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The Patriotic Duke

Heir to the premier dukedom in Scotland, Douglas Douglas-Hamilton enjoyed a gilded youth, his privileged upbringing buttressed by solid achievement: Scottish Amateur Middleweight Boxing Champion, Squadron Leader of City of Glasgow [602] Squadron, popular Unionist MP for East Renfrewshire and chief pilot on the first flight over Mount Everest, a feat which won him the Air Force Cross.

But then came the fateful night of 10 May 1941 when Rudolf Hess, the deputy leader of Germany, landed in Scotland on a one-man peace mission and asked to see the Duke of Hamilton.

With the Churchill government unsure how to handle Hess’s arrival, very few of the actual facts were conveyed to the public, allowing rumour and innuendo to flourish. Soon the Duke was being implicated as a crypto-Fascist who had befriended Hess and helped arrange his flight.

Now with all the official files in the public domain and with the aid of the Duke’s own archive, Mark Peel in this first-ever biography of the 14th Duke of Hamilton explains how the case against him assumed momentum and why that case is completely unfounded.


"This is the most reliable account of a full, rich and above all useful life. Mark Peel, biographer of the Duke of Hamilton, is at once action-packed, thorough and balanced. He writes with sympathy and good judgement, whether he is describing the turbulent politics of West Central Scotland between the wars, or the mechanics of moving from one great country house to another. At the heart of the book is a gut-gripping narrative describing Hamilton’s most celebrated exploit, the first flight over Everest in 1933, a time when aviation was much more dangerous and much less sophisticated than it is now. The biography is also notable for its judicious analysis of the most controversial episode in Hamilton’s life- when Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, landed in Scotland in 1941 to meet Hamilton and prosecute a supposed deal with Germany. Hamilton has been smeared as a Nazi sympathiser but Peel’s authoritative work should surely consign this slander to oblivion once and for all."

Harry Reid - author and editor

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