Robert Hamilton in Broxburn Suspected of Plotting Assassinations Resists Torture in the Boots in 1680
Hamilton lived in Broxburn in Uphall parish, Linlithgowshire. His father was the chamberlain to the duke and duchess of Hamilton at Kinneil House. (Lauder, Historical Observes, I, 8; Law, Memorialls, 168n.)
On the 14 November, ‘Robert Hamilton, sone to the chamberlain of Borrowstounness [or Kinneil House] being delated to have been at [Cargill’s] conventicles at Torwood, Largo Law, etc., and examined thereupon and severall other interrogatours, made answer as is in his examination’. (RPCS, VI, 574; Wodrow, History, III, 229.)
The Privy Council suspected that Hamilton of Broxburn had knowledge about the ‘Phanaticks’ intentions to murder king Charles II, and his brother, James, Duke of York, who had recently arrived in Scotland, and those ‘doeing his majesties service’, such as the privy councillors, who had all been excommunicated by Cargill at Torwood.
The council’s suspicions were increased by the interrogation of Archibald Stewart under torture on 15 November in which he claimed that Hamilton had been at the Torwood Excommunication of the King:
‘Confesses he himself was at that Conventicle at Torwood, where were present John Gib and another of the same Name and Sirname, both Seamen in Borrowstonness; and that Robert Hammilton, son of Duke Hammilton’s Chamberlain, was also at the same Conventicle.’ (Anon., A True and Impartial Account Of the Examinations and Confessions Of several Execrable Conspirators Against the King & His Government In Scotland, 7.)
On 16 November, a commission was granted for Hamilton of Broxburn and his fellow prisoner John Spreull to be tortured:
‘Edinburgh the sexteint day of November 1680. The lords of his majesties privie council having by several clear testimonies found that they have verie good reason to believe that there is a principle of muthering his majestie, and those under him for doeing his majesties service, and a design of subverting the government, both of church and state, intertained and caryed on by the Phanaticks, and particularly by Mr. Donald Cargyll, Mr. Robert Macquhair [i.e., Robert MacWard, then in exile in Rotterdam] and others ther complices, and that John Spreull and Robert Hamilton have bein in accession thereto. They ordane the said John Spreull and Robert Hamilton, nowe prisoners, to be subjected to the torture upon such interogators as relate to these three points, to which they give much light and discovery,
first, by what reason and meanes this murthering principle is taught and caryed on, who wer accessorie to the contrivance of muthering, and who wer to be murthered, and also as to the lord St Andrews [i.e. archbishop Sharp] murther.
2do. If there was any newe rebellion intendit, by what meanes it was to be caryed on, and who was to bring home armes, or if any alreadie be bought, or to be bought, and by whom, or who wer the contrivers and promoters of the late rebellion at Bothwell bridge.
3to. Who wer ther correspondents abroad and at home, partlie at London or else wher, and what they knowe of bringing home books or pamphlets, and such particular interogators as relate to these generall:—and the saids lords doe hearby give full power and commission to the earles of Argyle, Linlithgow, Perth, and Queinsberie, the lords [George Ross, Lord] Rossie, [Lord Hatton] Thesaurer — deput, [Lord Clerk] Register, [Sir George MacKenzie of Rosehaugh, Lord] Advocat, [Richard Maitland of Over Gogar, Lord] Justice Clerk, Generall [Thomas] Dalzell, [James Foulis of] Colintoun and [George Gordon, Lord] Haddo, to call the saids John Spreull and Robert Hamilton, and to examine them in the torture upon the interogators forsaids, and such other particular particular interogators as they shall think pertinent relating to the forsaids generall heads, and to report to the council. Extract by me. Sic Subscribitur. W. Paterson.’ (CST, X, 770-1; Anon., A True and Impartial Account Of the Examinations and Confessions Of several Execrable Conspirators Against the King & His Government In Scotland, 8-9.)
Hamilton was tortured in the boots before the Lords on 19 November, 1680:
‘Edenburgh, Novemb. 19. 1680.
In the presence of the Committee [of the privy council]
Robert Hamilton [in Broxburn] being called before the Committee, and Examined upon several Interrogatoties (relating to the three general Heads already mentioned) before he was put to the Torture [in the boots], and particularly when he saw Mr. Donald Cargill, where, and what past amongst them, or who were present at Torwoodhead Conventicle? He refuses to answer. Being put in the Torture and questioned before striking, he again refused to answer; and having received the Torture, and being loosed from it, and examined again, would make no answer. Having the second time received the Torture, he would not make answer; and after a considerable space having continued in the Torture, he was ordered to be loosed.’ (Anon., A True and Impartial Account Of the Examinations and Confessions Of several Execrable Conspirators Against the King & His Government In Scotland, 12.)
Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved.