Hamilton, Richard (d. 1717), Jacobite army officer, was probably born at his father's house at Roscrea, Co. Tipperary; he was the fifth son of Sir George Hamilton (d. 1679), 1st baronet, fourth son of James, 1st earl of Abercorn, and his wife Mary, the third daughter of Walter, Viscount Thurles, eldest son of Walter, 11th earl of Ormond (qv), who was the sister of James Butler (qv), 12th earl and 1st duke of Ormond. He was the younger brother of the author and soldier Anthony Hamilton (qv) and Elizabeth Hamilton (qv), wife of the famous count de Grammont. He served in the regiment of his brother George Hamilton (qv) under the great French marshal Turenne. After the death of George (1676) complaints were made against his successor as commander of the regiment, Thomas Dongan (qv), later earl of Limerick and governor of New York, that he had misappropriated regimental funds. Richard assumed command of the regiment in 1678, but it was disbanded later that year under the terms of the peace of Nijmegen; he was then given command of another French regiment, which he led till 1685, when he left France after an argument with Louvois, the minister of war. His wit and polished manners had gained him notice at Versaille; shortly before his departure it was rumoured that he was conducting a liaison with the princess de Conti, the widowed daughter of the French king.
He accompanied Richard Talbot, earl of Tyrconnell (qv) to Dublin on his taking up the lord deputyship in February 1687 and threw himself into Tyrconnell's campaign to catholicise the army. In 1688, before William of Orange (qv) landed at Torbay, Tyrconnell sent Hamilton with a troop to England. He was one of the five persons of distinction who accompanied James II (qv) to Rochester after he had been evicted from Whitehall. William later sought to use Hamilton's influence with Tyrconnell to induce him to surrender to the new Williamite regime; but Hamilton tricked William, broke his parole, and once having reached Ireland remained there and joined the Jacobites. A contemporary protestant observer remarked: ‘the Papists lit bonfires when Dick Hamilton came over. They deemed him to be worth 10,000 men’. Simms believed the episode to have been ‘a deplorable fiasco’ (Simms, 51–2, 120). Tyconnell promoted Hamilton to brigadier general and sent him north with 2,500 men, where at the ‘break of Dromore’ in Co. Down he easily routed Mountalexander on 14 March 1689. He reached Coleraine and finally succeeded in crossing the Bann, forcing the protestant forces to fall back to Derry.
Hamilton returned to Dublin to greet James II on his entry into the city on 24 March. Reluctant though he was to supersede Hamilton, James sent the French major generals Rosen, Pusignan, and Maumont to conduct the siege of Derry. At the same time he authorised Hamilton to grant pardons to those in rebellion against him, and some 10,000 awaited the opportunity to leave the city. However on 1 May James countermanded his own order and told Hamilton not to let any more men out of Derry for the besieged ‘may want food and be glad to rid themselves of useless mouths’ (Simms, 104). Hamilton refused to serve under Rosen and James continued to correspond with him over Rosen's head. Hamilton's conduct at Derry was criticised from all quarters. Governor George Walker (qv) believed that Hamilton resented the presence of the French generals, whom he believed would rob him of his glory; the French ambassador, the count d'Avaux (qv), informed Louis XIV and Louvois that Hamilton took no pains with the siege and that he and his brothers were universally despised by the Irish. Hamilton's lack of zeal exasperated Rosen, who gathered the protestants of the district and drove them under the walls. The defenders retaliated by threatening to hang their Jacobite prisoners. Hamilton finally intervened and ordered that the protestant hostages be allowed to go home. James recalled Rosen and commended Hamilton for zealously protecting the protestants during the siege. After Rosen's departure and the deaths of Pusignan and Maumont, Hamilton took command of the siege. James gave him carte blanche early in July to negotiate with the citizens and he offered generous terms which were fired into the city in a hollow cannon-ball (still preserved in St Columb's cathedral). Hamilton's refusal to allow Pointis to construct a third boom on the Foyle, taken with his decision not to permit barges to be sunk lest it jeopardize Derry's future trade, may have contributed to the success of the Williamite major-general, Percy Kirke (qv), in forcing the boom on 28 July and effectively relieving Derry. On 31 July Hamilton finally lifted the siege and returned to Dublin.
He fought bravely at the battle of the Boyne (1 July 1690), and when his infantry were overcome he led three cavalry charges, in the last of which he was wounded. Captured and famously reprimanded by William III for dishonourable breach of faith, he was imprisoned at Dublin, then Chester, and finally the Tower of London. He was exchanged for Lord Mountjoy (qv) in April 1692. After his release Hamilton was appointed to the purely titular post of lieutenant general of James II's forces in England, and became first lord of the bedchamber to the exiled king. In 1696 James promoted him to master of the wardrobe on a pension of 400 pistoles. He was given command of a Jacobite expeditionary force, which had gathered for an invasion of England in 1696. After James II's death, Hamilton retained his positions under the Old Pretender and accompanied him to Scotland in 1708. He remained with his young master in the service of the duke of Burgundy's army, and later served with him under Maréchal Villars in Flanders. Hamilton was dismissed from the young king's service as a result of court intrigue in 1713 and died in poverty at Poussay in France in December 1717.