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Significant Scots
Patrick Hamilton

HAMILTON, PATRICK, one of the first martyrs to the doctrines of the reformed religion, was born about the year 1503. He was nephew to the earl of Arran by his father, and to the duke of Albany by his mother; and was besides related to king James V. of Scotland. And by this illustrious connexion there stands forth another proof of the erroneousness of the commonly received opinion, that the first reformers were generally men of inferior birth. He was early educated for the church, with high views of preferment from his powerful connexions, and in order that he might prosecute his studies undisturbed by any cares for his present subsistence, had the abbacy of Ferme bestowed upon him. While yet but a very young man, he travelled into Germany, with the view of completing those studies which he had begun at home, and to which he had applied himself with great assiduity. Attracted by the fame of the university of Wirtemberg, he repaired thither, and after remaining some time, removed to that of Marpurg, where he was the first who introduced public disputations on theological questions. Here he formed an intimacy with the celebrated reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon, who finding in Hamilton an apt scholar, and one already celebrated for superior talent, soon and successfully instructed him in the new views of religion which they themselves entertained. His rapid progress in these studies delighted his instructors, and not only they themselves but all who were of their way of thinking, soon perceived that in their young pupil they had found one who would make a distinguished figure in propagating the new faith; and accordingly he became an object of great and peculiar interest to all the disciples of Luther and Melancthon, who waited with much anxiety to see what part the youthful reformer would take in the hazardous and mighty enterprise of at once overthrowing the church of Rome and establishing that of the true religion; a task which not only required talents of the highest order to combat the learned men who were of the opposite faith, but also the most determined courage to face the dangers which were certain to accompany their hostility. In the meantime, Hamilton had come to the resolution of beginning his perilous career in his native country, and with this view returned to Scotland, being yet little more than twenty-three years of age. The gallant young soldier of the true church had no sooner arrived, than, although he knew it was at the hazard of his life, for Huss and Jerome in Germany, and Resby and Craw in Scotland, had already perished by the flames for holding tenets opposed to those of Romeóhe began publicly to expose the corruption of the Romish church, and to point out the errors which had crept into its religion as professed in Scotland. Hamiltonís gentle demeanour and powerful eloquence soon procured him many followers, and these were every day increasing in number. The Romish ecclesiastics became alarmed at this progress of heresy, and determined to put an immediate stop to it. Not choosing, however, at first to proceed openly against him, Beaton, then archbishop of St Andrews, under pretence of desiring a friendly conference with him on religious matters, invited him to that city, then the head-quarters of the Romish church in Scotland. Deceived by the terms of the invitation, Hamilton repaired to St Andrews. All that Beaton desired was now attained; the young reformer was within his grasp. One Campbell, a prior of the black friars, was employed to confer with him, and to ascertain what his doctrines really were. This duty Campbell performed by means of the most profound treachery. He affected to be persuaded by Hamiltonís reasoning, acknowledged that his objections against the Romish religion were well founded, and, in short, seemed a convert to the doctrines of his unsuspecting victim; and thus obtained from him acknowledgements of opinions which brought him immediately under the power of the church. Campbell having from time to time reported the conversations which took place, Hamilton was at length apprehended in the middle of the night, and thrown into prison. On the day after, he was brought before the archbishop and his convention, charged with entertaining sundry heretical opinions, Campbell being his accuser, and as a matter of course being found guilty, was sentenced to be deprived of all dignities, honours, orders, offices, and benefices in the church; and furthermore, to be delivered over to the secular arm for corporeal punishment, a result which soon followed. On the afternoon of the same day he was hurried to the stake, lest the king should interfere in his behalf. A quantity of timber, coals, and other combustibles having been collected into a pile in the area before the gate of St. Salvatorís college, the young martyr was bound to a stake in the middle of it. A train of powder had been laid to kindle the fire, but the effect to its explosion was only to add to the victimís sufferings, for it failed to ignite the pile, but scorched his face and hands severely. In this dreadful situation he remained, praying fervently the while, and maintaining his faith with unshaken fortitude, until more powder was brought from the castle. The fire was now kindled, and the intrepid sufferer perished, recommending his soul to his God, and calling upon him to dispel the darkness which overshadowed the land.

The infamous and most active agent in his destruction, Campbell was soon after Hamiltonís death, seized with a remorse of conscience for the part he had acted in bringing about that tragedy, which drove him to distraction, and he died a year after, under the most dreadful apprehensions of eternal wrath.

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