Hamilton is often quoted as the first martyr of the
Scottish Reformation which came to fruition with the
overthrow of Popery and the Church of Rome in 1560.
was born of noble parentage about 1503, his father being
Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavel and Stanehouse and
brother germane of the Earl of Arran. Patrick`s brother,
Sir James Hamilton, was Sheriff of Linlithgow. His mother
was Catherine Stewart, the sister of John, Duke of Albany
( the second son of King James II). Patrick was therefore
also related to King James V of Scotland. Coming from such
a wealthy and influential background he was provided with
the living of Abbott of Ferne in Ross-shire. As a young
man of 23 he went to the universities of Wittenburg and
Marburg and became familiar with the likes of Martin
Luther, Philip Melancton and Francis Lambert - the
leading lights of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. He
soon became involved in debates and was a leading speaker
against the Catholic doctrine of the day. His dissertation
"Patricks Places" was
a swinging attack on the rites and beliefs of Rome and it
would later get him into deep trouble.
with the Protestant evangelism he returned to Scotland and
began imparting his knowledge and learning to the
people - thereby exposing the corruption and
theological errors that had crept into religion in
Scotland. His reasoning and the doctrine he espoused soon
brought him to the notice of James Beaton, Archbishop of
St Andrews who cynically invited him to visit St Andrews
and debate his beliefs. The invitation was a trap in which
the leading professors of the the Church sought firstly to
reclaim him to the Catholic faith; and if they failed , to
expose him as a heretic. Friar Alexander Campbell,
prior of the Black Friars, was appointed to interview
Hamilton. In the days that followed Hamilton`s views were
seemingly accepted and the clerics made apparent
concessions, acknowledging that there were things in
need of reforming. It is doubtful that they were sincere
in this and merely egged on Hamilton to expose himself to
a charge of heresy.
was seized in the night and imprisoned in St Andrew`s
castle. At the same time the young King James V was
encouraged to make a pilgrimage to St Duthach in
Ross-shire, this to ensure that he was out of the way and
unavailable to come to Hamilton`s aid. The following
day Hamilton was arraigned before the Archbishop ( who was
also Chancellor of Scotland) and charged with
maintaining and propagating heresy. Hamilton refused
to abjure the charges against him and was condemned as an
`obstinate heretic` and ordered to be handed over to
the authorities for execution. The warrant was signed by
Beaton, the Archbishop of Glasgow, the bishops
of Dunkeld, Brechin and Dunblane, and fourteen
others. For good measure the clerics also got the warrant
signed by everybody of any note then at the university,
including the 13 year old Earl of Cassillis.
The charges laid against
Patrick Hamilton, quoted in Foxes Martyrs, were for
That man hath no free-will.
there is no purgatory
holy patriachs were in heaven before Christ's passion,
That the pope hath no
power to loose and bind; and that no pope had that power
after St Peter.
That the pope is Antichrist
and that every priest hath the power that the pope hath.
Master Patrick Hamelton was a bishop.
is not necessary to obtain any bulls from any bishop.
vow of the pope`s religion is a vow of wickedness.
Pope`s law be of no strength.
Christians worthy to be called Christians, do know that
they be in a state of grace
none be saved. but they are before predestinated
Whosoever is in deadly sin, is unfaithful
That God is the cause of sin,in this sense, that is,
he withdraweth his grace from men, whereby they sin.
is devilish doctrine, to enjoin any sinner actual
penance for sin.
That the said Master Patrick himself doubteth
whether all children, departing incontinent after
their baptism, are saved or condemned. whether all
auricular confession is not necessary to salvation.
was immediately condemned by the secular power (who were
legally able to order the death penalty) and hurried
to the stake after dinner. On 28 February 1527/8, the fire
was built in front of the Old College and Hamilton
brought out where he took off his outer clothing,
giving them to a servant with the words
stuff will not help me in the fire , yet will do thee some
good. I have no more to leave thee but the ensample of my
death - which I pray thee, keep in mind; for albeit the
same be bitter and painful in man`s judgment, yet is is
the entrance to everlasting life, which none can inherit,
who deny Christ before this wicked generation."
bound to the stake amidst of some coals, timber and other
combustibles, and a trail of gunpowder laid to light the
fire. But it failed to ignite and only scorched his
hands and face. More powder had to be brought from the
castle during which time he was assailed by Friar Campbell
demanding that he recant. The behaviour of the Friar
served only to emphasis the dignity of Hamilton as he
submitted to the fire. Subsequently Campbell became
distracted and died in Glasgow , some sources say
within a few days, others within the year . In their joy
at burning such a noble heretic, the Popish clergy and
professors of the University of Louvaine wrote a
letter dated 21 April 1528, which congratulated their
companions in Scotland. But it probably did not help their
cause as it made the people question the circumstances of
Hamilton`s death and to take an interest in the theology
he had espoused.
Prophetically a servant named Johne Lindsay, who was
familiar with Archbishop Beaton, remarked
My Lord, if yee burne anie moe , except ye follow my
counsell, ye will utterlie destroy yourselves. If
yee will burne them, lett them be burnt in hollow sellers,
for the smooke of Mr Patrik Hammiltoun hath infected als
manie as it blew upon."
Hamilton family suffered further persecution in later
years - Sir James Hamilton was accused of heresy in 1535,
for holding to his brother`s beliefs. He was forced to
flee the country with his goods and lands forfeited. His
sister Katharine was made to appear before the clerics and
the King accused of heresy. She gave a spirited defence
and would have been condemned save that the King laughed
at her statements ( perhaps on purpose as she was his
aunt), and was able to get her to recant and save her