Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Assassination of James Stewart, Earl of Moray

James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh and Woodhouselee shot James Stewart, Earl of Moray and Regent for James VI of Scotland on the 23rd of January, 1570 in Linlithgow, Scotland. This stained glass window (courtesy of Wikipedia commons) is in St. Giles Kirk/Cathedral and was financed by George Philip Stuart, the 14th earl of Moray as part of a Victorian restoration in the 1880s. It depicts the assassination of Stewart by Hamilton as he fired his brass match-lock carbine with a rifled barrel from the house of John Hamilton, the Archbishop of St. Andrews. James Hamilton went into exile, but the Hamilton family suffered for this crime. Archbishop Hamilton, who was great supporter of Mary, Queen of Scots, was eventually hanged for being an accessory to murder. He was the illegitimate son of James Hamilton, the First Earl of Arran. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Placed in childhood with the Benedictines of Kilwinning, he acquired, through James V, the abbacy of Paisley, which he held from the age of fourteen till his death. It is doubtful whether he ever actually entered the order. After studying in Glasgow he entered the University of Paris. Then he received holy Orders, and returned to Scotland in 1543. His half-brother James, second Earl of Arran, being then regent during Mary Stuart's minority, Hamilton was speedily promoted to important offices of state, becoming privy seal, and later, high treasurer. Knox's "Historie" gives evidence of the hopes entertained by the reformers of winning him over, but he soon showed himself a strong partisan of Cardinal Beaton and the Catholic party, and was instrumental in overcoming the Protestant sympathy of Arran and reconciling him with the cardinal. In 1544 Hamilton was appointed Bishop of Dunkeld, and after the assassination of Beaton, succeeded that prelate not only as metropolitan, but also as the prominent opponent of nascent Protestantism. By the assembling of ecclesiastical councils in 1549, 1552 and 1559, the archbishop took an important part in the framing of statutes for the much-needed reformation of the clergy and religious instruction of the laity. When the packed parliament of 1560 voted the overthrow of Catholicism and the adoption of the Protestant "Confession of Faith", Hamilton was the leading dissentient. He has been accused of making too feeble a protest, but his correspondence with Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow, then in Paris, shows that he regarded the matter as one of less serious import than events proved. When the Abbey of Paisley was wrecked by the reforming mob in that same year, Hamilton narrowly escaped with his life.

The Abbey of Paisley is now a Church of Scotland church. Because he continued practicing the Catholic faith, saying Mass, etc, Hamilton was imprisoned in 1563, but Mary, Queen of Scots, had him released:

He baptized with solemn rites, in December, 1566, the infant prince James, afterwards James VI. The opposition of the Protestant party to the use of Catholic ceremonies, upon which Mary was determined, had delayed the baptism for six months. The queen having restored the archbishop's consistorial jurisdiction, which the parliament of 1560 had abolished, he took his seat in the assembly of 1567. In the troubles which beset the hapless Mary, Hamilton was the queen's constant supporter. After the ruin of her hopes at Langside, and her flight into England, which he had done his utmost to prevent, he was compelled to seek his own safety in Dumbarton Castle, but in 1571 that stronghold was cast down and Hamilton taken prisoner. He was carried to Stirling, and three days after his capture, was hanged there in his pontifical vestments on the common gibbet. No record remains of any formal trial; he was put to death on the strength of his previous forfeiture as a traitor on the fall of Mary. Though a man of wisdom and moderation, possessed of many sterling qualities, and a valiant champion of the Catholic cause, Hamilton was not free from grave irregularities in his private life, as records of legitimation of his natural children testify.

In spite of these "irregularities in his private life", and his lack of foresight into what was going to happen when Catholicism in Scotland was made illegal, the Catholic Encyclopedia entry concludes: 

Hamilton was a munificent benefactor to his cathedral city; he completed and endowed St. Mary's College, strengthened the castle, erected other buildings, and constructed as many as fourteen bridges in the neighbourhood. He was the last Catholic metropolitan of the pre-Reformation Church in Scotland.

He published two works defending the teachings of the Catholic Church, including Archbishop Hamilton's Catechism.

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