Haddington is, or at least was, the county town of Haddingtonshire, now known as East Lothian, which lies on the south-eastern coast of Scotland between Berwickshire to the south and Edinburghshire to the north. The dignity of Haddington was first granted to a James Ramsay who was created the Viscount of Haddington on the 11th June 1606. He was later created an English peer as the Earl of Holdernesse on the 22nd January 1621, but died without issue on the 28th February 1626 rendering all his various titles extinct.
Born in 1563 Thomas Hamilton was a distant cousin of the family of Hamilton of Cadzow, who became a lawyer and was appointed a Lord of Session in 1592. He appears to have been much favoured by James VI who appointed him as one of the Octavians in 1596, and also made him a king's advocate in the same year. When king James went south in 1603 he was amongst those trusted by the king to manage Scottish affairs in his absence and became Secretary of State of Scotland in 1612. Thomas was first elevated to the Scottish peerage on the 30th November 1613 when he was created the Lord Binning, and subsequently created the Earl of Melrose on the 20th March 1619. It seems however, that Thomas would have preferred to have chosen Haddington as the designation of his title, but was prevented from so doing by the pre-existing James Ramsay, Viscount of Haddington. James however, as we have seen, died without issue on the 28th February 1626 and so freed up the name, therby enabling Charles I to agree to Thomas's suggestion that he relinquish the title of Melrose in exchange for that of the Earl of Haddington, granted to him on the 17th August 1627, although with precedence back-dated to 1619.
The 1st Earl died on the 29th May 1637, and was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas, an ardent Covenanter who was later killed at Dunglass Castle on the 30th August 1640, when an English servant by the name of Edward Paris deliberately blew up the powder magazine. He was followed by his eldest son Thomas who died not long afterwards whilst still a minor on the 8th February 1645 and was succeeded by his younger brother John.
The 4th Earl was however a Royalist and present at the coronation of Charles II at Scone, and later died on the 31st August 1669, being succeeded eldest son Charles.
Charles 5th Earl married Margaret, the heiress to the earldom of Rothes. This meant that their eldest son John would become Earl of Rothes in due course, provided he adopted the name of Leslie as specified by the terms of that particular title. In order to separate the two titles, and also and no doubt to preserve the name of Hamilton, the 5th Earl therefore obtained a regrant of his own title of Haddington enabling it to pass to his second son. Thus with the 5th Earl's death in May 1685, it was his second son Thomas who became the 6th Earl of Haddington, whilst his elder son John had to wait until his mother's death on the 20th August 1700 before getting his title.
Thomas, the 6th Earl, was a supporter of the Hanoverian succession and fought for the government at the battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715, and was a representative peer for Scotland from 1716 to 1734. By the time of his death on the 28th November 1735 his eldest son Charles Hamilton, known as the Lord Binning had predeceased him, having expired at Naples on the 27th December 1732, and he was therefore succeeded by his grandson Thomas 7th Earl who himself died on the 19th May 1794. He was followed by his son Charles 8th Earl, a Lord-Lieutenant of Haddingtonshire 1804–23, and a Scottish representative peer from 1807 to 1812 who later died on the 17th March 1828. He was followed by his son Thomas, the 9th Earl, who had been a Member of Parliament for various constituencies from 1802 to 1827, when he was made a peer of the United Kingdom as the Baron Melrose of Tyninghame on the 24th July 1827. He was amongst the supporters of Robert Peel and became Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in Peel's first government from 1834 to 1835, and subsequently joined Peel's second administration firstly as First Lord of the Admiralty (1841-1846), and then as Lord Privy Seal in 1846. The 9th Earl died without male issue on the 1st December 1858, at which point his title Baron Melrose became extinct whilst the earldom passed to a cousin named George Baillie-Hamilton.
The aforementioned Charles Hamilton, Lord Binning the son of the 6th Earl married Rachel Baillie, daughter and heiress of a George Baillie of Jerviswood and Mellerstain. Whilst their eldest son became the 7th Earl of Haddington, it was their second son George who inherited the estates of Jerviswood and Mellerstain and so adopted the name of Baillie. It was this George's grandson George Baillie who inherited the Haddingtom title from his cousin in 1858, and adopted the name of Baillie-Hamilton by royal licence dated the 24th March 1859.
George, the 10th Earl was a Scottish representative peer from 1859 until his death on the 25th June 1870, and was succeeded by his eldest son, also named George, although he adopted the surname of Baillie-Hamilton-Arden in 1858, was again a Scottish representative peer from 1874 to 1917, and also served as High Sheriff of Cheshire in 1871, Lord-Lieutenant of Haddingtonshire in 1876 and ADC to Queen Victoria before his death on the 11th June 1917. His eldest son George having died a few months earlier on the 12th January, he was followed by his grandson George, the 12th Earl, who was a Captain in the Scots Greys during World War I and a Wing Commander in the Royal Air Force during World War II. The 12th Earl was a Scottish representative peer from 1922 until 1958, Lord-Lieutenant of East Lothian between 1952 and 1970 and died in 1986.
He was succeeded by his son John George Baillie-Hamilton, the 13th and present Earl of Haddington who also holds the titles of Lord Binning and Lord Byres and Binning. The 13th Earl is the publisher and writer of the Bird Table and founder of Save Our Songbirds which is an organisation dedicated to the preservation of small birds, especially from the depredations of the domestic cat. He remains in possession of the family seat of Mellerstain at Gordon in Berwickshire, which was built by the father-and-son team of William and Robert Adam.
His eldest son and heir apparent is George Edmund Baldred Baillie-Hamilton, known as Lord Binning.
THE EARLS OF HADDINGTON
- The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for HADDINGTON, EARLS OF
- The entry for HADDINGTON from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 106th Edition
- Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
- Stirnet Genealogy at http://www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/genfam.htm