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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Earls of Arran

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The extinct Scottish title of the earls of Arran (not to be confused with the modern Irish earls of Arran - from the Arran or Aran Islands, Galway - a title created in 1762) was borne by some famous characters in Scottish history. Except the first earl, Thomas Boyd (see Arran), and James Stewart, all the holders of this title were members of the Hamilton family.

James Hamilton, 1 st earl of Arran of the new creation (c. 1 475 - 1529), son of James, 1st Lord Hamilton, and of Mary Stewart, daughter of James II. of Scotland, was born about 1475, and succeeded in 1479 to his father's titles and estates. In 1489 he was made sheriff of Lanark, was appointed a privy councillor to James IV., and in 1503 negotiated in England the marriage between the king and Margaret Tudor. Hamilton excelled in the knightly exercises of the day, and the same year on the 11th of August, after distinguishing himself in a famous tournament, he was created earl and justiciary of Arran. In 1504 as lieutenant-general of the realm he was employed in reducing the Hebrides, and about the same time in an expedition with io,000 men in aid of John, king of Denmark. In 1507 he was sent ambassador to France, and on his return through England was seized and imprisoned by Henry VII. After the accession of Henry VIII., Arran, in 1509, signed the treaty of peace between the two countries, and later, when hostilities began, was given command of a great fleet equipped for the aid of France in 1513. The expedition proved a failure, Arran wasting time by a useless attack on Carrickfergus, lingering for months on the Scottish coast, and returning with a mere remnant of his fleet, the larger ships having probably been purchased by the French government. During his absence the battle of Flodden had been lost, and Arran found his rival Angus, who enjoyed Henry's support, married to the queen dowager and in control of the government. Arran naturally turned to the French party and supported the regency of the duke of Albany. Later, however, becoming impatient of the latter's monopoly of power, he entered into various plots against him, and on Albany's departure in 1517 he was chosen president of the council of regency and provost of Edinburgh. The same year he led an expedition to the border to punish the murderers of the French knight La Bastie. In September, however, after a temporary absence with the young king, the gates of Edinburgh were shut against him by the Douglases, and on the 30th of April 1520 the fierce fight of "Cleanse the Causeway" took place in the streets between the two factions, in which the Hamiltons were worsted. The quarrel, however, between Angus and his wife, the queen-mother, with whom Arran now allied himself, gave the latter another opportunity of regaining power, which he held from 1522, after Albany's return to France, till 1524, when he was forced to include Angus in the government. In 1526, on the refusal of the latter to give up his control of the king on the expiry of his term of office, Arran took up arms, but retreated before Angus's forces, and having made terms with him, supported him in his close custody of the king, in September defeating the earl of Lennox, who was marching to Edinburgh to liberate James. On the proscription of Angus and the Douglases, Arran joined the king at Stirling. He died in 1529. His eldest son James succeeded him.

James Hamilton, 2nd earl of Arran and duke of Chatelherault (c. 1515-1575), accompanied James V. in 1536 to France, and on the latter's death in 1542 was, in consequence of his position as next successor to the throne of ter the infant Mary, proclaimed protector of the realm and heir-presumptive of the crown, in 1543. He was a zealous supporter of the reformation, authorized the translation and reading of the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, and at first supported the English policy in opposition to Cardinal Beaton, whom he arrested on the 27th of January 1543, arranging the treaty with England and the marriage of Mary with Prince Edward in July, and being offered by Henry the hand of the princess Elizabeth for his son. But on the 3rd of September he suddenly joined the French party, met Beaton at Stirling, and abjured his religion for Roman Catholicism. On the 13th of January 1544, with Angus, Lennox and others, he signed a bond repudiating the English alliance. In 1 544 an attempt was made to transfer the regency from him to Mary of Lorraine, but Arran fortified Edinburgh and her forces retired; in March 1545 a truce was arranged by which each had a share in the government. Meanwhile, immediately on the repudiation of the treaty, war had broken out with England, and Arran was unable either to maintain order within the realm or defend it from outside aggression, the Scots being defeated at Pinkie on the 10th of September 1547. He reluctantly agreed in July 1548 to the marriage of the dauphin with Mary, whom he had designed for his son, to the appeal for French aid, and to the removal of Mary for security to France, and on the 5th of February 1549 was created duke of Chatelherault in Poitou, his eldest son James being henceforth commonly styled earl of Arran. In June 15 4 8 he had also been made a knight of the order of St Michael in France. On the 12th of April 1554 he abdicated in favour of the queen-mother, whose government he supported till after the capture of Edinburgh in October 1559 by the lords of the congregation, when he declared himself on their side and took the Covenant. The same month he was one of the council of the Protestant lords, joined them in suspending Mary of Lorraine from the regency, and was made provisionally one of the governors of the kingdom. In order to discredit him with the English government a letter was forged by his enemies, in which Arran declared his allegiance to Francis II., but the plot was exposed. On the 27th of February 1560 he agreed to the treaty of Berwick with Elizabeth, which placed Scotland under her protection. The death the same year of Francis II. renewed his hopes of a union between his son and Mary, but disappointment drove him into an attitude of hostility to the court. In 1562 he was accused by his son, probably already insane, of plots against Mary's person, and he was obliged to give up Dumbarton Castle. Lennox claimed precedence over Arran in the succession to the throne, on the plea of the latter's supposed illegitimacy, and his restoration to favour in 1564, together with the project of Mary's marriage with Darnley, still further embittered Arran; he refused to appear at court, was declared a traitor, and fled to England, where on his consent to go into exile for five years he received a pardon from Mary. In 1566 he went to France, where he made vain attempts to regain his confiscated duchy. After the murder of Darnley in 1567 he was nominated by Mary on her abdication one of the regents, and he returned to Scotland in 1569 as a strong supporter of her cause. In March in an assembly of nobles called by Murray, he acknowledged James as king, but on the 5th of April he was arrested for not fulfilling the compact, and continued in confinement till April 1570. After Murray's assassination in January 1570, the regency in July was given to Lennox, and in June 1571 Arran assembled a parliament, when it was declared that Mary's abdication was obtained by fear, and the king's coronation was annulled. On the 28th of August he was declared a traitor and "forfeited," but he continued to support Mary's hopeless cause and to appeal for help to France and Spain, in spite of the pillage of his houses and estates, till February 1573, when he acknowledged James's authority and laid down his arms. He died on the 22nd of January 1575. He was by general consent a weak, fickle man, whose birth alone called him to high office. He married Margaret, daughter of James Douglas, 3rd earl of Morton, and had, besides several daughters, four sons: James, who succeeded him as 3rd earl of Arran, John, 1st marquess of Hamilton, David, and Claud, Lord Paisley, ancestor of the dukes of Abercorn.

James Hamilton, 3rd earl (c. 1537-1609), was styled earl of Arran after the creation of his father as duke of Chatelherault in 1549; the latter title did not descend to him, having been resumed by the French crown. His father's ambition destined him for the hand of Mary queen of Scots, and his union with the princess Elizabeth was proposed by Henry VIII. as the price of his father's adherence to the English interest. He was early involved in the political troubles in which Scotland was then immersed. In 1546 he was seized as a hostage at St Andrews by the murderers of Cardinal Beaton and released in 1547. In 1550 he went to France, was given the command of the Scots guards, and in 1557 distinguished himself in the defence of St Quentin. He became a strong adherent of the reformed doctrine. His arrest was ordered by Henry II. in 1559, Mary (probably in consequence of his projected union with Elizabeth which would have raised the Hamiltons higher than the Stuarts) declaring her wish that he should be "used as an arrant traitor." He, however, escaped to Geneva and then to England, and had an interview with Elizabeth in August. He returned to Scotland in September, where he supported his father's adherence to the lords of the Congregation against Mary of Lorraine, upheld the alliance with Elizabeth, and became one of the leaders of the Protestant party in the subsequent fighting, in particular organizing, together with Lord James Stuart (afterwards earl of Murray), in 1560, a stubborn resistance to the French at Dysart, and saving Fife. In November 1559 he had declined Bothwell's challenge to single combat. Subsequently he signed the treaty of Berwick, became one of the lords of the Congregation, and was appointed a visitor for the destruction of the religious houses. The same year proposals w.ere again made for his marriage with Elizabeth, which were rejected by the latter in 1561; and subsequently after the death of Francis II. (in December 1560), he became, with the strong support of the Protestants and Hamiltons, a suitor for Mary, also without success. He was chosen a member of her council on her arrival in Scotland in 1561, but took up a hostile attitude to the court in consequence of the practice of the Roman Catholic religion. He now showed marked signs of insanity, and was confined in Edinburgh Castle, where he remained till May 1566. He had then lost the power of speech, and from 1568 he lived in retirement with his mother at Craignethan Castle, while his estates were administered by his brother John, afterwards 1st marquess of Hamilton. In 1579, at the time of the fresh prosecution of the Hamiltons, when the helpless Arran was also included in the attainder of his brothers and his titles forfeited, the castle was besieged on the pretence of delivering him from unlawful confinement, and Arran and his mother were brought to Linlithgow, while the charge of his estates was taken over by the government. In 1580 James Stewart (see below) was appointed his guardian, and in 1581 acquired the earldom; but his title and estates were restored after Stewart's disgrace in 1586, when the forfeiture was repealed. Arran died unmarried in March 1609, the title devolving on his nephew James, 2nd marquess of Hamilton.

James Stewart (d. 1595), the rival earl of Arran above referred to, was the son of Andrew Stewart, 2nd Lord Ochiltree. He served in his youth with the Dutch forces in Holland against the Spanish, and returned to Scotland in 1J 7 9. He immediately became a favourite of the young king, and in 1580 was made gentleman of the bedchamber and tutor of his cousin, the 3rd earl of Arran. The same year he was the principal accuser of the earl of Morton, and in 1581 was rewarded for having accomplished the latter's destruction by being appointed a member of the privy council, and by the grant the same year, to the prejudice of his ward, of the earldom of Arran and the Hamilton estates, on the pretence that the children of his grandmother's father, the 1st earl of Arran, by his third wife, from whom sprang the succeeding earls of Arran, were illegitimate. He claimed the position of second person in the kingdom as nearest to the king by descent. The same year he married Elizabeth, daughter of John Stewart, earl of Atholl, and wife of the earl of March, after both had been compelled to undergo the discipline of the kirk on account of previous illicit intercourse. He became the rival of Lennox for the chief power in the kingdom, but both were deprived of office by the raid of Ruthven on the 22nd of August 1582, and Arran was imprisoned till September under the charge of the earl of Gowrie. In 1583, however, he assembled a force of 12,000 men against the new government; the Protestant lords escaped over the border, and Arran, returning to power, was made governor of Stirling Castle and in 1584 lord chancellor. The same year Gowrie was captured through Arran's treachery and executed after the failure of the plot of the Protestant lords against the latter's government. He now obtained the governorship of Edinburgh Castle and was made provost of the city and lieutenant-general of the king's forces. Arran induced the English government to refrain from aiding the banished lords, and further secured his power by the forfeitures of his opponents. His tyranny and insolence, however, stirred up a multitude of enemies and caused his rapid fall from power. His agent in England, Patrick, Master of Gray, was secretly conspiring against him at Elizabeth's court. On account of the murder of Lord Russell on the border in July 1585, of which he was accused by Elizabeth, he was imprisoned at the castle of St Andrews, and subsequently the banished lords with Elizabeth's support entered Scotland, seized the government and proclaimed Arran a traitor. He fled in November, and from this time his movements are furtive and uncertain. In 1586 he was ordered to leave the country, but it is doubtful whether he ever quitted Scotland. He contrived secretly to maintain friendly communications with James, and in 1592 returned to Edinburgh, and endeavoured unsuccessfully to get reinstated in the court and kirk. Sub sequently he is reported as making a voyage to Spain, probably in connexion with James's intrigues with that country. His unscrupulous and adventurous career was finally terminated towards the close of 1595 by his assassination near Symontown in Lanarkshire at the hands of Sir James Douglas (nephew of his victim the earl of Morton), who carried his head in triumph on the point of a spear through the country, while his body was left a prey to the dogs and swine. He had three sons, the eldest of whom became Lord Ochiltree.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Earls of Arran'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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