In Old English "hamel dun" meant "bare hill" and there were a number of places in England with names derived from these words. Walter de Hameldone, owned property in near Paisley in Renfrewshire in 1294. In the War of Independence> in 1290-1305, he was initially loyal to King Edward I> of England but later supported Robert the Bruce>. He was granted further lands by Bruce in Lothian and Lanarkshire, including lands at Cadzow (which was later renamed Hamilton). Walter's son, David, fought for King David II> at the Battle of Neville Cross in 1346.
In 1474, James Hamilton married Princess Mary, daughter of King James II> and was made Lord Hamilton and their son, who was in line of succession to the throne, was made Earl of Arran. The family built Brodick Castle> as a Highland home (it is now National Trust property). The second Earl of Arran was made Regent of Scotland during the childhood of Mary Queen of Scots> and proposed that his son should marry her. However, she married the Dauphin (heir to the throne) of France instead. Nevertheless, the Earl of Arran was created Duke of Chatelherault, a French title. Later, the Earl tried to save Mary after her ill-fated marriage to Lord Darnley and sheltered her at Cadzow after her escape from Loch Leven.
The fourth Earl of Arran became Chancellor of Scotland and in 1599 and he was advanced to the rank of Marquess. His brother Claud was created Lord Paisley and then Lord Abercorn and this branch prospered, becoming a dukedom in 1868, with a seat in Ulster.
The third Marquess supported King Charles I> and he was made Duke of Hamilton in 1643 and the premier peer of Scotland. His daughter, Annie, married William Douglas, Earl of Selkirk. The foundations of a palace, near Hamilton in Lanarkshire, were laid at this time. The palace was later demolished because of mining subsidence but the magnificent hunting lodge named Chatelherault> still survives in a public park. The seat of the Duke of Hamilton is now Lennoxlove, in East Lothian.
Other Hamiltons of note in Scottish history include Patrick Hamilton who was martyred for his Protestant beliefs in 1528 and the grandson of the 3rd Duke who climbed Vesuvius 22 times and married Emma, Lord Nelson's beloved. The 14th Duke was the pilot of the first plane to fly over Mount Everest (in 1933).
The Hamilton clan motto is "Through".
Hamilton was the 29th most frequent surname at the General Register Office> in 1995. Many Hamiltons, of course, derive their name from the town of Hamilton.
There is a Hamilton clan Web site here>.
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