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Richard Hamilton (officer)

Richard Hamilton (c.1655–1717) was an officer in the Irish army who served 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 Battle of 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)


Early LifeEdit

He was born a younger son of a large aristocratic family of Scottish origin (see further down). His father was George Hamilton of Donalong, an Irish baronet and his grandfather was James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Abercorn in Scotland. His branch of the family was Catholic and royalist. His grandfather had been Protestant, but his grandmother, Marion Boyd, had been a recusant[1] who brought up her children as Catholics. During the interregnum, while Richard was still an infant, the family moved to France and stayed there until the Restoration in 1660. When his family returned to England, he settled at Whitehall.[2]

Tree of relevant members of Richard Hamilton's family

James H.,
1st Earl Abercorn

Marion Boyd
(the recusant)
James H.,
2nd Earl Abercorn

c. 1604 – c. 1670
2nd Ld H.
of Strabane

c. 1606–1638
George H.,
1st Bt. Donalong

c. 1607 – 1679
Mary ButlerAlexander
d. 1667
c. 1655 – 1717
d. 1691
James Hamilton,
6th Earl Abercorn

c. 1661 – 1734
d. 1692
d. 1737

Military CareerEdit

As a younger son of an aristocratic family, a career in the army seemed a natural choice. As his elder brother George already served in the French army, he asked him to start his career in the French army. In 1671 he was commissioned into a regiment raised by his brother George for service in France, and in 1678 he succeeded Thomas Dongan as the regiment's colonel, but the unit was disbanded later that year, and he joined a French regiment, which 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.[3] He was said to have been popular at the French court and in 1681 was documented as putting on a performance in front of Louis XIV at Saint-Germain-en-Laye as a zephyr in Quinault's ballet Le Triomphe de l'amour.[2] In March 1685 he departed from the French service 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.[4]

After returning to England, he was made a colonel of dragoons of Ireland 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. In May 1686 he was appointed to the privy council of Ireland. He was promoted to major-general on 12 November 1688.[2]

He went to England with the Irish troops that Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell viceroy (Lord Lieutenant) of Ireland sent to help James II 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 surrendered to William and were disbanded after James's flight.[5] William wanted to bring Ireland around to his side and wanted to propose terms to Talbot. He thought to have found a suitable messenger in Richard Hamilton and sent him to Ireland. Hamilton instead urged Tyrconnell to reject William's terms and joined the Irish Jacobites.[2] Indeed, upon landing at Ringsend in January 1689, he was reported to have gone straight to a tavern, where he ‘broke out into loud laughter, saying he could not forbear it, thinking how finely he had shammed the Prince of Orange’.[2]

Tyrconnell promoted him to Lieutenant-General and sent him to Ulster to put down the Protestant rebellion there. He engaged and defeated Sir Arthur Rawdon's Protestant Army of the North in the battle called the Break of Dromore on 14 March 1689. He raided Antrim Castle and took Viscount Massereene's silverware and furniture to a value of about £3000, a considerable amount at the time.[6] Hamilton then marched on to Londonderry. In the meantime James II had landed in Ireland on 12 March, proceeded to Dublin and decided also to go north. He joined up with Hamilton on the road to Derry. The siege of the town began on the 18 April. Hamilton became the commander of the besieging troops when Lieutenant-General Jacques de Fontanges, Count Maumont was killed on the 21 April during a sally of the garrison. Hamilton was replaced by De Rosen 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.[2] He was taken prisoner and was kept first in Dublin and later at Chester Castle.[2]

In April 1692 he was exchanged for Lord Mountjoy and left for France, arriving in Versailles.[2] There he served 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.[2]

Hamilton became active at the exiled Jacobite court, and in 1696 he became James's master of the robes.[2] In March 1708 he was involved in an attempt to invade Scotland, but the attack was aborted.[2] In 1713, Hamilton was implicated in a scandal in which he had plotted to usurp Lord Middleton's position as secretary of state. He left James's court and went to live with his niece who was abbess of the convent St Marie of Poussay in Lorraine, leading a life of piety. He died in December 1717 in Poussay.[2]


Richard was the fifth of the six sons of Sir George Hamilton of Donalong, an Irish baronet, who in turn was the fourth son of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Abercorn in Scotland. His mother was Mary Butler sister of the 1st Duke of Ormond.[7] One of his elder brothers was the playwright Anthony Hamilton. His nephew James Hamilton fought on William's side. He was to become the 6th Earl of Abercorn.


  1. ^ 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."
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Richard Hamilton". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  3. ^ Macaulay 1855, p. 198: "Si c'est celuy qui est sorti de France le dernier, qui s'appelloit Richard, il n'a jamai veu de siège, ayant toujours servi en Rousillon."
  4. ^ 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 ..."
  5. ^   Chichester, Henry Manners (1890). "Hamilton, Richard" . In Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 24. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 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.
  6. ^ 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 ..."
  7. ^ Burke 1868, p. 2, line 32: "Sir George m. Mary, 3rd dau. of Walter, Viscount Thurles, and sister of James 1st Duke of Ormonde ..."
Military offices
Preceded by
The Lord Langdale
Colonel of Hamilton's Regiment of Horse
Succeeded by
John Coy