Patrick Hamilton.

Patrick 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.

Hamilton 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.

Fired up 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.

Hamilton 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 holding

  •     That man hath no free-will.

  •     That there is no purgatory

  •     That the 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.

  •     That Master Patrick Hamelton was a bishop.

  •     That it is not necessary to obtain any bulls from any bishop.

  •     That the vow of the pope`s religion is a vow of wickedness.

  •     That the Pope`s law be of no strength.

  •     That all Christians worthy to be called Christians, do know that they be in a state of grace

  •     That  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.

  •     That it 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 children, departing

  •     That auricular confession is not necessary to salvation.

Hamilton 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

 " This 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."

He was 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."

The 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 life.

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