Friday, June 11, 2010

"for twenty-four years I've been living next door to Alice"

(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, you can read this post in full on my blog)

That's the name of an old 70s song. Sir James Hamilton's grandson, Henry Hamilton, was another man who was head-over-heels in love with a woman called Alice. Sadly for Henry, she destroyed his life.

Henry Hamilton was the 2nd Earl of Clanbrassil and had one of the biggest estates and fortunes in east Ulster. He met Alice Moore, a "very handsome, witty and well-bred lady" and was besotted. His mother (as mothers do) sized Alice up and was in "great grief" when Henry and Alice got married in May 1667. Alice was high maintenance and Henry racked up massive debts in trying to meet the costs her lavish, flirtatious, lifestyle. He sold off large parcels of the Hamilton estate to his tenants - and both Henry and Alice were at this stage just 28 years old. The Hamilton Manuscripts describe her as "beautiful and vicious".

In 1669, Alice ordered the Presbyterian meeting house in Bangor (at Fisher’s Hill now Victoria Road), whose minister was Gilbert Ramsay, be torn down. It broke Ramsay's heart. The following Christmas, Alice was among the audience at a new theatre in Smock Alley in Dublin which had three tiers of balconies - it was the Waterfront Hall of its day. The glitterati were there to see a satirical, mocking anti-Presbyterian play called “The Non-Conformist”. During the performance, the upper balcony collapsed into the middle balcony which then crashed down onto the lower balcony. Many people were killed, and Alice was badly injured.

However, that brush with death didn't hamper her selfish ambitions. The Hamilton will had been carefully laid out by Henry's father to ensure that, if Henry died, it would remain in the Hamilton family. Alice persuaded Henry to change his will, making her his sole heir. His mother saw the disastrous potential and warned him - "Son, expect that within three months after you perfect such deeds, you shall lodge with your grandfather and father, in the tomb of Bangor". On 27 March 1674, Henry's will was rewritten - "it is my will and pleasure to leave unto my dear wife, the Countess of Clanbrassil, her heirs and assigns, for ever, all my estate in the kingdom of Ireland..."

Henry had effectively signed his own death warrant. On 12 January 1675 he died suddenly in Dublin - and Alice ordered his body to be disembowelled within 5 hours of his death, and for a rush burial to take place at Christ Church in the city. Some time later, his body was reburied at Bangor, fulfilling his mother's prediction.

The suspicion is that Henry had been poisoned. However, the Hamilton family fought back, and Alice didn't get her hands on the estates. She remarried but died - miserable, alone and childless - on 13 Jan 1678.


Colin Maxwell said...

Yep. More evidence that the female of the species is the most deadly.

Treat with caution. Do not approach :o)

Philip Robinson said...

A great cameo of a story. What about a film set in Bangor: 'A town like Alice'?