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Covenanter Stories – No. 10, Robert Hamilton



Hamilton was born around 1650, a descendant of the famous Hamilton family of Preston[1], among whose number were reformers and noblemen.  Before he was twenty-six years old, Hamilton became a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, and joined the ranks of the Presbyterians, attending the field preachings.

Sir Robert was one of those Covenanters who, with Hackston and Douglas drew up the Rutherglen Declaration, published in May 1679, on the day reserved for the celebration of the restoration to the throne of Charles II.  He fought as commander at Drumclog, and later at Bothwell Bridge, where his opposition to those of the more liberal school among the Covenanters is well recorded[2].  After Bothwell, Hamilton fled to Holland, and in his absence he was found guilty of being at Bothwell, his estate forfeited, and his life to be taken wherever captured.  However, on the continent, Hamilton remained active in the Presbyterian cause, being instrumental in procuring the ordination of Renwick and others.

After travelling extensively throughout the continent, Hamilton returned to Scotland after the Williamite Revolution.  He received his knighthood at that time, but never claimed the right to his brother’s estate at Preston, choosing not to acknowledge the reign of William and Mary, and thus give credence to any form of Prelatal church government.  He continued to protest against prelacy and Erastianism, and this led to imprisonment in 1692-3.  To the day that he died, Hamilton continued to protest vigorously against any form of established church, outside of the covenant obligations of the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant.

[1] This area is now known as Prestonpans, and not to be confused with Preston in Lancashire.

[2] The language of Howie, in Scots Worthies is interesting in relation to Hamilton’s actions at Bothwell.  He refers to the Welch party as ‘Erastians’ and the ‘corrupt party’, while Hamilton’s faction is described as the ‘honest faction’.  In describing events after the battle, Howie refers to how, in his opinion, the ‘Erastian’ party stigmatized Hamilton, accusing him of deliberately withholding ammunition from Hackston and his party defending the bridge.  This, he claims, was refuted without doubt by Wilson, in a book entitled, “Impartial Relation of Bothwell Bridge.”  Paraphrased from ‘Scots Worthies’ Pg 598-597


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