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HAY, JOHN, titular Earl of Inverness (1691–1740), Jacobite colonel, born in 1691, was third son of Thomas, sixth earl of Kinnoull, by his wife Elizabeth, only daughter of William, first viscount Strathallan. George Hay, seventh earl of Kinnoull [q. v.], was his eldest brother. Shortly before the death of Queen Anne he bought a company in the footguards (Sinclair, Memoirs, p. 45). He was privy to the political schemes of his brother-in-law the Earl of Mar [see Erskine, John, sixth or eleventh Earl of Mar, (1675–1732)], and accompanied him when he set out in disguise in the coal ship from Gravesend to Elie, Fifeshire, in 1715 to head the insurrection in behalf of the Chevalier in Scotland. For a time he acted as Mar's right-hand man. He was sent by him to offer Atholl in the Chevalier's name the command of the army under the Duke of Berwick, but Atholl, having a special distaste of the messenger, ‘who had been Mar's tool during the tory ministry in making an interest against him in the election to the shire of Perth’ (ib. p. 35), declined the offered bait. On 14 Sept. Hay, with a detachment of two hundred men, took possession of Perth, and four days later was appointed by Mar governor of the city. Hay's selection for this difficult post caused much misgiving among the Chevalier's supporters, for he was totally destitute of military experience. His capacity was not, however, put to the test. Perth shortly afterwards became the headquarters of the rebels, and Hay was despatched by Mar to France, to report as to the progress of the cause, to solicit assistance, and to advise the immediate departure of the Chevalier for Scotland. On his return he was made brigadier-general and master of horse to the Chevalier. After the collapse of the rebellion Hay suffered forfeiture by act of parliament, and joined the exiled court at St. Germains. Even before the close of the expedition he had shown distrust of Mar, and his secret revelations in regard to Mar's subsequent perfidy were doubtless chiefly responsible for Mar's loss of the Chevalier's confidence. In 1723 Hay was despatched on a mission to Brussels, where he had a special interview with Bishop Atterbury [q. v.] Next year Hay succeeded Mar as secretary, but, according to Atterbury, he consented with the utmost reluctance to be officially appointed to the office, or to discharge the duties permanently. He was, however, publicly declared secretary 5 March 1725, and created Earl of Inverness (Lockhart Papers, ii. 149). The appointment was displeasing to the Chevalier's wife, who complained of the treatment accorded her by ‘Mr. Hay and his lady’ (ib. p. 265); and in November she threatened to retire to a convent unless Hay was dismissed. It was generally supposed that she was secretly instigated by Mar, but it was also rumoured that she was jealous of Hay's wife. This lady, Marjory, third daughter of David, fifth viscount of Stormont, is described by Lockhart as ‘a mere coquet, tolerably handsome, but withal prodigiously vain and arrogant.’ Lockhart, however, affirms that there was no real ground for jealousy. Ultimately Hay was removed from office in April 1727, and although Sir John Graham, a creature of his own, was appointed in his stead, he ceased to influence the prince's affairs. There is no reason to suspect him of any duplicity parallel to that of Mar, and there is inherent improbability in the story which credits him with revealing to the English government some ciphered correspondence. But he possessed few qualifications for the office to which he had been promoted, and probably unwittingly did as much to damage the Jacobite cause as Mar did. He is described by Lockhart as ‘a cunning, false, avaricious creature, of very ordinary parts, cultivated by no sort of literature, altogether void of experience in business’ (ib. p. 340). He died without issue in 1740.

[Sinclair's Memoirs (Abbotsford Club); Stuart Papers; Lockhart Papers; Bishop Atterbury's Correspondence; Pedigree of the Family of Hay, 1841; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 48.]

T. F. H.