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3 Sep 2020

Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton (1631–1716)

Written by Sarah Beattie, Regional Curator, Ayrshire & Arran / Dumfries & Galloway
An oil portrait of a young 17th-century woman seated in front of a classical background. She looks directly at the viewer. She has ringlets in her hair, held back by a wide headband with pearls. She also wears a pearl necklace and earrings. Her blue and white silk dress is voluminous and is pinned in various places with pearl brooches.
Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton (1631–1716), oil on canvas, attributed to David Scougall (1610–80), Brodick Castle (detail)
Anne Hamilton (1631–1716) became the 3rd Duchess of Hamilton in 1651. Over the next 65 years she restored the fortunes and status of the Hamilton dukedom and their Scottish properties.

Anne was born at the luxurious Palace of Whitehall, London, in 1631 to James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton (1606–49) and Lady Mary Feilding (1613–38), a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Henrietta Maria (1609–69), the French wife of King Charles I (1600–49). Lady Mary died when Anne was a young child. Until the age of eleven, Anne was raised, along with her younger sister Susannah, at the opulent royal court in London.

In 1642, as her father’s position at court began to decline because of his support for Charles I during the English Civil War, the sisters were sent to Scotland to live at the family seat of Hamilton Palace. At Hamilton, Anne learnt the business of managing the estates from her formidable grandmother, Lady Anna Hamilton (c1580–1647).

Tragically, within a decade Anne lost both her father and her uncle, William, Earl of Lanark, later 2nd Duke of Hamilton (1616–51). The Hamiltons were Royalists, and Anne’s father and uncle supported the Stuarts throughout the turbulent years of the 1640s and early 1650s. In 1649, shortly after Charles I was executed, Anne’s father was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell’s government as a traitor.

Her uncle William was in exile in Holland and returned to Scotland in 1650, joining Charles II (1630 –85) for his disastrous campaign at the Battle of Worcester. William died nine days later from injuries he sustained during the battle; Anne, at just 20 years old, was left as the head of the Hamilton family. She spent a few months at Brodick Castle with her sisters (her father had an illegitimate daughter) and cousins, recuperating from a bout of illness and mourning for her beloved relatives. It may have been the sad memories associated with this time that prevented Anne from staying in the castle again later in life.

A pencil sketch of Brodick Castle in a thin gilded frame is displayed against a plain grey background. The castle is seen from the entrance path, which sweeps round to the front of the castle. A large tree and a pair of small deer are shown in the foreground.
A view of Brodick Castle, pencil on paper, unknown artist, Scottish School, early 19th century, Brodick Castle

Theoretically one of the wealthiest and most important women in Scotland, Anne was in fact almost destitute. Like many of her contemporaries, she was crippled by debts from her family’s support of Charles I and much of her property had been seized. Her estates at Hamilton and Kinneil had been divided amongst Cromwell’s officers in Scotland, and Brodick Castle was garrisoned by English troops from April 1652. The Hamilton family had owned the estates on Arran since the early 1300s – as the most westerly point of their lands, it was a key strategic outpost where the family exerted a large amount of power and influence.

In April 1656 Anne married William Douglas, Earl of Selkirk (1634–94) and between 1657 and 1673 they had 13 children together. Anne petitioned Charles II in 1660 and William was awarded the title of Duke of Hamilton for his lifetime. For the rest of their lives the couple worked to regain the family’s wealth and status.

After some difficult years, Anne’s fortunes had begun to improve with the Restoration of Charles II and in July 1669 she was reimbursed £2,000 sterling. Anne was also able to sell some of the land and possessions that she had been allowed to keep, and eventually managed to raise the £7,000 that was necessary for her to reclaim the family’s principal residence, Hamilton Palace in Lanarkshire. In the 1680s, Anne and William commissioned the architect James Smith to design a large and impressive extension to Hamilton Palace, and after the Duke’s death in 1694 Anne continued the project on her own. She believed this new building would be a lasting representation of the wealth and status of the Dukes of Hamilton.

An unframed oil painting of Brodick Castle is displayed against a plain grey background. It shows the pale walls of the castle lit by the sun, and is painted from the perspective of the entrance gates, looking across the lawn. Established woodland surrounds the grounds.
View of Brodick Castle, oil on board, unknown artist, early 19th century, Brodick Castle

Except for Anne’s brief visit after the death of her father, Brodick Castle was generally unoccupied throughout her lifetime, with only the Duke occasionally using the castle for hunting trips. However, Anne did undertake various phases of repair at Brodick. The longest period of work was in the summer of 1680, when several rooms were re-configured and the building extended and redecorated. Wood was shipped from the Hamilton estate in Lanarkshire to Arran and used for new floors and partition walls, but most of the work appears to have been on the roof and windows.

In 1702, Anne commissioned a full survey of Brodick Castle, which uncovered a series of major flaws within the building’s structure and led to a further period of work on the roofs, chimneys, parapets and walls from May that year. Despite not visiting the island much herself, Anne felt it was her duty to maintain her estate buildings and support the local communities; at some point she had a harbour built in Lamlash to encourage coal mining and the salt industry.

A modern photograph of the walled garden at Brodick Castle, taken from the castle and looking down the gravel path towards the bay. Lush flower beds edge the paths and the lawns are bright green.
View of the Walled Garden

Anne was also responsible for the building of the Walled Garden at Brodick in 1710. Extending to just over an acre, it was initially constructed as a kitchen garden but later became a tree nursery. The walls provided the shelter required to enable a wide variety of fruit, vegetable and native trees to be grown. It’s believed to be the oldest part of the garden and is a rare surviving example of a Scottish walled garden sited close to the main house. In later periods it became fashionable to move the garden away from the house and it’s unusual that this one remains in its original early 18th-century position.

In the next article in this series, we’ll look at Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton, his collection and his eccentric burial. In the meantime, look out for Anne’s portrait in the Red Gallery at Brodick, and don’t forget to see if you can spot the various stages of building in the stonework.

This series of blogs would not have been possible without the expert knowledge and generosity of internal and external colleagues. Particular thanks are due to Dr Godfrey Evans for his extensive research on the Hamiltons and their collections; Dr Amy Frost for taking the time to discuss her work on Beckford, his Jamaican plantations and their enslaved workers; Dr Bet McLeod for sharing her knowledge on William Beckford and the Hamilton ceramics; and to Sue Mills, Education Officer at Brodick, for always being patient and generous with her knowledge of the castle.

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