Monday, 17 December 2012


In this week’s blog we look at the life of a brave Scottish soldier from the civil war era buried in Worcester Cathedral. William Hamilton was born on 14th December 1616. In 1651 he was a senior commander in the Royalist army which fought at the Battle of Worcester, and died of his wounds after the battle.
An engraving from the cathedral collection

If you visit Worcester today you will find a memorial that was erected to the Duke in September 1913, in addition to his existing gravestone near the High Altar. During his short life, William was initially part of the Royalist cause but in 1642 he was sent to Scotland to assist his brother in attempting to prevent the Scots from favouring the Parliamentarians in the war. They failed and on their return to Oxford, they were thrown into prison. William escaped and decided to return to Scotland and change sides. He became one of the Scottish commissioners appointed to treat with the king in prison. The commissioners failed to persuade the king to establish Presbyterianism is England, but William was horrified to see the king then handed over to the English. He called this: “the Judas-like sale of the King for pieces of silver.” He converted back to being a Royalist. After the execution of Charles I, he went into exile. His brother James was tried and sentenced to death on the scaffold, some two months after the king.  James’ title passed to William.

The memorial brass placed in the cathedral in 1913

As Duke of Hamilton, William returned to England with Charles II and fought in the battle of Worcester in 1651. He showed great courage, but was wounded as he led his regiment against Cromwell’s infantry and died at the Commandery a few days later.
The gravestone of the Duke of Hamilton
In the cathedral library there is also what is thought to be the tip of a standard that was found in the Victorian era near the duke’s coffin. The archive also holds a Victorian sketch of the lead coffin in which the Duke’s body was placed.
The tip of a standard found near the body

All images are by Mr. Chris Guy and are reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester cathedral (U.K.)

Mary Somers

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