamous duel with Charles, 5th Baron Mohun, a Whig supporter, on November 15th 1712.

The duel between the Duke and Lord Mohun was the culmination of a ten year inheritance dispute. In 1702, the 3rd Earl of Macclesfield died without an heir. The Duke’s second wife, Elizabeth Gerard, was a granddaughter of the 1st Earl of Macclesfield, so he laid claim to the inheritance. Lord Mohun’s estranged wife, Charlotte Orby, was also a granddaughter of the 1st Earl, while Lord Mohun was the named heir of the 2nd Earl of Macclesfield, so he too, laid claim.

After years of litigation, Lord Mohun challenged the Duke to a duel. Lord Mohun was no stranger to duelling. He had been tried on two separate occasions for murder but he was acquitted both times. On the morning of November 15th 1712, the Duke, with his second, Col. John Hamilton of the Scots Guard, met with Lord Mohun and his second, Lt. Gen. George MacCartney, in Hyde Park. At about 7am, the men engaged in a fierce duel. An article in The Post Boy relates the extent of the wounds suffered by both men, including a wound in the Duke’s left breast that ran ‘downwards into his body’ and a wound through the right side of Lord Mohun’s body ‘up to the hilt of his sword’. The wounds suffered by both men proved fatal.

However, based on the reports of Col. Hamilton, the Duke’s second, news began to circulate that the Duke had been fatally stabbed by Lord Mohun’s second, Lt. Gen. MacCartney. Col. Hamilton testified that Lt. Gen. MacCartney had thrust his sword through the Duke’s left breast. This news spread rapidly in London, and in a letter dated November 18th written by the Duke’s friend, Jonathan Swift, he recounts, ‘we suspect Maccartney stabbed the Duke while he was fighting. The Queen and Lord Treasurer are in great concern at this event’. The claims, in turn, led to stories that the duel was part of a Whig-orchestrated conspiracy to get rid of the Duke, a claim much debated by many at the time, including Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe.

Although the Duke of Hamilton had been elected as a Knight of the Garter shortly before he died, he had not been installed as such. The matter of the Duke’s death, however, proved to be a surmountable obstacle. On August 14th 1713, James, 4th Duke of Hamilton, was one of six noblemen installed as Knights of the Garter. The then sovereign, Queen Anne, took the unusual step of issuing a particular dispensation that allowed for the installation of the Duke. Perhaps desirous of commemorating the Duke’s election to the Order, the dispensation authorised the inclusion of the Duke’s name among those who received installation. In issuing such a dispensation, Queen Anne ensured that James, 4th Duke of Hamilton, would be included in the history of this illustrious Order.











  • Married: BEF. 5 JAN 1686/87

Marriage 2 Elizabeth Gerard
  • Married: 17 JUL 1698
  1. Has Children James (5th Duke of Hamilton) Douglas-Hamilton b: 5 JAN 1701/02
  2. Has No Children William (MP) Douglas-Hamilton
  3. Has Children Anne Lord Douglas-Hamilton b: 12 OCT 1709 = (unm) Mary Edwardes
  4. Has No Children Elizabeth Douglas-Hamilton
  5. Has No Children Catherine Douglas-Hamilton
  6. Has No Children Charlotte Douglas-Hamilton
  7. Has Children Susan (of Hamilton) Douglas-Hamilton = Anthony Tracy-Keck


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