Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Orkney

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Elizabeth Hamilton
Countess of Orkney
Elizbeth Villiers.jpg
Elizabeth Villiers
United Kingdom
Died19 April 1733 (aged 75–76)
United Kingdom
Spouse(s)George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney
FatherColonel Sir Edward Villiers
MotherFrances Howard

Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Orkney (1657 – 19 April 1733) (born Elizabeth Villiers) was an English courtier from the Villiers family and the reputed mistress of William III & II, King of England and Scotland, from 1680 until 1695. She was a lady-in-waiting to his wife and co-monarch, Queen Mary II.


Elizabeth Villiers was born to Colonel Sir Edward Villiers of Richmond, Surrey, and Frances Howard, herself the youngest daughter of Theophilus Howard, 2nd Earl of Suffolk and Elizabeth Hume.

In 1660, Charles II's brother James (the future James II) married the commoner Anne Hyde, who was already pregnant at the time. Elizabeth's mother, Lady Villiers, was awarded the position of governess to James and Anne's children. Although Anne would have four daughters and four sons, only Mary (the future Mary II) born in 1662 and Anne, born in 1665, survived to adulthood.

Lady Villiers used her position to secure for her children both place and influence in the future Queen Mary II's household. Elizabeth's sisters Anne and Katherine were among the maids of honour who accompanied Lady Mary to the Hague, to marry the serve as Princess of Orange; meanwhile, Elizabeth's brother Edward, later created 1st Earl of Jersey, was Master of the Horse.

She was also the founder of Midleton College in 1696, a private boarding school in County Cork, Ireland.

Elizabeth is reputed to have become William's mistress some three years after his marriage to Mary. In 1685, Mary's father James II exploited rumors of William's infidelity in an attempt to cause a split between his daughter and the prince. After his ascension to the English throne, William settled a large share of the confiscated Irish estates of the late James II on Elizabeth. Parliament revoked this grant in 1699.

Mary II's death on 28 December 1694, meant that within a year or so, William had apparently ended his relationship with Elizabeth Villiers, motivated, it is said, by his wife's expressed wishes prior to her death.

In 1694, two men had fought a duel possibly over the affections of Elizabeth Villiers. John Law, then still a penniless young man, killed Edward "Beau" Wilson on 9 April 1694. Wilson had challenged Law, although Law may have provoked Wilson on the instigation of Villiers, due to a conflict she had with Wilson regarding money and attempted blackmail.[1] Law was tried and initially found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to a fine, upon the ground that the offence only amounted to manslaughter. Wilson's brother appealed and had Law imprisoned, but he managed to escape to Amsterdam.

On 25 November 1695 Elizabeth was married to her cousin, Lord George Hamilton, fifth son of the 3rd Duke of Hamilton. He was gratified early in the next year with the titles Earl of Orkney, Viscount of Kirkwall, and Baron Dechmont. Elizabeth, newly Countess of Orkney, served her husband's interests with great skill and the marriage proved a happy one.[2]

Lady Orkney retained a degree of social importance in the Hanoverian era, and was hostess to George I and George II at her estate at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire. She died in London on 19 April 1733.


Elizabeth was a first cousin of Barbara Villiers, a mistress of Charles II, as their fathers were brothers. Her paternal aunt was Elizabeth Villiers, Countess of Morton, the godmother and governess of Princess Henrietta. Her brother was Edward Villiers, 1st Earl of Jersey, whose great-grandson married Frances Twysden, yet another royal mistress.


By George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney, son of Anne Hamilton, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton, and William Douglas-Hamilton, Duke of Hamilton, Elizabeth Villiers had three daughters, the eldest of whom inherited her husband's estate and title:[3]


  1. ^ Murphy, A.E. (1997) John Law: Economic Theorist and Policy-maker, Oxford U.P. ISBN 0-19-828649-X, 9780198286493, p. 22ff.
  2. ^ Herman, Eleanor (2005). Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge. The Business of Life: William Morrow Paperbacks. p. 219. ISBN 0-06-058544-7.
  3. ^ Lady Henrietta Douglas, thepeerage.com


Further reading[edit]