George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney

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The Earl of Orkney
The 1st Earl of Orkney
Born 9 February 1666 (1666-02-09)
Hamilton Palace, South Lanarkshire
Died 29 January 1737 (1737-01-30) (aged 70)
London, England
Buried at Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire
Allegiance  Kingdom of Scotland
 Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch Kingdom of Scotland Royal Scots Army
 British Army
Rank Field Marshal
Awards Knight of the Order of the Thistle

Field Marshal George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney KT (9 February 1666 – 29 January 1737), styled Lord George Hamilton from 1666 to 1696, was a British soldier and Scottish nobleman and the first British Army officer to be promoted to the rank of Field Marshal. The son of the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, he fought for William of Orange in Ireland and the Low Countries. He was raised to the peerage in 1696, and continued his active service in the War of the Spanish Succession. After these campaigns he retired from active service, taking on governorships and sitting as a representative peer in the House of Lords.

Early life[edit]

Born the son of William Douglas, 1st Earl of Selkirk and Anne Hamilton, Hamilton was commissioned into the His Majesty's Royal Regiment of Foot, a regiment for which his uncle, Lord Dumbarton, held the colonelcy, on 9 May 1684.[1]

Military career[edit]

Ireland and the Low Countries[edit]

Hamilton became a lieutenant colonel in Lloyd's Regiment of Enniskilling Foot in June 1689 and, having been promoted to brevet colonel, commanded the regiment at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690, the Siege of Athlone in June 1691, the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691 and the Siege of Limerick in October 1691 during the Williamite War in Ireland.[2] He then transferred to the command of the Royal Fusiliers and fought with that regiment at the Battle of Steenkerque in August 1692 during the Nine Years' War.[2] After transferring back to the 1st Foot, he participated in further battles in Ireland before returning to the continent to fight at the Battle of Landen in July 1693 and at the Siege of Namur, where he was wounded, in July 1695 during the latter stages of the Nine Years War.[2]

In January 1696 Hamilton was created Earl of Orkney, Viscount Kirkwall and Baron Dechmont in the Scottish peerage.[2] Shortly thereafter he acquired the estates of Taplow Court and Cliveden.[2] He became Governor of Virginia in in 1698 but appears never to have visited the colony.[3]

War of the Spanish Succession[edit]

Promoted to major general on 9 March 1702, Hamilton fought under John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough at the Siege of Stevensweert in October 1702 during the War of the Spanish Succession.[3] Promoted to lieutenant general on 1 January 1704, he led the final assault at the Battle of Blenheim receiving the surrender of its French defenders in August 1704.[3] After marching his column from the Moselle to relieve the besieged city of Liège in June 1705, he led the pursuit of the defeated French troops at the Battle of Ramillies in May 1706, took part in the Siege of Menin in July 1706 and then played a major role at the Battle of Oudenarde in July 1708.[3] He also saw action at the passage of the Scheldt in November 1808, fought at the Siege of Tournai in June 1709 and led the charge toward the French entrenchments at the Battle of Malplaquet in September 1709.[3] Promoted to general of foot in 1710, Hamilton remained on the continent besieging Douai and then Bouchain until 1713.[3]

Later life[edit]

In later life Hamilton became a Lord of the Bedchamber to George I, was installed as Governor of Edinburgh Castle and was also appointed Lord Lieutenant of Lanarkshire.[4] Promoted to field marshal (the first ever promotion to this rank) on 31 January 1735,[5] he commissioned the building of a temple at his Buckinghamshire home, Cliveden, by the architect Giacomo Leoni later that year.[6]

Hamilton died at his home at Albemarle Street in London on 29 January 1737 and was buried at Taplow Court.[3] In 1733 Michael Rysbrack, a sculptor from Antwerp, carved a marble bust of Hamilton in the form of a Roman centurion. As a boy, Rysbrack would have witnessed Hamilton's unopposed entry into Antwerp shortly after his victory at Ramillies. The bust is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.[7]

Hamilton as a centurion, by Rysbrack


In 1695 Hamilton married Elizabeth Villiers; they had three daughters:[8]


  1. ^ "George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Heathcote, p. 165
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Heathcote, p. 166
  4. ^ Balfour-Paul, vol 6, p. 579
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 7476. p. 1. 27 January 1735. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Estate and Gardens: Cliveden National Trust Estate". National Trust. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Wilson, p. 43-61
  8. ^ Mosley, vol. 2, p. 2,096


  • Balfour-Paul, Sir James (1907). The Scots Peerage IX Vols. Edinburgh. 
  • Heathcote, Tony (1999). The British Field Marshals 1736-1997. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-696-5. 
  • Mosley, Charles (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 Volumes. Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd. ISBN 978-0971196629. 
  • Wilson, D (2011). The British Augustan oligarchy in portraiture: Michael Rysbrack and his bust of the Earl of Orkney. The British Art Journal, Volume XI, No. 2. 

Further reading[edit]

Peerage of Scotland
New creation Earl of Orkney
Succeeded by
Anne O'Brien
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Robert Douglas
Colonel of His Majesty's Royal Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
James St Clair