| became temporary proprietor of the estate—yea,
temporary proprietor, because a private arrangement was made
with him before taking possession, " that, should a covenanted
king surmount the throne, the estate would return to the Hamiltons.
" It must have been with his aunts, these sisters of
Sir William and Sir Robert, that Dr Oswald made the private
" With the death of Sir Robert, who was unmarried, "
says Veitch in his "Life of Sir William Hamilton, "
"closed the main line of the House of Preston, and the
family fell to be represented by Robert Hamilton of Airdrie,
who was fifth in the main line from John, second son of Sir
Robert Hamilton the seventh of Preston, who died before the
year 1522. "
There is evidently a slight mistake here. We find that David,
who was married about 1540 to Janet, a daughter of Sir William
Bailie of Lamington, was the fifth Hamilton of Preston. His
son George, born in 1542, was the sixth of the race, and John
his brother, who obtained charters from James VI. for the
two villages of Preston and Prestonpans, was the seventh Hamilton
in succession at Preston. The only Robert of Preston we know
of was the Covenanter. He was the twelfth in succession, and
died about two hundred years after the Robert mentioned by
We lose the family history of the second, third, and fourth
Hamiltons of Preston entirely through the conflagration of
1544; but as David, who was married about 1540, must have
been born about 1520 at latest, the Sir Robert referred to
by Veitch, who died previous to 1522, would seem rather to
have been the fourth in succession, and father to Sir David.
If this were so, it would reduce the number of Hamiltons of
Preston awanting to only two.
" Dr William Hamilton, " continues Veitch, "
Professor of Botany and Anatomy in the University of Glasgow,
was a Cadet of the Hamiltons of Airdrie, near Glasgow, who
again were a branch of the Hamiltons of Preston and Fingalton,
and the tradition was that, since the extinction of the direct
male line of that most ancient house, they—that is the Airdrie
branch—were entitled, as its representatives, to bear its
titles and honours.
" Hitherto, however, no attempt had been made to prove
the claim, which was of the less importance as it did not
include the lands of Preston, these having been disposed of
by their last owners.
"The traditional connection of the Hamiltons of Airdrie
with the Hamiltons of Preston was destined to influence the
imagination of young William Hamilton, son of Dr William,
who latterly became Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in
the University of Edinburgh, and it was left to him, as we
shall see, to trace the precise descent and assume the hereditary
honours of the historical house of Preston.
"A Dr Robert Hamilton of Airdrie, cousin to William,
was at this period the recognised head of the family, and
the traditional claim to the Preston baronetcy rested with
him, but he had allowed his own estate to get out of his hands.
This cousin died in 1799.
" During 1813, young Hamilton, " continues Veitch,
" is continually in correspondence from Edinburgh with
his mother. In one letter he says, ' I have been working a
good deal in the register office and have accumulated a good
mass of curious information about the house of Preston. I
have found above a score of deeds establishing of Sir William,
" It was as representing his late cousin Robert Hamilton,
laird of Airdrie, that Sir William claimed and obtained the
family honour of Preston. "
There is a curious story abroad in connection with this claim.
It may be right or wrong, we give it as we got it. When Sir
William's advocate was in the act of bringing evidence before
the " Lords" in order to prove his claim, among
many other Christian names of Hamiltons he came on one Methuselah—when
" Stop, stop ! " ejaculated the presiding judge,
" if you and the court are satisfied that even Methuselah
was a Hamilton, I am more than satisfied that this William
Hamilton deserves the baronetcy of Preston, " and thus
it was decided amid a hearty outburst of laughter.
In order to give the old family name once more a standing
at Preston, in 1819 Sir William acquired by purchase the old
Tower and garden surrounding it. Sir William enjoyed the honours
of the ancient barony of Preston for a good many years. He
died on 6th May 1856.
To the long roll of great and patriotic men which this ancient
family has given to the history of Scotland, must now be added
that of the present representative of the family, General
Sir William Stirling Hamilton, Bart., R. A.
He was born in Edinburgh, and educated at the Edinburgh Academy.
Prior to the Mutiny he joined the Hon. East India Company
Service. Before he had been a year in the army he was placed
in command of two field guns on field service with the King
of Oude's troops. He volunteered for every expedition against
the hill tribes round