Hamilton of Finnart

Womaniser, courtier, soldier and pioneer royal architect: Charles McKean investigates the rise and fall of a 'Renaissance man' in 16th-century Scotland.

James, Lord Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran, was a lusty dog. He begat nineteen children of whom only three, conceived late in life, were legitimate. His eldest son, James the Bastard (c.1500-1540) inherited the propensity, begetting thirteen, of whom only three were legitimate. James, as oldest male representative of the next generation of the powerful Hamilton dynasty, remained likely inheritor of the great house of Hamilton until his late teens, when his father achieved legitimate succession upon his third wife. After his father's death twelve years later, James the Bastard assumed the role of tutor or guardian of the young 2nd Earl for the nine years until the latter's coming of age in 1538. Thus, for almost forty years, James the Bastard – formally Sir James Hamilton of Finnart – was dominant in the house of Hamilton, one of the five principal dynasties in Scotland, and heirs presumptive to the Scots throne if the royal line failed.

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