Antoine Hamilton

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Antoine Hamilton
Anthony Hamilton from NPG color lowres.jpg
Died21 April 1720
St Germain-en-Laye
Occupationauthor and soldier

Antoine (or Anthony) Hamilton (1646–1720) was a soldier and an Irish classical author of Scottish ancestry, who wrote in French. He is mainly known for the Mémoires du comte de Grammont.


Early Life

Anthony was born in 1646, in Ireland, probably in Roscrea, County Tipperary,[1] but some say he was born in Drogheda. He was the third of the six sons of Sir George Hamilton, 1st Baronet, of Donalong and Mary Butler, sister of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. His eldest brother James inherited the title. His elder brother George was to be killed in the Nine Years' War in French service. His younger brothers Richard and John Hamilton were to fight together with him for James in the Ireland. His father had been the fourth of the five sons of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Abercorn, Anthony's grand father, who was a Protestant. However, he, his father, and all his uncles were Catholics due to the influence of his grand mother, Marion Boyd, a recusant.

First French exile (1651–1660)

From the age of five until he was fourteen the boy was brought up in France, whereto his family had fled after the execution of Charles I. They arrived in spring 1651 [2] and stayed in France until the restoration.

Whitehall (1660–1667)

In 1660 Charles II was invited to return to London. He created Anthony's father Baronet Donalong in 1660 but refused to go further than that because the family was Catholic.[3] His sister Elizabeth, "la belle Hamilton", was courted by a French nobleman, Philibert, comte de Gramont, in exile in London. Having been called back to France, he wanted to leave without her. However, Anthony and George caught up with him in Dover and asked him whether he had not forgotten anything in London. He replied "Pardonnez-moi, messieurs, j'ai oublié d'épouser votre soeur." (I have forgotten to marry your sister). He turned around, went back to London, and dutifully married her in December 1663.[4]

Second French exile (1667–1585)

in 1667, his brother George refused to take the oath of supremacy and went in exile to France. he recuited a regiment in Ireland for French service. Anthony followed him in 1667 and took service in that regiment. He fought in the Franco-Dutch War (1672–1678).[5] It is recorded that Hamilton appeared in a performance of Philippe Quinault's ballet, the Triomphe de l'Amour, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1681.

Tree of relevant members of Anthony Hamilton's family

James H.,
1st Earl Abercorn

Marion Boyd
(the recusant)
James H.,
2nd Earl Abercorn

2nd Ld H. of

George H.,
1st Bt. Donalong

Service in Ireland (1685–1690)

In 1685 James II acceeded to the English throne. Being Catholic he wanted to promote the faith. That was difficult to do in England but much easier in Ireland. He appointed Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, a Catholic, commander of the Irish army and Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon, viceroy of Ireland. Tyrconnell started to systematically replace Protestant officers with Catholic ones. Anthony and Richard Hamilton were among the Catholic professional soldiers brought in. Others were Patrick Sarsfield, Justin McCarthy,[6] and George Ramsay.

Hamilton was appointed governor of Limerick to succeed Sir William King, and arrived on 1 August 1865. Shortly he demonstrated his Catholicism when he went publicly to mass. He was at this time lieutenant-colonel of Sir Thomas Newcomen's regiment, but was advanced, on the recommendation of Clarendon, to the command of a regiment of dragoons. He was sworn of the privy council in 1686.

In 1687 James appointed Tyrconnell also as Lord Lieutenant (viceroy) of Ireland. In 1688, during the built-up to the Glorious Revolution, James asked Tyrconnell to send Irish troops to England to reinforce his army. Among others Anthony Hamilton was sent to England with his battalion.[7] After James's flight Hamilton somehow made his way back to Ireland. Having been promoted major-general, he commanded the dragoons, under Justin McCarthy, Viscount Mountcashel, in actions around Enniskillen. In the battle of Newtownbutler on 31 July 1689, serving under McCarthy, Hamilton was wounded in the leg at the beginning of the action, and his raw levies were routed with great slaughter. Hamilton succeeded in making good his escape.[8] Hamilton was considered to have led his dragoons into an ambush by over-confidence; and to have made minimal efforts to extricate them. With Captain Lavallin from Cork he served as scapegoat for the defeat, being subjected to a court martial under General de Rosen. Given his influence Hamilton was acquitted, while the hapless Lavallin was shot.[9] However, the reputations of the Hamilton brothers had suffered terminal damage with the French.[10]

Like his brother Richard, Anthony Hamilton fought at the battle of the Boyne on 1 July 1690. He does not appear to have been present at the Battle of Aughrim, which followed and where his brother John was killed.[8]

Third French exile (1690–1720)

The rest of his life appears to have been spent chiefly at the court of St. Germain-en-Laye,[8] with visits to the châteaux of his friends. It is not clear when or how he obtained his title of count. He was a friend of the Duke of Berwick. He became an especial favourite with Ludovise, duchesse du Maine, and it was at her seat at Sceaux that he wrote the Mémoires that made him famous. He never married and died at St Germain-en-Laye on 21 April 1720.[3]


Antoine Hamilton is mainly known for a single book: the Mémoires du comte de Grammont. After this followed some shorter writings among which the four short stories: Le Bélier, Fleur d'Epine, Zénéyde, and Les quatre Facardins.


The Mémoires du comte de Gramont made Hamilton one of the classical writers of France. The tone of the work, however, is now thought equivocal. By highlighting the brilliance of the London Restoration court, the book threw into relief the lacklustre nature of the exiled Stuart court. It has even been said to share something with the polemic written against the court of James II at St Germain by John Macky.[11] The books starts with the sentence:

Frontispiece of the 1713 edition

Comme ceux qui ne lisent, que pour se divertir, me paroissent plus raisonnables que ceux qui n'ouvrent un Livre que pour y chercher des défauts, je déclare que, sans me mettre en peine de la sévere Erudition de ces derniers, je n'écris que pour l'Amusement des autres. [12]

(As those who read only to entertain themselves me seem more reasonable than those who open a book only to find a mistake, I declare that I only write for the amusement of others.)

The work was said to have been written at Gramont's dictation, but Hamilton's share is obvious. Written between 1704 and 1710, the work was first published anonymously in 1713 (apparently without Hamilton's knowledge) under the rubric of Cologne, but it was really printed in the Netherlands.[3] An English translation by Abel Boyer appeared in 1714;[8] over 30 further editions followed. The French one of Renouard is notable (1812), forming part of a collected edition of Hamilton's works; others are Gustave Brunet's (1859), and among the English, Edwards's (1793), with 78 engravings from portraits in the royal collections at Windsor and elsewhere. There are also A. F. Bertrand de Moleville's (2 vols, 1811), with 64 portraits by Edward Scriven and others, and Gordon Goodwin's (2 vols., 1903). Peter Quennell's translation (Routledge, 1930) includes extensive commentary by Cyril Hughes Hartmann. The original edition was reprinted by Benjamin Pifteau in 1876.

Other works

In imitation and satiric parody of the romantic tales that Antoine Galland's translation of Thousand and One Nights had brought into favour in France, Hamilton wrote, partly for the amusement of Henrietta Bulkley, sister of Anne, Duchess of Berwick, to whom he was much attached, four ironic and extravagant contes (fairy tales): Le Bélier, Fleur d'Epine, Zénéyde and Les quatre Facardins. The saying in Le Belier, "Belier, mon ami, tu me ferais plaisir si tu voulais commencer par le commencement," passed into a proverb. These tales were circulated privately during Hamilton's lifetime, and the first three appeared in Paris in 1730, ten years after the death of the author; a collection of his Œuvres diverses in 1731 contained the unfinished Zénéyde.[3] An 1849 omnibus entitled Fairy Tales and Romances contained English translations of all his fiction.

Hamilton also wrote some songs, and interchanged amusing verses with the Duke of Berwick. In the name of his niece, the countess of Stafford, Hamilton maintained a witty correspondence with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.[3]


  1. ^ Hamilton 1890, p. 2: "The place of his birth, according to the best family accounts, was Rosscrea, in the county of Tipperary, the usual residence of his father ..."
  2. ^ Clark 1921, p. 5: "In the spring of 1651 took place, at last, the event which had such a determining influence on the fate of the young Hamiltons. Sir George Hamilton left his country for France with his family ..."
  3. ^ a b c d e  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hamilton, Anthony" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 884.
  4. ^ Ward 1917, p. [1]: "Note 15: This well known story is told in a letter from Lord Melfort to Richard Hamilton ..."
  5. ^ Corp, Edward. "Hamilton, Anthony". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12048. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ Callow, p. 58.
  7. ^ Childs 2007, p. 3: "To strengthen his forces in the face of the Dutch threat, James ordered the better elements of the Irish army into England. One regiment of dragoons, a battallion of the Irish Foot Guards, and Anthony Hamilton's and Lord Forbes's battalions of line infantry ..."
  8. ^ a b c d "Hamilton, Anthony" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  9. ^ Clark 1921, p. 96: "Anthony was acquitted and Lavallin, who to the end protested that he had repeated the order as it had been given to him, was put to death."
  10. ^ Callow, p. 126.
  11. ^ Callow, p. 232 and p. 239.
  12. ^ Hamilton 1713, p. 3.
  • Callow, John (2004). King in Exile: James II: Warrior, King and Saint, 1680–1701. Stroud: Sutton publishing. ISBN 0750930829.


Further reading[edit]

  • Notices of Hamilton in Lescure's edition (1873) of the Contes
  • Sayou, Histoire de la littérature française a l'étranger (1853)
  • L. S. Auger in the Œuvres completes (1804).

External links[edit]