The English Origins of Walter Fitzgilbert (Hamilton)

by Donald L. Glossinger

© Copyright 2010 Donald L. Glossinger. | Contact: [email protected]

In 1526, the Hamilton family of Scotland had gone almost as high as it could go. The head of the family, James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran, was the son of James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton, and his wife Princess Mary of Scotland. The Hamiltons were very close to the throne of Scotland and they needed an illustrious genealogy. It appears Hector Boece invented one for them. George Hamilton tells us that, “[Boece’s] account…was repeated by Buchanan in his History and by other historians, and was adopted by John Anderson, with some doubt, in his History of the House of Hamilton.”[1]

The basic story is as follows: “Roger and William, two younger sons of Robert de Mellent, 3d Earl of Leicester,…went to Scotland in the reign of William the Lion (1165-1214), to whom they were related by his mother, the Countess Ada. Roger, who preceded his brother, was made Chancellor of Scotland in 1178, Bishop of St. Andrews in 1189 and died in 1202. He was followed to Scotland by his younger brother William, who was surnamed “de Hambledon” from the manor where he was born in Buckinghamshire. William de Hambledon, who obtained lands in Scotland, married Mary, the daughter of Gilbert, Earl of Strathern, from whom he acquired a large estate.”[2]

The story continues with William losing his land and going back to England. This is where his son Gilbert is introduced. “…Sir Gilbert de Hambleton, who was obliged to leave England for the slauchter of one of the family of Spencer, and he came to Scotland, where he was kindly received. It is stated also that Sir Gilbert married Issobell, daughter to Sir Thomas Randolph of Strathdon, by whom he had issue Sir Walter…”[3]

The story of the early Hamilton’s origin from the upper nobility varies at times in detail, but the gist of it is always the same: descent from very important people and connections to very important people at the time of the story’s telling. The old tales stuck around. To this day some people still accept them, and some discuss the possibility that they are true. Other theories involve a relationship or at least vassalage to the Earls of Umphraville. So either they are descended from earls or they are of the knightly class and served as their vassals. Either way there is an expectation created that the Hamiltons’ beginnings are noble and therefore higher in status than the average person. The most obvious problem with the old stories is the lack of documentation. The second obvious problem is that there is disconnect between Walter Fitzgilbert and his alleged noble ancestors. If his father Gilbert was a grandson of an earl, why was he so obscure? No one can even seem to find him.

Given here are the results of recent research. They provide strong evidence indicating Walter Fitzgilbert had humble origins. The results show his grandfather was probably a William de Hamelton who was a villein of the Manor of Hamilton in Lancashire belonging to John Hackensall, the lord of the manor. (A villein was “a peasant occupier or cultivator entirely subject to a lord or attached to a manor.”[4]) Between 1246 and 1261,William's son Gilbert, was "given" to St. Mary's Church of Lancaster. Gilbert somehow wound up at Paisley Abbey in Scotland, and he is believed to be Walter Fitzgilbert's father. The evidence follows.

There was a Gilbert de Hamildun who was the right age, in the right place and had the right name to be the father of Walter Fitzgilbert. What's more he was a witness to a charter for the monks of Paisley and the Stewart family, and a generation later Walter witnessed a charter for the same monks at the same place. The circumstantial evidence is so strong that it seems obvious on its face that Gilbert de Hamildun and Walter Fitzgilbert de Hamildone must be father and son. The question then becomes why did genealogists in the past not see this or at least comment on reasons why not.

Gilbert de Hamildun is dismissed as the founder of the Hamilton family by John Riddell. He was angry with Cosmo Innes in 1860 and picked apart Innes' theory that Gilbert, the clerk, was the Hamilton ancestor. Riddell asserted that this Gilbert was a churchman under a vow of celibacy because he had the word clericus [clerk] attached to his name. He also used what he saw as Gilbert’s lowly status to show that he could not be the founder of the family. When George Hamilton wrote his book on the family in 1933, he chose to ignore the matter completely. George Hamilton and other genealogists simply start the Hamilton family history with Walter Fitzgilbert as the first documented member of the family.

It has long been assumed by most researchers that Walter Fitzgilbert was of the noble class. However, he was not a knight at the time he witnessed charters for the monks of Paisley in 1294, when he signed the Ragman Roll in 1296, when he was constable of Bothwell Castle in 1314, or even at the time he was granted the lands of Machan[5]. He did not become a knight until sometime between 1321[6] and 1323[7]. He was close to 50 years of age, maybe more than 50, when he was finally knighted. (Likely born at least by 1274 to have signed a charter in 1294.)

Walter was not a large landowner until Robert I of Scotland gave him the lands of Machan after he surrendered Bothwell Castle at the time of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314). William Fraser even suggests that Gilbert and Walter, though from a place called Hameldon, never actually owned the place. This is because in a charter involving Walter’s younger son John who is described as son of Walter (dicti) called Hamilton. The Hamiltons are presumably from one of the many places in England called Hamilton (or a similar name) as there were no places in Scotland by this name at that time.

(George Hamilton and William Fraser both quote this charter. I have not yet been able to find the actual charter in print and mention it here for reference in case others might like to look for it.)

Walter Fitzgilbert was a person of some substance. As Prof. Prestwich points out, he did have a horse worth as much as a horse many knights might have when he was constable of Bothwell Castle. Yet, he was paid a shilling a day which means he was paid at the rate of a squire. He was significant enough to sign the Ragman Roll, so he did own a piece of land but it was not large enough to be recorded by name neither does he take the name of a territorial designation in Scotland. It appears Gilbert and Walter FitzGilbert worked for or were associated with the Stewarts and/or Paisley Abbey since at least 1272. It seems quite possible that Gilbert and Walter made two or three good marriages between them. These things would have raised their status. It could be that these family ties helped in obtaining Walter's job at Bothwell Castle and/or he may have served as Sir Nicholas de Carew’s administrator for the castle and could have been promoted upon the death of Carew. By the time Walter is constable of Bothwell his family could have been well established in the area, connected to a very important family and institution for 40 or 50 years.

It appears that Gilbert de Hamildun, the clerk, was a person who began life in the Manor of Hambleton in Lancashire. In fact there were two Gilberts both connected with the same manor. The first one was a bit young to be the one we were looking for and didn’t have anything else that might suggest a connection. However, the second Gilbert had a very important feature that connected him quite easily to the Gilbert in Scotland. This Gilbert was given to the church of St. Mary of Lancaster. He was given in a document that dates from 1246 to 1261. He may have been as young as 7 years old at this time, so he was born possibly between 1239 and 1254. His being “given” to the church may be a legal fiction. Evidence was found that churches of the time recruited secular clergy from the villein class. At least one other case of a lord "giving" a young boy to the church of St. Mary's was found, and this lord did not seem to be punishing the youth, as he also freed another member of the boy's family. Prof. Prestwich points out that Gilbert must have been a villein because if he were free no one could give him to anyone else. It appears that Gilbert de Hamelton was destined to be trained as a clerk by the monks at St. Mary’s. By giving Gilbert to the St. Mary's, he would no longer be bound to his lord but would now answer to the church. To see this document: He is described as Gilbert son of William de Hamelton. This much of the old legend appears to be correct, Gilbert's father was most likely William. Following is the documentation.


The Hamilton DNA Project has a private discussion list for its members. In August of 2010, I initiated a discussion that took a new look at the facts known about Walter Fitzgilbert (d. between 1330[8] and 1346[9]) searched for new evidence, and attempted to discover the origins of his family. Discoveries that prompted that discussion led to discoveries as the records now available via the Internet have increased greatly in recent years.The end result of this research has led to the solution of Walter Fitzgilbert’s English origins.

I am indebted to Professor Michael Prestwich, History Professor Emeritus, Durham University, Consultant for this project, who graciously and patiently answered my many questions. Also I want to thank the discussion group in general for their interest, support, and participation. In particular the discussion has been helped greatly and moved along by David H. Hamilton, Malcolm Hamilton, and Steven Forrest. These gentlemen encouraged me to continue to dig, provided valuable insights, links to resources, and translations. Also, thanks to Gordon Hamilton whose editorial advice did much to improve the presentation of this information. Last, but not least, I want to thank Fergus Wilde of Chetham Library who provided beautiful photographs of the 1246-1261 charter concerning Gilbert son of William de Hamelton.

I am a professional librarian. I have been a genealogist for 40 years. I am also a Hamilton by birth and active in the Hamilton DNA Project. I am participant H-022 in that study, and I match known descendants of Walter Fitzgilbert by 66/67, 65/67 and 64/67 markers, so it is quite possible that I am one of his direct descendants, in the all male line.

I believe that The History of the House of Hamilton, by George Hamilton, 1180 pages, Edinburgh, 1933, is the most complete, reliable and authoritative source for Hamilton family history. The approach was to re-examine what had been said in this book and others and if possible to find any new information about Walter Fitzgilbert and his family. Was the information complete? Was anything missed? Were there new ways to interpret what existed? Wherever possible the original sources were examined.

What was WFG’s status when he witnessed the Paisley charters in 1294 & circa 1295?

In 1294 Walter FitzGilbert appears as a witness of a charter that was given to the monks of Paisley by James, Scotland’s High Steward. The first group of witnesses is labeled militibus. The second group was clericis.[10]The third group, the group Walter belongs to, was listed as laycis.Does this say anyting aboutWalter's status?

Professor Prestwich’s comments

“…Militibus means specifically knights....Clericis…this means clerics. And laycis means laymen. The order is possibly slightly unusual in that the clerics would often appear first in a list, but I don't think there's any rule about this. See page 104 of the register for another list [undated Maxwell charter] in which Walter FitzGilbert appears, in which clergy and laity are mixed up. The order does say something about status - Walter is important enough to be listed (the list concludes with 'multis aliis', i.e. many others, whose names are not given), but is not a knight.”[11]

Findings: In neither document is Walter FitzGilbert listed as a knight, although as Professor Prestwich points out, he is “…important enough to be listed.”

What was WFG’s status when he signed the Ragman Roll in 1296?

From page 3 of House of Hamilton we read, “Under the style of Wauter fiz Gilbert de Hameldone his name is attached to the Ragman Roll amongst landowners from Lanarakshire and Renfrewshire as having done homage to Edward I of England at Berwick 28 August 1296.”[12]

Findings: Important enough to sign but not a knight.

Did WFG own Ughtrotherestrother or other significant lands before 1314?

(Also known as Auchterstrother or Struthers)

George Hamilton also asserts on page 3 of The History of the House of Hamilton that, “From Edward he [Walter FitzGilbert] had a grant of the lands of Ughtrotherestrother.”[13] He didn’t. Col. Hamilton quotes page 313 of Palgrave, the English translation of which reads, “Thomas de Grey requested the title of Ughtrotherestrother and the surplus of the titles which the King had given to Walter son of Gilbert, which the King had permitted him in advance of that time which he had said."[14] George Hamilton was apparently not aware this application was the second.

The Fraser family historian had a keen interest in these lands, as they belonged to that family.

"Thomas de Grey asked for the lands of Alexander Fraser, the son of Andrew Fraser, and a second application by the same Thomas shows that these lands were Ugtrethrestrother.”[15]

In the first application, we see that Thomas de Grey is asking for the Fraser lands and lands of Walter de Bykerton, lord of Kincraig.[16] Grey is asking for two separate things. The first thing he is asking for is Fraser lands. This is in the first application. In the second application he names the land as Ugtrehrestrother.

From the Fraser family history is further evidence of continuous ownership of Struthers by the Fraser family, “…he [Sir Andrew Fraser] certainly was dead before the year 1306, when Thomas de Grey petitioned Edward I for lands of Alexander Fraser. ‘qui fut le filz de Andrew Fraser,’ and a second request by de Grey shows that these lands were those of Ugtretherestrother; and although the expression above quoted would appear more applicable to a deceased Alexander, yet its being the meaning here ascribed to it is proved by the facts that an Alexander, son of the late Sir Andrew Fraser, was living in 1312, and that the granddaughter and heiress of that Alexander possessed the estate of Ugtrethrestrother in 1392.”[17]

The second matter being dealt with in the Thomas de Grey applications is for the lands of a person called Walter. In the second application, genealogists in the past have been understandably confused by the fact that Grey is asking for the lands of a person called Walter son of Gilbert.[18] In the first application Grey is asking for the lands of Walter de Bykerton, lord of Kincraig.[19] It would appear this is the same individual in both applications and not Walter FitzGilbert.

This Walter son of Gilbert or Walter de Bykerton, was loyal to Edward I of England in 1306, then went over to Robert I of Scotland and received land from the king in 1309. Walter FitzGilbert (de Hameldone) was apparently still loyal to the English King at this time and did not switch sides until 1314.

Walter de Bikerton “…did homage to Edward I. on 15th March 1306, for lands in Scotland[20]. He was #10 on the list, and he is listed as being from Fife.

Walter de Bykerton was rewarded by Robert I of Scotland. “47 Downie: thanage 1309... Robert I gave Walter Bickers ton ’all our thanage of D[ownie] in barony, for 1 knight’s service (RRS, v, No. 6).[21]

Sir William Fraser, provides an interesting observation about the Hamiltons and their connection to a place called Hamilton.I have not been able to find the actual charter so far.George Hamilton also quotes the Stewart charter that is said to contain the style for Walter as named or called Hamilton.


Many places in several counties in England are known by the name of Hamilton, or names similar to it. Gilbert and Walter many have been connected with one of these places, and its perhaps from that circumstance that Walter Fitz-Gilbert is styled Walter, named Hamilton, “Walter dicti Hamildon”, but they do not appear as actual proprietors of any lands or estate of that name. Still their apparent connection with a place called Hamilton in England may have had a considerable influence with their immediate descendants in finally assuming their surname of Hamilton, in bestowing it upon their chief estate in Scotland, and also in retaining it when raised to the peerage of Lord Hamilton, and the Higher titles of Marquis and Duke of Hamilton.”[22]

Supposedly a more exact quote of “called of Hamilton”:

John the second son of Walter Fitz-Gilbert, is described throughout his life as “John, son of Walter,” or “John, Sir Walter, though in one case the addition, “called of Hamilton” is made to his father’s designation.”[23]

Findings: There is no record of Walter FitzGilbert having received a significant grant of land from anyone before he turned over Bothwell Castle to King Robert I of Scotland and was given the lands of Machan.[24] It appears he had some land, as his name appears on the Ragman Roll in 1296; however, he is designated “de Hamildone” apparently a place name in England and therefore did not have land ownership significant enough to warrant a territorial designation in Scotland. In addition, his association with the name Hamilton appears to be that he was from there but not that he actually owned any lands related to the place.

When was WFG constable of Bothwell Castle? What was his status?

Walter Fitz Gilbert was Constable of Bothwell Castle in November of 1310.


“Oct. 24 - Nov. 17

176. By the hands of Walter fitz Gilbert, his own and the wages of his 29 esquires and 30 foot in garrison of Bothwell castle from 1st to 27th November, 49[pounds]. (Cancelled as elsewhere).”[25]

Professor Prestwich’s comments:

Now, as to the constableship of Bothwell. I’m not sure how far the story can be worked out - not far, I fear. The castle was captured by Edward I in 1301, and granted to Aymer de Valence, who a little later became earl of Pembroke. He appointed Nicholas de Carew as constable (reference in J R S Pillips, Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke (Oxford, 1972), p. 293. By 1311 Walter FitzGilbert was constable, and he surrendered it to the king to prevent it from being captured by the Scots (presumably it was considered that the crown had better resources than the earl with which to defend it). The king then re-granted it to Walter, and the castle was returned to the earl. (Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward II, vol. 1, p. 408. This is available on the Internet, via the University of Iowa at:

Bain, Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, vol. 3, p. 47 also has this document, in rather briefer form). This means that Walter was the earl of Pembroke’s choice as constable, rather than the king’s. And I have absolutely no idea why he chose him. Phillips in his book on the earl has no mention of Walter; it seems unlikely that he was one of the earl’s long‑term retainers. Presumably the earl must have come across Walter when campaigning in Scotland; I can’t see any other possible connection.”[26]

Walter FitzGilbert is described as the "King's vallet" in June 1310.


“16 April

143. The K. commands the constable of Conway castle to send John Wychard, formerly archdeacon of Glasgow, in prison there, to Chester, thence to be conveyed to the Tower of London. Windsor.

[Close, 3 Edw. II m. 6]”[27]

“On 17 June following the constable of Conway castle is commanded to deliver John Wychard, a Scottish prisoner, from prison to Walter fitz Gilbert, the K.’s ‘vallet’ or his attorney bearing the writ, of special grace. Westminster. [m. 2]”[28]

Walter FitzGilbert is described as the "King's vallet" in June 1310. The most likely reason he is referred to in this way is that the description applies to him in his capacity as constable of Bothwell or as some other position there. This seems the most logical explanation considering he was constable in November of the same year. Possibly he served previous to this as Sir Nicholas de Carew’s assistant. Professor Prestwich has concluded that Walter FitzGilbert was not the King’s appointment to the castle, but rather that of Aymer de Valence. This would seem to indicate that not only was he from the Renfrewshire & Lanarkshire area but also he continued to reside there from the 1290s when we find him in documents.

Professor Prestwich’s comments

King’s valet is simply a translation of ‘vallettus regis’, and does not imply anything different. Walter FitzGilbert was certainly not a household knight of Edward II. It’s not easy to know what is meant by ‘vallettus ‑‑ valets, squires and sergeants all received the same wage of one shilling a day (a knight got two shillings), and sometimes valet and squire seem to mean the same thing. But in lists of members of the royal household valets look to be rather more menial than squires - those working in the kitchen or buttery are listed as valets. In the case of FitzGilbert, however, he is certainly equivalent to a squire. No. 420 in Bain’s Calendar shows that he had a horse valued at £20, which is quite considerable. Many knights would have horses of similar value. I don’t believe that being a king’s valet means that someone came from a family of particular note. There were men in the royal household, such as Robert Lewer, who were clearly not of distinguished origins. If, however, this FitzGilbert was the Walter FitzGilbert of Hamilton, as seems pretty certain, he was a man of some standing. It is surprising, however, that someone important enough to be listed as doing homage to Edward I in 1296 was not of knightly status. And it’s odd that the constable of Bothwell was not a knight - though there is a parallel with Lewer who, though emphatically not a knight, was appointed constable of Odiham.”[29]

When was Sir Nicholas Carew Constable of Bothwell Castle?

Sir Nicholas de Carrew was Constable of Bothwell Castle in August of 1305 when the following record was made.



[Aug] 20

“[From] Nicholas de Carrew, constable of Bothwell castle delivering money in name of Sir James…”[30]

Then in February of 1310 we find the following record of Nicholas de Carrew being in England.


Feb. 14


Nicolas de Carru, staying in England, has letter nominating Robert Beudyn his attorney in Ireland for two years.”[31]

Possibly Walter FitzGilbert was constable of BothwellCastle in June 1310 when he was described as “K[ing]’s vallet?The above document shows that Carew may have already been out of BothwellCastle by Feb. 1310; however, he may have technically still been constable, with someone else handling the day to day administration for him.Possibly this is how Walter FitzGilbert got the job constable.

Does WFG’s pay at Bothwell Castle tell us anything about his status?

“1311-1312 Botheville

Waltero filio Gilberti, assignato per dominum regum ad custodiendum castrum de Botheville, capienti per diem xij d, pro vadiis suis, Johannes de Moravia, Leonis filii Gilberti…”[32]

Findings: Walter FitzGilbert was constable of Bothwell Castle in November of 1310, was possibly constable as early as June of 1310 or could have held some other position there. Professor Prestwich points out that it is unusual that he is a constable of a castle and is not a knight, though not unprecedented. He is paid one shilling a day, the rate of a squire. However, he has a horse that is valued at £20[33], a similar value to that which a knight might have.

Was Gilbert de Hamildun, clerk, a churchman and barred from having a family?

George Hamilton reports, “In a charter of the church of Paisley by Thomas Cragyn to the monks of Paisley dated 12 Dec. 1272, a certain Gilbert de Hamildun, clericus, appears amongst the local clergy.”[34] He also says, “Gilbert Hamilton, the father of Walter Fitzgilbert, has not been identified.”[35] He goes on to tell of Walter FitzGilbert witnessing deeds for the monks of Paisley, one for 1294 and another undated, but probably of the same period. In addition, Hamilton points out, “Under the style of Wauter fiz Gilbert de Hamildone his name is attached to the Ragmans Roll amongst the landowners from Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire as having done homage to Edward I of England at Berwick 28 Aug. 1296.”[36] Col. Hamilton doesn’t comment on the connection or lack of connection between Gilbert de Hamildun, the clerk, and Walter FitzGilbert de Hamildone.

We discussed this in our group and wondered with so much circumstantial evidence why there was not some exploration of the possibility of Gilbert de Hamildun of the 1272 charter being the father of Walter fitzGilbert de Hameldone. They are in the same location, they both witness charters for the same monks of Paisley, a generation apart. Walter is called the son of Gilbert, and there is a Gilbert. In addition, the name Hamildun or Hameldone is rather scarce in those parts. It seems like a natural assumption that they would be father and son. At least an assumption that would need to be refuted rather than ignored. So let’s look at the reasons given for why this wouldn’t be the case.

John Riddell, a genealogist, whom George Hamilton quotes on the possible origins of the Hamiltons was very vocal about the possibility that Gilbert the clerk could have been the founder of the Hamilton family. “But pray what is this unseeemly little word that hangs like a catterpillar to the bud of so much promise, and infects his [Gilbert de Hamildun] name—CLERICUS—A CHURCHMAN! This is indeed sad, and besides he is but a very secondary clerical person, figuring in the wake with only another clericus or monk, after a vicar, two chaplains, and rector, while those still desperately rivet him to clerical celibacy.”[37]

When I first encountered John Riddell’s comments, I thought the ridicule contained in them was directed mostly at the evidence. Then I discovered that Sir William Fraser explained all this in Memorials of the Earls of Haddington. It then became clear that the ridicule was directed mostly at Mr. Innes.

In his preface to the Cartulary of Paisley, Mr. Cosmo Innes, remarked that that cartulary contained the chief and most authentic evidence regarding the early descent of the noble house of Hamilton. The evidence to which Mr. Innes referred was a charter in 1272 in which Gilbert de Hamildone, clerk, was one of the witnesses [see: footnote, pre-page xxi, Paisley Register]. Mr. Riddell believing that Mr. Innes had in the same preface sneered at him for reviving the question of legitimacy of the Stewart family, was roused to retaliation. He assailed Mr. Innes with ridicule as to the evidence adduced. He insisted that the word clerk meant a churchman who was vowed to celibacy, and that Gilbert de Hamildone could not be the real Hamilton ancestor.”[38]

John Riddell makes two points as to why Gilbert de Hamildone could not be the founderer of the Hamilton family, he was clergy and bound by celibacy and his status was too low. Just because clericus was attached to a person’s name doesn’t automatically mean that he was a member of the clergy as pointed out my M.T. Clanchy, “...a learned knight would be called a clericus, because that implies that a person described as clericus in a document was not necessarily a member of the clergy. Such a person is just as likely to have been an educated layman.”[39]

It turns out the use of the term clericus was even more general still. Clanchy enlarges the definition of the term, “A clericus in common parlance was therefore a person of some scholarly attainments, regardless whether he was a churchman.”[40]

So the possibility exists that he may have been literate and not a member of the clergy. However, given that Gilbert de Hamildun was listed with the clergy, it is quite possible that he was a clergyman. What type of clergy then would he be? Several jobs at this time had not fully established apart from the church. This is one further complication in knowing what a person did for a living based on the single word clericus, as this definition illustrates, “Secular Clergy

Those clergy that did not live in a regular (i.e. by a monastic or similar ‘rule’) life; they were parish and chantry priests, chaplains, clerks in administrative jobs (as in royal administration) and university teachers.”[41]

The secular clergy lived in the world, and did a variety of jobs some of which were purely religious in nature, others not. It is important to note there were different levels of clergy as well, major orders and minor orders. “Ordination, a seven-stage process culminated in the priesthood, was the most important distinction between clergy and laity. The first four stages, minor orders did not require a commitment to a clerical career and were undertaken by many who went no further. Major orders, sub-deacon, deacon and priest marked full membership of the clergy and from the mid-twelfth century required celibacy, another distinguishing feature.”[42]

Down through the centuries, clergy would marry and have families. There was a push for celibacy, but it took quite some time to effect the change as this quote illustrates, “…the custom of open marriage among clergy in holy [major] orders (priests, deacons and subdeacons) was gradually stamped out…Yet the custom lingered sporadically in Germany and England until the last few years of the 13th century.”[43]

Even when marriage was barred, exceptions were made on a regular basis, “There was also a short lived attempt to declare that even a clerk in lower orders should lose his clerical privileges on his marriage; but Boniface VIII in 1300 definitely permitted suchmarriages…in these cases, however, a bishop’s licence was required to enable the cleric to officiate in churchThis more or less regular sale of licences by bishops and archdeacons flourished from the days of Gregory VII [1073] to the 16th century…”[44]

The irregular situation of clergy supposed to be celibate but continuing to have "significant others" is made even more clear by the following: "Gascoigne, the most distinguished Oxford Chancellor of his day, writing about 1450 of John de la Bere, then Bishop of St. David's, says that he refused to separate the clergy of his diocese from their concubines, giving publicly as his reason, 'for then I your bishop should lose the 400 marks which I receive yearly for the priests' lemans'."[45]

Findings: In terms of status, Walter FitzGilbert did not appear to come from the knightly class, or higher, as he wasn’t knighted until 1321-1323 (about 50 years of age or more). He was not a significant landowner before supporting Robert I of Scotland in 1314. He is even called valletus which means “little vassal”. Therefore, it doesn’t appear that Walter FitzGilbert’s status was as high as previously thought.

Findings: The term clericus can mean different things. However, since Gilbert de Hamildun is listed with the clergy in the 1272 Paisley charter it is quite possible that he was a member of the clergy. Riddell believes because of the location of his name that he is a “very secondary clerical person” It could well be that he is secular clergy and of lower orders. While the celibacy rule was being enforced in the 13th century, there were clearly clergy who married anyway, clergy of lower orders who were able to marry or able to avail themselves of the concubine system when they were blocked from marrying. It is clear that Gilbert de Hamildun, the clerk, was not prevented from having children due to having "clericus" appended to his name.

How might a clerk get from England to Scotland in the 13th century?

The Stewarts clearly brought monks and likely other clerks to Scotland. According to the Paisley Abbey website, the Stewarts founded the abbey in 1163 and the original monks were from Much Wenlock in Shropshire. The statement, "Cradle of the Royal House of Stewart" can be found there. The Abbey became a wealthy and influential center for learning, because of Royal patronage. They also think that William Wallace was educated there.[46]

“The next eighteen charters[47] relate to the foundation and endowment by Walter, the second of the name Steward of Scotland, of a house of Cannons and Nuns of the order of Sempringham [Lincoln County, England] at Dalmulin on the river Air, and of the subsequent transference of their possessions to the Monastery of Paisley.”[48]

Findings: The Stewarts brought monks and likely other clerks from the County of Shropshire and the County of Lincoln in England to Scotland to Paisley and Dulmulin, respectively. Where else they recruited or transported people is not known, but it is likely they brought others from England to Scotland.

Lancashire Gilbert (1)

The first historic figure I have found in England called Gilbert de Hamelton gave a grant to the Church of Lancaster. Below is a portion of the English translation of that grant.

To all the faithful of Christ to whom the present writing shall come, Gilbert of Hambleton, greeting. Know ye that I have given, granted and altogether quit-claimed from me and my heirs to the lord Ralph de Turno, Prior of Lancaster, and to his successors, the whole right and claim in which I had or could have in a messuage with a certain toft in the vill of Stainall, which Gilbert, son of Peter of Hackensall formerly held…”[49]

We can date the grant because Ralph de Turno was Prior of Lancaster between 1266-1290.[50]

Manor of Hambleton in Lancashire

No. 174. --- At Lancaster, on the Quindene of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, 46 Henry III. [16 February 1262]. Between John de Shyreburne, plaintiff, and William, son of Robert de Shyreburne, deforciant of three oxgangs of land in Hamelton [Hambledon], respecting which a pleas of convenant had been summoned between them.

William acknowledged the land to be the right of John, as that which he has, by right of gift of William, to hold of him, rendering on penny at Easter for all service, and performing to the chief lords the service thereto belonging. With warranty. For this acknowledgment John gave him two pieces of silver.”[51]

According to the survey of 1212, “The men of Hamelton (i.e. the dreughs), hold three carucates of land [there], by 24s per annum,” (Testa II, f. 822). On the 18th June 1213, the King sent word to his Sheriff of Lancaster, that having given, “to our beloved serjeant, William Colmose (or Colmore) during our pleasure, for his maintenance in our service, the land which William de Pilkinton held in Hamelton, which renders to us 24s, yearly,” he should forthwith give him siesin (Close Roll, 15 John, m. 5). Soon after this Hambledon was in possession of Geoffrey Arbalaster of whom Simon de Hamilton and Robert de Sherburne held the manor in 1246, by the service 8s. an 6s. respectively (No. 104, Antea, p.96). Afterwards the Sherburnes acquired the whole of the manor from the said Geoffrey’s descendants, the Hackensalls. Robert de Sherburne had issue, William, who died s.p., and John, who succeeded. They are the parties to this concord.”[52]

Villein: a peasant occupier or cultivator entirely subject to a lord or attached to a manor.”[53]

The following record relates to a William de Hamelton who in 1246 claimed to be a freedman but wound up admitting he was John de Hacenshond's villein. It seems that he ties into an interesting record owned by Chetham’s Library.

30‑31 Henry III [1246]

Proof of Freedom‑‑‑William de Hamelton v. John son of Geoffrey de Hacuneshond who claims him as his villein.

Plaintiff withdraws; sureties, Roger son of Halewart and Hugh son of Alan de Wyrisdal, Surety for William’s fine, the said John son of Geoffrey. Let it be known William acknowledges he is a villein of the said John, and he is delivered to John in the same Court.”[54]

Gilbert (2) Hamilton, Lancashire

The document below belongs to Chetham’s Library in Manchester, England.This document dates between 1246 and 1261, documentation follows.I think this Gilbert is young, because the grant speaks of his progeny, it doesn't speak of any name in particular, the grantor is probably talking about future progeny.So Gilbert may have been a child or young adult at this time.It is very possible that he is the son of the William de Hamelton who claimed to be free.

Professor Prestwich’s comments

“…John [de Hacunshou] is giving Gilbert son of William de Hamilton, with all his progeny, to the church of St Mary at Lancaster,along with all their possessions and future possessions, to be held freely from him like other alms (sicut aliqua elemosina). So it's Gilbert who is being given.

It names the chap firstly as "Gilbertum filus Willelmi de Hamelton'", and on the second mention simply as Gilbert (or rather Gilbertum). There's no mention of his being a villein, but it would surely only be possible to grant a villein in this manner - you could not grant a freeman. I'm actually surprised that you could grant a villein like this, but that's what the charter does.”[55]

Grant from John de Hacunshou [Hackensall] to the Church of St. Mary at Lancaster giving them Gilbert son of William de Hamelton. We know this document dates from 1246 to 1261 because of the final concord record listed above.

Omnibus Christi fidelibus hoc scriptum visuris vel audituris Johannes de Hacunshou [Hackensall] salutem in domino. Noverit universitas vestra me dedisse et concessisse presenti carta confirmasse deo et ecclesia b[eat]e marie de Lancaster et monachis ibidem deo servientibus In perum et perpetuam elomosinam gilbertum filius williami de hamelton allis tota p[ro]genie ab ead[em] egrediente ______? rebius possessionbus et catallis ab ead[em] et e[?]i p[ro]genie possessis et possidendis Tenend[as] et habundas de me et heredibus meis dictis eccliesie et monachis adeo libe[eram] [libere?] et quiete sicut aliqua elomosina [diri?] [vel?] confirmari ______ _____ ego siquidem Joh[annes] he[re]des mei dictum Gilbertum et p[ro]gieny ____________ possessionibus ab ead[em] possessis et possidendis dictus ecclissie et monachis. In Ominibus sicut [sup?] dicutum [contra?] ones homines. In perpeteum Warantizanbimus. In c[uius] rei testimonium huic scripto Sigillum meum apposui. Hiis testibus. D[omin]o Williamo de Karlton, Williamo de Singilton, Richard de Thornton, Robert de Shyreburne, Simone de Hamelton. Multis allis[56] [with eight lines after, signifying eight other witnesses not listed?]

Professor Prestwich’s comments

As for this Gilbert being the same as the Gilbert in the Paisley charter, it's not of course impossible. Progeny could well mean future progeny, I'd have thought. Indeed, you could argue that it's likely that's what it means, as no children are actually named. You certainly can't rule out the possibility that Gilbert went on to become a clerk.”[57]

At first I was quite sad to think that this document represented a person giving another person to a church. It would seem the William de Hamelton mentioned is the same as the villein who tried to win his freedom in court from John de Hacenshond [Hackensall]. Was this then retribution? Or was a deal made? It seems hard to know at this distance. Then I found another similar charter. A John de Parles is giving his naif [servant boy] to the same church. What could this be about?

By deed John de Parles granted to the Prior and monks of St. Mary of Lancaster his naif [servant boy] John, son of John, with his issue and chattels, paying yearly to the abbey one pound of cumin.”[58]

It does not seem that John de Parles is hurting anyone by granting his naif to the “Prior and monks of St. Mary of Lancaster”. In fact he “enfranchises his naif William, son of John”. Is this a brother to the John, son of John above? Clearly something positive is going on by John de Parles giving John [the servant boy] to the Church.

In reign of Edward I. John de Parles enfranchises his naif William, son of John, son of Hamo, the newly made freeman paying yearly two pence to the Prior and monks of St. Mary Lancaster.”[59]

I found that perhaps there was a more reasonable explanation for these lords "giving" people to the church, as the following quote illustrates. “The secular clergy were largely recruited from the ranks of the villeins, and ordination involved emancipation.”[60] Quite probably Gilbert de Hamilton and the naif John son of John were both bound to be trained to be secular clergy, clerks, so a great stroke of luck for them.

Are the cinquefoils of Hamilton heraldry a clue to the family’s origin?

For a very long time the three cinquefoils (a rose of five petals) used in Hamilton heraldry have been thought of as key in identifying to which family they may connect to in earlier times such as the Beaumonts or the Umfravilles, either as direct descendants or as vassals.To have any use as evidence, the first presumption must be correct.The Hamiltons would have to have that connection to an important noble family.No hard evidence of this connection has ever been offered, so the cinquefoil loses its value as evidence unless this can be demonstrated.I searched Google with the keyword cinquefoil and got 272,000 hits.Next, I searched for cinquefoil and heraldry and got 31,800 hits.I then searched the terms cinquefoil and “coat of arms” and got 9,450 hits.

The cinquefoil is a type of rose. It has five petals. Roses have significance in Lancashire. It is the county flower. With the aid of a magnifying glass, I looked over some pictures of the interior of the Lancaster’s St. Mary’s Church.[61] I found flowers with four petals (quatrefoils), flowers with six petals (sexfoils) and flowers with five petals (cinquefoils). In addition there are heraldic roses. These are the roses we are accustomed to identifying as roses, fully developed and lush in appearance.

Also the seal of Lancaster Priory today seems to be from the following description that dates back 800 years, note the “cinquefoil rose” listed, “The British Museum has a cast of the seal of a Prior William. (fn. 102) It is pointed oval; the Virgin seated on a throne, with its sides terminating in animals' heads, with crown; in her left hand the Child. In the field on each side a wavy sprig of foliage. In base under an arch, the prior half-length in prayer; to the left behind him a cinquefoil rose. The legend is imperfect.

[s] FSUS . . . . LI [P]RIOR' LANCASTR. . . .

102 B.M. Cat. of Seals, i, 609. It is there assigned to the fourteenth century. But Harl. Chart. 52, i, 1, from which it appears to be taken, is early thirteenth century, and the prior of Lancaster who attests it is Prior William, who lived c. 1204.”[62]

Findings: In the past, researchers have started with the premise that the Hamilton family had noble origins. Then they looked for a place called Hamilton connected to a noble family known to use the cinquefoil in a coat of arms connected to the family. That approach had a limiting effect. What happens if the Hamilton family doesn’t have noble origins? In this case the cinquefoils used in Hamilton heraldry aren’t much of a clue, as the representation of the cinquefoil is so abundant in heraldry, architecture, and art, providing many possible connections. For the Hamilton family cinquefoil may be a sentimental reminder of the family’s connection to St. Mary’s Church of Lancaster or to the place where they originated, Lancashire County, England. It is a thought provoking possibility, but it’s not proof.

[1] George Hamilton, The History of the House of Hamilton, (Private printing, Edinburgh, 1933), 3.

[2] Hamilton, 1.

[3] Hamilton, 2.

[4] William Little, et al, The Oxford Universal Dictionary On Historical Principles, Third Edition, (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1955), 2357.

[5] Historical Manuscripts Commission, XI Report, Part VI, (London, 1887), 12.

[6]Hamilton, 3.

[7] Ibid., 12-13.

[8]Registrum Monasterii de Passelet cartas, privilegia, conventiones, aliaque munimenta complectens, a domo fundata A.D. MCLXIII usque ad A.D. MDXXIX : ad fidem codicis m.s. in Bibliotheca Facultatis juridicæ edinensis servati nune primum typis mandayum, (Maitland Club, London 1832), 205-6.

[9]Hamilton, 4. David Fitzwalter succeeded his father at least by 1346.

[10]Registrum de Passelet, 96 & 104.

[11] Michael C. Prestwich, e-mail to author, September 25, 2010.

[12] Joesph Bain, editor, Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, Preserved in Her Magesty’s Public Record Office. London (H.M. General Register House, Edinburgh, 1884), vol. II, 212, quoted in Hamilton, 3.

[13]Hamilton, 3.

[14] Sir Francis Palgrave, KH, Scotland: Documents and Records Illustrating the History ofScotland, and the Transactions Between the Crowns of Scotland and England, Volume I, (Great

Britain, Exchequer, Great Britain. Record Commission, 1837), 313.

[15] Alexander Fraser of Philorth, Seventeenth Lord Saltoun, The Frasers of Philorth, Volume 1, (Edinburgh, 1837), 52.

[16] Palgrave, vol. I, 303-4.

[17] Philorth, vol. I, 47-48.

[18] Palgrave, vol. I, 313.

[19] Palgrave, vol. I, 303-4.

[20] Robert Kerr, History of Scotland During Reign of Robert I. Sirnamed the Bruce, Volume 1, (Printed by Alex. Smellie, Edinburgh, 1811), 263.

[21] G.W.S. Barrow, Alexander Grant & Keith John Stringer, Medieval Scotland: Crown, and Community, (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1998), 77.

[22] Sir William Fraser, Memorials of the Earls of Haddington, (Printed by T. A. Constable, Edinburgh 1889), 3.

[23] Fraser, 6.

[24] William Hamilton of Wishaw, Descriptions of the Sherrifdoms of Lanark and Renfrew, (printed at Glasgow, 1831), 201.

[25] Bain, vol. III, 32.

[26] Michael C. Prestwich, e-mail to author, August 30, 2010.

[27] Bain, vol. III, 27.

[28] Bain, vol. III, 27.

[29] Michael C. Prestwich, e-mail to author, August 29, 2010.

[30] Bain, vol. II, 455.

[31] Bain, vol. I, 209.

[32] Bain, vol. III, 408.

[33] Bain, vol. III, 420.

[34]Registrum de Passelet, 232-3, quoted in Hamilton, 3.

[35]Hamilton, 3.

[36] Bain, 209, quoted in Hamilton, 3.

[37] John Riddell, Esquire, Advocate, Stewartiana, Containing the Case of Robert II. and Elizabeth Mure, and Question of legitimacy of Their Issue...,(Thomas G. Stevenson, Edinburgh, 1843), 74.

[38] Fraser, 3.

[39] M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record, England 1066‑1307, (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1999), 228.

[40] Clanchy, 228.

[41] Cristopher Haigh, The Cambridge historical encyclopedia of Great Britain and Ireland, University of Cambridge Press, New York, 1990), 133.

[42] S.H. Rigby, A Companion to Britain in the Later Middle Ages, (Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2003), 368.

[43]Henry Charles Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy (3rd ed. 1907, as found in,The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, vol. V, (The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company, New York, 1910), 603.

[44]Lea, n603.

[45]Gascoigne, Lib. Ver. ed. Rogers, p. 36 as found in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, vol. V, (The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company, New York, 1910), 603.

[46] Paisley Abbey, The Official Site of,, (Nov. 5, 2010).

[47] Registrum de Passelet, 21-27.

[48] Registrum de Passelet, nxii.

[49] Chetham Society, Materials for the History of the Church of Lancaster, Volume 31, (Chetham Society). 361-2.

[50] 'Townships: Heaton with Oxcliffe', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 8 (1914), pp. 69-72. URL: Date accessed: 05 November 2010.

[51] William Farrer, editor, Final Concords of the County of Lancaster: 7 Richard I to 35 EdwardII, (Great Britain. Public Record Office, Printed for the Record Society, 1899), 136-7.

[52] Farrer, n137.

[53] Little, 2357.

[54] Colonel John Parker, A Calendar of the Lancashire Assize Rolls Preserved in the Public, London, Volume 47, (England, Curia Regis, Great Britain Public Records Office), 19.

[55] Michael C. Prestwich, e-mail to author, October 7, 2010.

[56] “Grant from John de Hamilton [Hacunshou] to Priory Church of Lancaaster, of Gilbert, son of William de Hamilton, and all his children and property E3.11/1/5 [13th century]”, Chetham’s Library, Manchester, England.

[57] Michael C. Prestwich, e-mail to author, October 8, 2010.

[58] Hist. MSS, 4th report, page 246, as found in Remains, Historical and Literary, Connected with the Palatine Counties of Lancaster and Chester, Vol. 58 New Series (Chetham Society, Manchester, England, 1906), 558-9.

[59] Hist. MSS, 246.

[60] Henry de Beltgens & James Frederick Rees, The Industrial History of England, (Metheun, 1926), 60.

[61] Marion E. McClintock, BA, Lancaster Priory: The Church of the Blessed Mary of Lancaster, (Pitkin Pictorials LTD., London, 1980) 24 pages.

[62]'Alien house: The priory of Lancaster', A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 2 (1908), pp. 167-173. URL: Date accessed: 09 November, 2010.