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Richard Hamilton (c. 1655 – 1717) was an officer in the Irish army, who fought in the Jacobite forces during the Williamite War, rising to the rank of lieutenant general. He defeated the protestants of Ulster at the Break of Dromore and the Cladyford. He was commander-in-chief during part of the siege of Derry, and fought at the Battle of the Boyne. He died in French exile.

Richard Hamilton
Bornc. 1655
DiedDecember 1717
AllegianceJacobite army
Battles/warsWilliamite War in Ireland
RelationsGeorge Hamilton of Donalong (father)
Anthony Hamilton (brother)


Birth and originsEdit

Richard Hamilton was born about 1655, probably in Caen, France, where his family was in exile since 1651,[1] or perhaps in Ireland before they left.[2] He was one of the nine children[3] and the fifth of the six sons of George Hamilton and his wife Mary Butler. His father was Scottish, the fourth son of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Abercorn in Scotland, and would be in 1660 created baronet of Donalong and Nenagh. His mother was a sister of the 1st Duke of Ormond and therefore Irish of Old English descent.[4][5][a]

His elder brothers were James, George, Anthony, and Thomas. His younger brother was John. His eldest brother, James, served in the English army. His elder brother George was killed in French service in 1667.[6] His brothers Anthony and John were to fight with him for the Jacobites in Ireland. Anthony was also to gain fame by writing the Mémoires du comte de Grammont. His brother Thomas went to sea and died in New England.[7] His sisters were Elizabeth, Lucia, and Margaret. Elizabeth was known as "la belle Hamilton" at Charles II's court in Whitehall and married Philibert de Gramont.[8] His sister Lucia married Sir Donogh O'Brien of Lemineagh. His sister Margaret married Mathew Forde, esquire of Seaforde.[9]

Both his parent were Catholics. His paternal grandfather had been a protestant, but his paternal grandmother, Marion Boyd, had been a recusant,[10] who brought up her children as Catholics. His nephew James Hamilton, son of his eldest brother James, fought on William's side and was to become the 6th Earl of Abercorn.

Family tree

Richard Hamilton with red frame; earls of Abercorn with background

1st Earl Abercorn


2nd Earl

c. 1604 –
c. 1670
c. 1605 –
2nd Baron
of Strabane

c. 1606 –
1st Bt.

c. 1607 –

d. 1680
d. bef.
d. 1667
c. 1655 –
d. 1691
6th Earl Abercorn

c. 1661 –
d. 1692
d. 1737

Note: earls 3 to 5 are not shown. Earl 3 descends from Earl 2.
Earls 4 & 5 descend from Claud Hamilton of Strabane.

Cromwell's Conquest of IrelandEdit

In 1650 his father defended Nenagh Castle for the Royalists against Ireton's Parliamentarians troops, who passed through Nenagh on their way to Limerick, which they were going to besiege.

First French exile (1651–1660)Edit

In spring 1651 his father followed his maternal uncle, the Duke of Ormond, from Ireland into French exile.[11][1] They stayed in Caen during most of the exile but moved to Paris to be at the court.

Richard Hamilton was born in France, or brought there as an infant, according to sources.[1][2]

Whitehall (1660–1667)Edit

He and his family returned to London in 1660 with the advent of the English Restoration. His father was created Baronet Donalong in 1660 by Charles II, but Charles refused to go further than that because the family was Catholic.[12]

In French serviceEdit

Wanting to be a soldier and unable to take the oath of supremacy obligatory in the English army, he followed the example of his elder brothers George and Anthony and went into French service. George had raised a regiment for French service in Ireland and had served under Turenne, Condé, and Luxembourg but had been killed in action in 1667 at the Zaberner Steige.[6][13]

In 1671 Richard Hamilton was commissioned into that regiment. In 1678 he succeeded Thomas Dongan as the regiment's colonel, but the unit was disbanded later that year. He then joined a French regiment that he commanded for over six years. This seems to have been the Roussillon Regiment, according to a remark in a letter from Louvois to d'Avaux.[14]

He was well accepted at court and Wauchope reports that "he danced before Louis XIV as a zephyr in Quinault's ballet Le triomphe de l'amour at St Germain-en-Laye".[15] However, the same is said of his brother Anthony. Either there is a confusion, or both brothers were zephyrs in this ballet.

In March 1685 he was obliged to leave France after a bitter disagreement with Louvois, the minister of war, over the state of his regiment and a brawl with the Marquis d'Alincourt [fr] over the Princess de Conti, Louis XIV's recently widowed daughter.[16]

In Irish Jacobite serviceEdit

Having returned to England, he was made a colonel of a regiment of Irish dragoons by James II on 20 June 1685. He was promoted to brigadier in April 1686, making him the third most senior officer of the Irish Army after Tyrconnell and Justin McCarthy, Viscount Mountcashel.[17] In May 1686 he was appointed to the privy council of Ireland. He was promoted to major-general on 12 November 1688.[18]

He went to England with the Irish troops that Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, viceroy (Lord Lieutenant) of Ireland, sent to help James when the king's position became precarious in the built-up to the Glorious Revolution. These troops should have helped to defend the south coast of England against a possible Dutch invasion. They caused the Irish Fright in England in December 1688. They surrendered to William and were disbanded after James's flight.[19] Richard Hamilton was jailed at the Tower of London.[20]

William wanted to bring Ireland around to his side by proposing favourable terms to Tyrconnell. He thought to have found a suitable messenger in Richard Hamilton. He freed him from the Tower and sent him to Ireland on parole. Richard Hamilton landed at Ringsend (near Dublin) in January 1689. He went to a tavern, where a witness reported that he "broke out into loud laughter, saying he could not forbear it, thinking how finely he had shammed the Prince of Orange".[21] He then went on to urge Tyrconnell to reject William's terms and joined the Irish Jacobites.[22]

Tyrconnell promoted him to Lieutenant-General and sent him to Ulster at the head of a force of 2500 to put down the protestant rebellion there. He defeated Sir Arthur Rawdon's protestant Army of the North in the battle called the Break of Dromore on 14 March 1689 in County Down and then continued northwards into County Antrim where he raided Antrim Castle and took Viscount Massereene's silverware and furniture to a value of about £3000, a considerable amount at the time.[23]

Hamilton then marched on to Coleraine, which he reached on 27 March.[24] In the meantime James II had landed in Ireland (on 12 March) and had sent Lieutenant-General de Rosen, the French commander-in-chief, up north with an army. The two armies linked up on the march to Londonderry. The commanders were both lieutenant-generals, but de Rosen had been appointed Marshal of Ireland for the duration of the campaign. Nevertheless, Hamilton did not want to submit to de Rosen. Lundy, the governor of Londonderry tried to defend the so-called fords along the River Finn south of the city. On 15 April 1689 Hamilton attacked at Clady. The Duke of Berwick was with him.[25] De Rosen broke through the enemy's line of defence in a separate action near Lifford. Lundy fled to the city.[26]

The siege of the town began on the 18 April. James and de Rosen returned to Dublin and left Lieutenant-General Jacques de Fontanges, comte de Maumont,[27] in command. However, Maumont was killed during a sally on the 21 April and the command devolved to Hamilton, who lacked experience in sieges. De Rosen came back from Dublin to Derry in June. The siege was finally abandoned after 105 days on 31 July 1689. Hamilton retreated with the army to the south.

At the Battle of the Boyne, on 1 July 1690, Hamilton commanded the right wing of the Irish army, defending the ford at Oldbridge.[28] He was wounded and taken prisoner. He was interrogated by William who asked him whether his men will continue to fight. Hamilton answers "On my honour, Sir, I believe that they will". Thereupon William twice mutters "Your honour!", reminding him of his broken parole.[29][30] Hamilton was kept a prisoner, first in Dublin, then at Chester Castle, and finally at the Tower of London.

French exileEdit

In April 1692 he was exchanged for Lord Mountjoy.[31][32] Having arrived in France he went to Versailles to thank Louis XIV for his liberation.[33] In 1692 he served as lieutenant general under Marshal Bellefonds in King James's forces that should have invaded England. However, the defeat of the French fleet at Barfleur and La Hougue, 19–24 May 1692, prevented the invasion.

Hamilton became active at the exiled Jacobite court, and in 1696 he became James's master of the robes.[34] In March 1708 he was involved in an attempt to invade Scotland, but the attack was aborted.[35] In 1713, Hamilton was implicated in a scandal in which he had plotted to usurp Lord Middleton's position as James's secretary of state. He left James's court and went to live with his niece Marie-Elisabeth de Gramont, who was abbess of the convent St Marie in Poussay, Lorraine, leading a life of piety. He died in December 1717 in Poussay.[36]

By yearEdit

  • 1655, about: Birth
  • 1660: Family returns from France to England
  • 1667, June: Brother George is killed at the Zaberner Steige[6]
  • 1679: Father dies
  • 1685, March: Obliged to leave France
  • 1689, January: Returns to Ireland and joins the Jacobites[21]
  • 1689, 14 March: Wins at the Break of Dromore
  • 1689, 15 April: Forces the crossing of the River Finn at Clady[25]
  • 1689, 18 April: Start of the siege of Derry
  • 1689, 21 April: Becomes commander-in-chief before Derry
  • 1689, 31 July: Siege of Derry abandoned
  • 1690, 1 July: Is taken prisoner at the Battle of the Boyne
  • 1692, April: Is exchanged for Mountjoy [32]
  • 1692: Should have participated at an invasion that was cancelled
  • 1696: Is appointed James's master of the robes [34]
  • 1708: Participates in another attempt to invade Scotland
  • 1713: Tries to usurp Middleton's position
  • 1717, December: Death

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ It is interesting to compare the entries for James Hamilton in the 31th (1869)[4] and the 99th (1949)[5] edition of Burke's Peerage.
  1. ^ a b c Clark 1921, p. 5: "In the spring of 1651 took place, at last, the event which had such a determining influence on the fate of the young Hamiltons. Sir George Hamilton left his country for France with his family ..."
  2. ^ a b Wauchope 2004, p. 888, line 10: "... he was taken to France as an infant, where he was brought up until the Restoration, when his family moved to Whitehall."
  3. ^ Debrett 1816, p. 92, line 17: "He m. Mary, 3d daughter of Thomas, Viscount Thurles, son of Walter, 11th earl of Ormond and sister of James, duke of Ormond, and had issue 6 sons and 3 daughters, ..."
  4. ^ a b Burke 1869, p. 2, right column, bottom: "George (Sir) of Donalong, co. Tyrone, and Nenagh, co. Tipperary, created a baronet of Ireland, in 1660, for his services to the royal cause. Sir George m. Mary, 3rd dau. of Walter, Viscount Thurles, and sister of James 1st Duke of Ormonde, ..."
  5. ^ a b Burke 1949, p. 3, right column, line 1: "George (Sir) of Donalong, co. Tyrone, and Nenagh, co. Tipperary, created a baronet of Scotland, about 1660; m. (art. dated 2 June 1629) Mary, 3rd dau. of Thomas, Viscount Thurles, and sister of the 1st Duke of Ormonde, ..."
  6. ^ a b c Sergeant 1913, p. 217: "At the beginning of June he [George Hamilton] took part in the battle of Zebernstieg and was engaged in covering the French retreat on Saverne when he was killed by a musket-shot."
  7. ^ Burke 1869, p. 3, left column, line 25: "Thomas, in the sea service; d. in New England."
  8. ^ Burke 1869, p. 3, left column, line 29: "Elizabeth, the beautiful and accomplished wife of Philibert, comte de Grammont; she d. 1708."
  9. ^ Burke 1869, p. 3, left column, line 31: "Lucia m. to Sir Donogh O'Brien of Lemineagh, Bart. Margaret m. to Matthew Forde esq. of Seaforde."
  10. ^ Metcalfe 1909, p. 234: "Her husband had been a staunch Protestant, an elder in the Kirk, and a member of the General Assembly. During his lifetime she had evidently conformed; but after his death she had evidently relapsed."
  11. ^ Millar 1890, p. 177, left column: "Marquis of Ormonde, whom he followed to Caen in the spring of 1651 with his wife and family."
  12. ^ Chisholm 1910, p. 884 right column, line 9: "The fact that, like his father, he was a Roman Catholic prevented his receiving the political promotion ..."
  13. ^ Clark 1921, p. 63: "Near Saverne Lorraine [the duke of L.] attacked his rear-guard, commanded by George Hamilton, but was driven back in a fierce combat, in which Hamilton and his regiment fought with all possible bravery, though the Imperialists spread a report that all the English and Irish in the French service had surrendered. In the moment of victory George Hamilton fell."
  14. ^ Macaulay 1855, p. 198: "Si c'est celuy qui est sorti de France le dernier, qui s'appelloit Richard, il n'a jamais veu de siège, ayant toujours servi en Rousillon."
  15. ^ Wauchope 2004, p. 888, right column, line 20.
  16. ^ La Fayette 1731, p. 193: "on l'avoit chassé de la cour, par ce qu'il s'étoit rendu amoureux de la princesse de Conti, fille du Roi ..."
  17. ^ Wauchope 2004, p. 888, right column, middle: "He was made a colonel of dragoons on the Irish establishment by James II on 20 June 1685, and in April 1686 he was promoted to brigadier, making him (after Tyrconnell and Justin MacCarthy) the third most senior member of the Irish army."
  18. ^ Wauchope 2004, p. 889a.
  19. ^ Chichester 1890, p. 203: "Hamilton arrived in England with the troops sent over by Tyrconnell on the rumour of a Dutch invasion, and which were disbanded by William of Orange after James's flight."
  20. ^ Childs 1987, p. 16: "Colonel Richard Hamilton, an Irish catholic, was confined to the Tower of London on 31 December 1688 and his regiment was entrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel John Coy ..."
  21. ^ a b HMC 1889, p. 189.
  22. ^ Chichester 1890, p. 204: "and Hamilton, forgetting his pledges, actively abetted him."
  23. ^ O'Laverty 1884, p. 264: "After the break of Dromore Colonel Skeffington abandoned Antrim Castle, which was occupied by a detachment of the troops of the Jacobite General Richard Hamilton. They seized Lord Massereene's plate ..."
  24. ^ Doherty 2008, p. 50: "Richard Hamilton's army reached Coleraine on 27 March."
  25. ^ a b FitzJames 1778, p. 47: "De là nous marchâmes, le 15 Avril, au pont de Clady, sur la rivière de Strabane, dont les Rebelles, au nombre de dix mille, vouloient défendre le passage ..."
  26. ^ Wauchope 2004, p. 889b: "At the battle of the Fords (15 April) de Rosen and Hamilton made separate attacks on Lundy's positions on the rivers Finn and Foyle and forced Lundy's troops back to the city."
  27. ^ Bouillet 1848, p. 82: "Cette branche a produit Jacques de Fontanges, comte de Maumont, lieutenant-général des armées."
  28. ^ Chichester 1890, p. 204, left column, lower third: "His conspicuous bravery in the fight at the Boyne is admitted by writers of all parties."
  29. ^ Story 1593, p. 84: "His Majesty asked him, Whether the Irish would fight any more? Yes, (said he) an't please your Majesty upon my Honour I believe they will, for they have a good Body of horse still. The King look'd a little aside at him when he named his Honour, and repeated it once or twice, Your Honour: Intimating (as He always says a great deal in a few Words) that what the other affirmed upon his Honour was not to believed, since he had forfeited that before ..."
  30. ^ Macaulay 1855, p. 634: "'Is this business over?' he said; 'or will your horse make more fight?' 'On my honour, Sir' answered Hamilton 'I believe that they will!' 'Your honour!' muttered William; 'Your honour!'"
  31. ^ Dangeau 1854, p. 431: "Vendredi 16 [November 1691] - Le roi a consenti à l'échange de Milord Mountjoye, Irlandois, avec Richard Hamilton, frère de la comtesse de Gramont."
  32. ^ a b Clark 1921, p. 108: "In April of the next year, 1692, he [Richard Hamilton] was at last allowed to go to France and was there exchanged for Lord Mountjoy."
  33. ^ Dangeau 1855, p. 72: "Vendredi 7 à Versailles [Mai 1692] - Richard Hamilton a salué le roi qui l'a très-bien reçu; il étoit prisonnier du Prince d'Orange et a été échange contre Milord Montjoy; il s'en va trouver le roi d'Angleterre et servira de lieutenant-général dans son armée."
  34. ^ a b Chichester 1890, p. 204, right column: "At Calais in 1696, in the hope of some attempt at restoration, James appointed him a lieutenant-general of his forces and master of the robes."
  35. ^ Luttrell 1857, p. 282: "Besides the French general officers on board, he had with him 4 of his own country, viz. Dorington, Richard Hamilton, Skelton and Galmoy; ..."
  36. ^ Saint-Simon 1874, p. 210: "En même temps mourut aussi Richard Hamilton. ... sa demeure était Saint-Germain. Il alla mourir à Poussay, chez sa nièce, qui étoit abbesse, pauvre elle-même, mais moins pauvre que lui, pour ne pas mourir de faim."
Military offices
Preceded by
The Lord Langdale
Colonel of Hamilton's Regiment of Horse
Succeeded by
John Coy