Papers of the Earls of Haddington (1563-1986)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-353
  • Dates of Creation
      1608-20th century
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      2 volumes, 21 letters, 3 fragments.
  • Location
      Dc.3.87/11; Dc.4.40; Dc.4.41/1-18; Dc.4.71; Dk.6.19/3; Gen. 1721, no.39; Gen. 1995/33-34

Scope and Content

The papers consist principally of correspondence. There are: Decisions of the Lords of Session 3 Nov. 1608 to 4 July 1628 and Practicques from 1612 to 1628; Haddington's decisions from 1609 to 1613; letters to Alexander Carlyle, 1797-1804, from Charles Hamilton, 8th Earl; letter of Thomas Hamilton Haddington, 9th Earl, to the Duke of Cambridge, 1849; an undated autograph signature of the 9th Earl and franked postal covers addressed by the 9th Earl; letter of George Baillie-Hamilton-Arden, 11th Earl, to Lord Denman about the Commission of the Peace for Haddington, 1877; letter of George Baillie-Hamilton, 12th Earl, to an autograph collector, 20th century

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Thomas Hamilton, 1st Earl of Haddington, and adviser to King James VI, was born in 1563. He was the son of Sir Thomas Hamilton of Priestfield, Lord Priestfield, and grandson of Thomas Hamilton of Priestfield who fell at the Battle of Pinkie, 10 September 1547. The family was descended from a younger branch of the noble family of Hamilton (or Hameldone). Thomas Hamilton attended school in Edinburgh and then studied law in France. He was admitted as an Advocate at the Scottish Bar in 1587 and became a Lord of Session in 1592. He subsequently became a Commissioner of the Treasury of the Exchequer, and then a King's Advocate in 1596. In 1604 Hamilton was nominated by the Estates (the Scottish Parliament) as a Commissioner 'to treat of a union with England'. In 1612 he succeeded Sir Alexander Hay (d. 1616) as Secretary of State. In 1613 he was elevated to the peerage as Lord Binning and in 1619 was created Earl of Melrose. In August 1627, Sir Thomas Hamilton changed his title to that of Earl of Haddington on the death of Sir John Ramsay, Earl of Holderness, and Viscount Haddington. In 1627 he was appointed Lord Privy Seal. The fortunes of the earldom were augmented by the proceeds from mining on family estates. Sir Thomas Hamilton, 1st Earl of Haddington, died on 29 May 1637 and was succeeded by his elder son, Thomas.

The succession passed relatively cleanly from the 2nd Earl to the 8th Earl throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Thomas, 2nd Earl of Haddington, and Covenanter, was born on 25 May 1600 and died on 30 August 1640 after an explosion at Dunglass Castle. He was succeeded by his son Thomas, 3rd Earl, who himself died young on 8 February 1645. Thomas was succeeded by his brother John.

John, 4th Earl of Haddington, was born in 1626 and died on 31 August 1669. He was succeeded by his son Charles, 5th Earl of Haddington, who was born circa 1650. Charles married Lady Margaret Leslie, daughter of John, Duke of Rothes, in 1674. Because she had no brothers, the marriage contract decided that any first son would inherit the earldom of Rothes, and the second son would inherit the earldom of Haddington. Margaret became Countess of Rothes in 1681. Her eldest son, John, became 9th Earl of Rothes in 1700. Charles, 5th Earl of Haddington, had died earlier in May 1685 and was succeeded by the second son, Thomas.

Thomas, 6th Earl of Haddington, was born in 1680. In 1691 he was appointed Hereditary Keeper of Holyrood Park in Edinburgh and in 1716 he was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Haddington (now called East Lothian). He spent much time improving his estates and wrote, at Tyninghame, A treatise on the manner of raising forest trees (1733). His poet son, Charles (1697-1733), Lord Binning, joined him in 1715 in his support of the Hanoverian cause against the Jacobite Rebellion. He died at New Hailes on 28 November 1735 and was succeeded by his eldest grandson, Thomas.

Thomas, 7th Earl of Haddington, was born in 1721 and died on 19 May 1794. He was succeeded by his son, Charles. Charles Hamilton, 8th Earl of Haddington, was born on 5 July 1753 and died on 17 March 1828.

Thomas Hamilton, 9th Earl of Haddington, was born on 21 June 1780. He was educated at Oxford. He became MP for St. Germains, Cornwall, between 1801-1806, then MP for Cockermouth in 1807, for Collington 1807-1812, for Michaelborough 1814-1818, for Rochester 1818-1826, and for Yarmouth 1826-1827. He succeeded his father in 1828. He was First Lord of the Admiralty, 1841-1846, and Lord Privy Seal in 1846. Thomas, 9th Earl of Haddington died on 1 December 1858 and was succeeded by his cousin, George.

George, 10th Earl of Haddington, was born on 14 April 1802. he succeeded his uncle in 1858. He was Deputy-Lieutenant for the County of East Lothian, and a Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria, 1867-1870. He died on 25 June 1870.

George Baillie-Hamilton-Arden, 11th Earl, was born on 26 July 1827. He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. He succeeded his father in 1870, and was H.M. Lord Lieutenant for the County of East Lothian (then called Haddingtonshire) and a Magistrate and High Sheriff for County Chester. His son George, Lord Binning, a Brigadier-General, was born in 1856 and died on 12 January 1917. George Baillie-Arden-Hamilton, 11th Earl of Haddington, died a few months later on 11 June 1917.

George Baillie-Hamilton, 12th Earl, was born on 18 September 1894. He was the son of George, Lord Binning, and the grandson of the 11th Earl. He was educated at Eton and Sandhurst and served in both World Wars. He succeeded his grandfather in 1917. The 12th Earl was H.M. Lord Lieutenant for the County of Berwick between 1952 and 1969, and Captain of the Queen's Body Guard for Scotland, Royal Company of Archers, 1953 to 1974. George Baillie-Hamilton 12th Earl of Haddington died in 1986. He was succeeded by his eldest son, John George Baillie-Hamilton (b. 21 December 1941), the 13th Earl of Haddington.

Residences of the Earls of Haddington have included Mellerstain House, near Kelso in the Borders, and Tyninghame House, Preston Kirk, East Lothian. The latter building in Binning Wood was transformed into a Scottish Baronial mansion by William Burn (1789-1870) for Thomas Hamilton, 9th Earl of Haddington, in 1829. The wooded grounds in which its stands, and the gardens, were planted by Thomas, 6th Earl, from 1707 onwards. The extensive woodlands that he planted were designed to provide cover for the house against North Sea winds The estate itself had been in possession of the family since 1628 but on the death of the 12th Earl in 1986 Tyninghame House and its contents were sold in 1987. Mellerstain House, the present home of the Haddingtons, was the work of William Adam and Robert Adam.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins, 1994. (2) Walford, Edward. The county families of the United Kingdom. London: Chatto and Windus, 1885. (3) Stephen, Leslie. And Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 8. Glover-Harriott. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908. (4) Burke, Sir Bernard. and Burke Ashworth P. A genealogical and heraldic history of the peerage and baronetage, the Privy Council, and knightage. 87th edition. London: Burke's Peerage Ltd., 1929. (5) Who's who 1976. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1976. (6) Who's who 1995. London: A. and C. Black, 1995

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to material in the Laing Collection related to the earldom of Haddington (check the Indexes for more details): letters of the Countess of Haddington, 1825, at La.II.509; letters of the 9th Earl, 1830s, La.II.509; letter from David Laing 1840s, La.IV.17; mention of 9th Earl in a letter, 1848, La.IV.17; letter of the 8th Earl, La.II.509; letter to King James VI and an appeal to James, 1619, from the 1st Earl, La.II.540; and, legal writings, with last date 1631, La.II.12. There is also a summarised letter to the 9th Earl from Lord Lynedoch, 1830, at Gen. 721D.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: Thomas Hamilton (1563-1637) 1st Earl of Haddington: correspondence and papers, Private, Ref. NRA(S)3503 NRA 10114 Hamilton; correspondence, 1616-1628, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MS 3134; letters to Sir Robert Ker, 1620-1633, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD40 NRA 10737 Kerr, and also letters (6) to 7th Earl of Menteith, 1629, Ref. GD220/4/98-103 NRA 32572 Graham

Charles Hamilton (c. 1697-1732) Lord Binning MP: letters to Duke of Montrose, 1714-1715, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD220/5 NRA 32572 Graham.

Charles Hamilton (1753-1828) 8th Earl of Haddington: correspondence and papers relating to militia, 1778-1820, Private, Ref. NRA(S)3503 NRA 10114 Hamilton; letters to Lord Melville, 1794-1810, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD51 NRA 10188 Dundas family; correspondence with Robert Liston, 1806-1825, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MSS 5610-74

Thomas Hamilton (1780-1858) 9th Earl of Haddington: correspondence and papers, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD249 NRA 10114 Hamilton; correspondence and papers, Private, Ref. GD249 NRA 10114 Hamilton see NRA(S)0104; correspondence with Lord Aberdeen, 1806-1853, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Add MSS 43229-30, and correspondence with William Huskisson, 1812-1829, Ref. Add MSS 38739-57 passim, and letters to Lord Liverpool, 1812-1824, Ref. Add MSS 38248-91, 38411, 38573-76 passim, and correspondence with Sir Robert Peel, 1835-1846, Ref. Add MSS 40327, 40456-58; correspondence with Sir Thomas Cochrane, 1835-1854, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MSS 2276-94 passim, and correspondence with J. R. Hope-Scott, 1834-1843, Ref. MSS 3668, 3671, and correspondence with John Lee, 1827-1858, Ref. MSS 3436-49 passim; letters to Sir Thomas Fellowes, 1828, Unknown location, NRA 598 Fellowes; correspondence with Sir John Gladstone (17 items), 1828-1842, St. Deiniol's Library, Ref. Glynne-Gladstone MSS 267 NRA 14174 Gladstone; correspondence with Henry Goulburn, 1835-1846, Surrey History Centre, Ref. 319 NRA 777 Goulburn; correspondence with Lord Granville, 1822-1837, Public Record Office, Ref. PRO30/29 NRA 8654 Leveson-Gower; letters to Sir William Parker, 1842-1845, National Maritime Museum, Manuscripts Section, Ref. PAR/154 NRA 30121; letters to Lord Stanley, 1841-1845, Liverpool Record Office and Local History Service, Ref. 920 Der 14, box 137 NRA 20084 Stanley; letters to Lord Tweeddale, British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections, Ref. MSS Eur F 96 NRA 27520 Hay; 1834-45: letters (29) to 1st Duke of Wellington, 1834-1845, Southampton University Library, Ref. MS 61 NRA 20085 Wellesley; and, letters to Lord Wharncliffe, 1813, Sheffield Archives NRA 1077 Wharncliffe.