Birthplace: Stanehouse, Larnakshire, Scotland
Location of death: St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Cause of death: Execution
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: Scottish Lutheran martyr
Scottish divine, second son of Sir Patrick Hamilton, well known in Scottish chivalry, and of Catherine Stewart, daughter of Alexander, duke of Albany, second son of James II of Scotland, was born in the diocese of Glasgow, probably at his fathers estate of Stanehouse in Lanarkshire. He was educated probably at Linlithgow. In 1517 he was appointed titular abbot of Ferne, Ross-shire; and it was probably about the same year that he went to study at Paris, for his name is found in an ancient list of those who graduated there in 1520. It was doubtless in Paris, where Martin Luther's writings were already exciting much discussion, that he received the germs of the doctrines he was afterwards to uphold. From Alexander Ales we learn that Hamilton subsequently went to Louvain, attracted probably by the fame of Erasmus, who in 1521 had his headquarters there. Returning to Scotland, the young scholar naturally selected St. Andrews, the capital of the church and of learning, as his residence. On the 9th of June 1523 he became a member of the university of St. Andrews, and on the 3rd of October 1524 he was admitted to its faculty of arts. There Hamilton attained such influence that he was permitted to conduct as precentor a musical mass of his own composition in the cathedral. But the reformed doctrines had now obtained a firm hold on the young abbot, and he was eager to communicate them to his fellow countrymen. Early in 1527 the attention of James Beaton, archbishop of St. Andrews, was directed to the heretical preaching of the young priest, whereupon he ordered that Hamilton should be formally summoned and accused. Hamilton fled to Germany, first visiting Luther at Wittenberg, and afterwards enrolling himself as a student, under Franz Lambert of Avignon, in the new University of Marburg, opened on the 30th of May 1527 by Philip, landgrave of Hesse. Hermann von dem Busche, one of the contributors to the Epistolae obscurorum virorum, John Frith and William Tyndale were among those whom he met there. Late in the autumn of 1527 Hamilton returned to Scotland, bold in the conviction of the truth of his principles. He went first to his brother's house at Kincavel, near Linlithgow, in which town he preached frequently, and soon afterwards he married a young lady of noble rank, whose name has not come down to us. Beaton, avoiding open violence through fear of Hamilton's high connections, invited him to a conference at St. Andrews. The reformer, predicting that he was going to confirm the pious in the true doctrine by his death, resolutely accepted the invitation, and for nearly a month was permitted to preach and dispute, perhaps in order to provide material for accusation. At length, however, he was summoned before a council of bishops and clergy presided over by the archbishop; there were thirteen charges, seven of which were based on the doctrines affirmed in the Loci communes. On examination Hamilton maintained that these were undoubtedly true. The council condemned him as a heretic on the whole thirteen, charges. Hamilton was seized, and, it is said, surrendered to the soldiery on an assurance that he would be restored to his friends without injury. The council convicted him, after a sham disputation with Friar Campbell, and handed him over to the secular power. The sentence was carried out on the same day (February 29, 1528) lest he should be rescued by his friends, and he was burned at the stake as a heretic. His courageous bearing attracted more attention than ever to the doctrines for which he suffered, and greatly helped to spread the Reformation in Scotland. The "reek of Patrick Hamilton infected all it blew on." His martyrdom is singular in this respect, that he represented in Scotland almost alone the Lutheran stage of the Reformation. His only book was entitled Loci communes, known as "Patrick's Places." It set forth the doctrine of justification by faith and the contrast between the gospel and the law in a series of clear-cut propositions. It is to be found in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments.
Father: Sir Patrick Hamilton
Mother: Catherine Stewart
Professor: University of St. Andrews (1524-)
University: University of Marburg (1527-)
Burned at the Stake
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