Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Holiday in Scotland - Day 3 - Brodick Castle

Whenever I visit National Trust properties I want to know about the family in the civil war. Scotland is more complicated but here are the lairds of Brodick Castle, the dukes of Hamilton.

'Brodick Castle did not escape the religious paroxysms that affected seventeenth century life (see the Wars of the Three Kingdoms). In 1639, Scotland was divided between the Presbyterianism of the Lords of the Congregation, and the Episcopalianism favoured by King Charles I. James Hamilton, 3rd marquess of Hamilton, the King's advisor on all things Scottish, was sent north to enforce the King's will, he had previously dissolved the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland when they had abolished the Episcopacy. Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll, was the de facto ruler of Scotland and leader of the presbyterian faction. Argyll seized Hamilton's castle of Brodick. Hamilton was made a Duke in 1643 and recovered his castle the following year at the outbreak of the Scottish Civil War. It was lost again to the Campbells in 1646, as the Royalists fortunes foundered. The Duke was captured after the disastrous Battle of Preston, and faced the block in March 1649. He was succeeded by his brother William, Earl of Lanark, but the second Duke died of wounds received at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. The Duchy of Hamilton and Earldom of Arran passed to the first Duke's only surviving child, Anne. She had been unwittingly sent to Brodick for safety. In 1650, Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads had taken control of the castle and had extended it by building an Artillery battery to defend the Firth at this strategic position.'

Centuries later, 'The Twelfth Duke, William had no male heirs, so although his titles passed to his distant cousin Alfred Douglas-Hamilton upon his death, he entailed the castle upon his only daughter the Lady Mary Louise Douglas-Hamilton. She married James Graham, 6th Duke of Montrose in 1906, and so after more than five hundred years Brodick castle passed out of the Hamilton family.'

I was relieved to find that these Grahams are not the same family as this infamous one. 'John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee (c. 21 July 1648 – 27 July 1689), known as the 7th Laird of Claverhouse until raised to the viscountcy in 1688, was a Scottish soldier and nobleman, a Tory and an Episcopalian. Claverhouse was responsible for policing south-west Scotland during and after the religious unrest and rebellion of the 1670s and 80s. After his death, Presbyterian historians dubbed him "Bluidy Clavers".'

As my maternal grandfather was a George Graham I have no wish to find an ancestral link to Clavers, nor to the Hamiltons.

One of the spectacular exhibits in the castle is the silver room with silver from the 16th century onwards. But the shine of the silver is dimmed when you learn the origin of the wealth that bought this opulence.

'The fine Beckford Collection of furniture, silver and china displayed at Brodick Castle, on the Isle of Arran, once belonged to William Beckford, owner of several sugar plantations in the West Indies. His family was one of the first to settle in Jamaica. It rose from modest beginnings to become one of the richest families in Europe.

In 1810, his daughter Susan Beckford married the 10th Duke of Hamilton. They lived mainly at Hamilton Palace in Lanarkshire but also stayed at their other home, Brodick Castle.

Susan Beckford married Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton. Her father, William, died in 1844. Susan inherited his estate and collections.

William Beckford was the last in a line of rich men. He inherited a fortune made from the Jamaican sugar plantations and built Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire to house his collections and impress visitors. The cost was so great that he fell into debt. He sold the Abbey and bought property in Bath where he continued his life as a gentleman. He never visited his plantations.

Susan’s grandfather, William ‘Sugar Cane’ Beckford (1709-70), was born in Jamaica and lived in Britain – and was reputed to be Britain’s first millionaire. He owned 22,000 acres in Jamaica.

Her great-grandfather, Peter Beckford (1672-1735), also born in Jamaica, was said to be the richest man in Europe: by 1700; he owned 24 plantations where 1,500 enslaved people worked.

Great-great-grandfather Peter Beckford the Elder (1643-1710) arrived in Jamaica shortly after it became an English colony and took jobs as a hunter and horse catcher. When he died, he owned 11 estates, 24 plantations and around 1200 slaves. His fortune was estimated at £250 million (modern value).

So,silver tarnished by the sweat and blood of slaves.

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