JILL, DUCHESS OF HAMILTON
Jill Hamilton, despite her age, is currently completing her PhD at the School of Oriental & African Studies, (SOAS), London University, on ‘Divorce for Arab Christian Women in Jerusalem and occupied East Jerusalem: a Dark Side of Legal Pluralism.’ Because of her interest in the Arab/Israeli conflict and religion she spends many months each year in Jerusalem and is a frequent contributor to The Catholic Herald. She first enrolled at SOAS in 2004 and completed her MA in Near & Middle Eastern Studies in 2005, gaining a distinction in Applied Economics of the Middle East, a merit in the Arab-Israeli Conflict and a merit in Zionist History. This followed her four books on the Middle East: God, Guns & Israel (Suttons, 2004; 2nd edition Suttons 2005; 3rd edition History Press, 2009); Gallipoli to Gaza (Simon & Schuster, Australia) an anthology of the poets in the Middle East in the First World War; First to Damascus (Simon & Schuster, Australia) which went into three editions. It tells the story of her father in the Australian Light Horse in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. This followed the success of Marengo, the Myth of Napoleon’s Horse (Fourth Estate, 2000) which went into paperback in 2001 and tells the story of Napoleon and the horses which he brought back to Europe from Egypt.
Jill was born in Sydney and first came to England after she left school. On her return to Sydney in 1961 she trained as a newspaper journalist in Sydney under Donald Horne. Three years later she was sent to London as a correspondent for the Murdoch Press for Australia. Assignments took her to America, India, Russia, Tahiti, Vietnam and Afghanistan. Among the people she interviewed were Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Nancy Mitford and P.G.Wodehouse. In November 1963, she attended a dinner for President Kennedy in Miami four nights before he was assassinated. Two years later, when working in Vietnam, she was one of the first women to write about the effects of bombing raids, having flown in a raid from Danang.
A passionate campaigner for conservation, in 1996, after her divorce from the Duke of Hamilton, Jill wrote Scottish Plants for Scottish Gardens, (Stationery Office, 1996) one of the first popular books to stress the importance of gardeners growing local native flora. Because the book also promoted an awareness of plant animal relationships she was invited to become a vice-president of Butterfly Conservation, a post she held for twelve years. Between 1994 and 2001 she expanded the theme of the importance of gardeners using their native flora in five major show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show for which she won various prizes including a silver and silver gilt medal. She was also an active vice president of the RSPCA in Britain for ten years. Her interest in conservation inspired her to write five books on plants: English Plants for English Gardens (Frances Lincoln, 2000); Redouté’s Flowers. In the 1990s her other books included The Flower Chain; The Early Discovery of Australian Garden Plants, (Simon & Schuster, 1998). Frances Lincoln published The Gardens of William Morris in 1998, which analyses William Morris’s contribution to garden design and his favourite flowers and plants. This went into two editions and was translated into many languages, including Japanese and German.
Jill’s experience in Vietnam inspired her to set up a shrine to fallen soldiers in London where was then no public memorial devoted exclusively to the thousands of troops who had been killed in Europe or the Middle East in either World War I or World War II. In 1995, she organised an Australian War Memorial at Battersea Park, London, and a dawn service on Anzac Day. This dawn service grew each year and after three years was completely taken over by Australia House. Two months after Anzac Day, 1997, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, came to Battersea to lay a wreath and make a speech. He thanked her for bringing the custom of the dawn service to England. The service is now held at Hyde Park Corner where an imposing memorial was built by the Australian government.
With Penny Hart, Mike Sadka and Professor Chris Humphries she started the charity Flora for Fauna to encourage gardeners to grow native plants to help wildlife. In 2007/8, using only the Flora of Jerusalem, she made and designed a native garden beside the Baths of Bethseda at the Church of Saint Anne, in the Old City, Jerusalem. This is now visited by pilgrims who take small bunches of herbs as souvenirs to press in their bibles.
Under her maiden name, Jillian Robertson, she wrote
The Royal Race, (Blond & Briggs, London, 1974);
The Captain Cook Myth, (Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1980);
Lizard Island, (Hutchinson, Melbourne,1980).
In the 1990s her books included
Scottish Plants for Scottish Gardens, (The Stationery Office, 1996);
The Flower Chain;
The Early Discovery of Australian Garden Plants, (Simon & Schuster, 1998), and
Napoleon, the Empress & the Artist, (Simon & Schuster 1999).
The Gardens of William Morris (Frances Lincoln, London, 1980)
Since 2000, she has published in Britain and Australia:
Marengo, the Myth of Napoleon’s Horse (Fourth Estate, London, 2000) (paperback 2001).
English Plants for English Gardens (Frances Lincoln, London, 2000). Redouté’s Flowers (Cassell, London and Hachette, Paris, 2001)
First to Damascus, the Story of the Australian Light Horse and Lawrence of Arabia, Simon & Schuster under their Kangaroo imprint, Australia, 2002 — three print-runs).
Gallipoli to Gaza, the Desert Poets of World War One, (Simon & Schuster, Australia, 2003).
God, Guns & Israel, the British, the First World War and the Jews in the Holy Land, (Suttons, 2004; 2nd edition Suttons 2005; 3rd edition History Press, 2009)
British Native Trees & Shrubs for Gardens (Frances Lincoln 2004)
Thomas Cook, the Holidaymaker, (Sutton 2005) (Like God, Guns & Israel, this shows the influences of the Old Testament on the Liberal Party in England in the nineteenth century).