Hay, Lucy (DNB00)
HAY, LUCY, Countess of Carlisle (1599–1660), was the second daughter of Henry Percy, ninth earl of Northumberland, by Dorothy, widow of Sir Thomas Perrot, and daughter of Walter Devereux, earl of Essex (Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges, ii. 342). She was born in 1599, and married on 6 Nov. 1617 James Hay [q. v.], then Lord Hay of Sawley, afterwards Earl of Carlisle (ib.) The match was extremely distasteful to the Earl of Northumberland; he was a Percy, he said, ‘and could not endure that his daughter should dance any Scotch jigs.’ He kept her for some time with him in the Tower, where he was then a prisoner, but failed to conquer her affection for Hay (Court and Times of James I, i. 459, ii. 20, 27, 50). Hay is said to have procured Northumberland's release from the Tower, in order to gain his approval of the marriage, but that release did not take place till 1621 (Arthur Wilson, History of Great Britaine, p. 130). The beauty and wit of Lady Carlisle gave her a brilliant position in the court of Charles I. All the poets of the period sang her praises. Cartwright's poems open with ‘A Panegyric to the Most Noble Lucy, Countess of Carlisle’ (ed. 1651, p. 183); Carew addresses her under the name of Lucinda (Poems, ed. Hazlitt, pp. 41, 117); Herrick celebrates in his ‘Hesperides’ ‘a black twist rounding the arm of the Countess of Carlisle,’ and she is the subject of a by no means platonic dialogue between Carew and Suckling (Suckling, Poems, ed. Hazlitt, p. 29). Both D'Avenant and Waller addressed consolatory verses to her upon the death of her husband in 1636. Sir Toby Matthew in his prose character of the countess wrote: ‘Her wit being most eminent among the rest of her great abilities, she affects the conversation of the persons who are most famed for it.’ A mention of Matthew's character in Strafford's ‘Letters’ (ii. 146, 149) shows that it was circulated in manuscript in 1637. Allusion is also made to it in Suckling's ‘Session of the Poets,’ stanzas 15, 16. It was first printed in 1660 in ‘A Collection of Letters made by Sir Toby Matthew,’ published after his death by Dr. John Donne, and dedicated to Lady Carlisle.
To the admiration of wits and courtiers Lady Carlisle added the confidence of the queen. Early in the reign she had gained the queen's heart more than any other of the ladies around her, and it was reported that she had taught her to paint (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1628–9, p. 81). In 1628 an attack of small-pox endangered her life and plunged the court in gloom; but though she was for some little time afterwards compelled to wear a mask it does not appear to have seriously impaired her beauty (ib. p. 343; Court and Times of Charles I, i. 388). Her popularity in the court and her power over the queen assured Lady Carlisle a large amount of political influence. Her famous friendship with Strafford was partly based on Strafford's need of an ally near the queen. ‘I judge her ladyship very considerable,’ wrote Strafford to Laud in 1637; ‘she is often in place and extremely well skilled how to speak with advantage and spirit for those friends she professeth unto, which will not be many. There is this further in her disposition, she will not seem to be the person she is not, an ingenuity I have always observed and honoured her for’ (Strafford, Letters, ii. 120). On the eve of his impeachment he wrote to Radcliffe: ‘For love of Christ take order that all the money due to my Lady Carlisle be paid before Christmas, for a nobler nor more intelligent friendship did I never meet with in my life’ (Whitaker, Life of Sir G. Radcliffe, p. 221). After Strafford's death Lady Carlisle allied herself for a time with the leaders of the opposition. ‘She changed her gallant from Strafford to Pym, and was become such a she-saint that she frequented their sermons and took notes’ (Memoirs of Sir Philip Warwick, p. 204). Clarendon connects this defection with that of the Earl of Holland, and fixes it in the autumn of 1641. ‘Whether he seduced or was seduced, the Lady Carlisle, with whom he always held a strict friendship, withdrew herself from her attendance upon the queen, communicated all she knew, and more, of the natures and dispositions of the king and queen; and after she had a short time murmured for the death of the Earl of Strafford, renounced all future devotion for those who would, but could not protect him’ (Clarendon, Rebellion, ed. Macray, iv. 78 n.) Her conduct is certainly not free from the stain of treachery. At one time she communicated to the queen a paper which she had received from Lord Mandeville, at another she reported to Holland some unguarded words used by the queen (Letter of Sir E. Nicholas, Evelyn, Diary, ed. Wheatley, iv. 92; Clarendon, Rebellion, iv. 14). Her most eminent service to the popular party consisted in the warning she gave of the king's intended arrest of the five members. ‘I shall never forget,’ said Hesilrige, ‘the kindness of that great lady, the Lady Carlisle, that gave timely notice’ (Burton, Diary, iii. 93).
During the latter part of the civil war she was deep in the councils of the little party of aristocratic presbyterians, who, though they had taken up arms against the king, were above all things anxious to preserve the monarchy and eager to come to terms with Charles. When the army impeached eleven leading presbyterians in July 1647, one of the charges against them was the contrivance of secret cabals at the house of the Countess of Carlisle (Old Parliamentary History, xvi. 74, 121). In the preparation of the second civil war the Countess of Carlisle was again active. She had the confidence of the presbyterian leaders, and was once more trusted by the queen. When Prince Charles blockaded the Thames she sent him secret messages by Mr. Low, who was employed by the city to negotiate for the restoration of the ships taken by the prince. She pawned her pearl necklace for 1,500l., in order to raise money for the equipment of the Earl of Holland's forces (Clarendon, Rebellion, xi. 65, 137). She corresponded with Lauderdale, and acted as intermediary between Hamilton and Lauderdale in Scotland and Holland, and his party in England (Hamilton Papers, Camden Society, pp. 202, 205; see also the letters deciphered by Dr. John Wallis, and presented by him to the Bodleian Library). In consequence of these intrigues, which seem to have been brought to light during Hamilton's trial, Lady Carlisle was arrested by Colonel Harrison on 15 March 1649, and committed by the council of state to the Tower, where she remained for about eighteen months (Sydney Papers, ed. Blencowe, p. 71). ‘The Countess of Carlisle,’ says a royalist news-letter of May 1649, ‘hath been again shown the rack; but she desires them not to hurt her, for she is a woman and cannot endure pain, but she will confess whatsoever they will have her’ (Carte, Original Letters, i. 286). On 25 Sept. 1650 the council of state ordered her release for two months on bail, and on 3 March 1651–2 her bonds were ordered to be cancelled, and she was restored to full liberty (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650 p. 356, 1651–1652 p. 167). This experience did not altogether cure Lady Carlisle of her taste for political intrigues, but her influence among the royalists seems to have been diminished, especially after Hyde became the chief adviser of Charles II. Nicholas, writing to Hyde in 1654, opposed the employment of Lord Percy largely on the ground of his sister's untrustworthiness. ‘He will discover all things that are communicated to him to his dear and virtuous sister Carlisle, who has been, through the whole story of his late majesty's misfortunes, a very pernicious instrument, and she will assuredly discover all things to her gang of presbyterians, who have ever betrayed all they know to the ruling rebels’ (Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 334). She was very busy in February 1660. Hartgill Baron, in a letter to Hyde, complains of her intrigues, concluding: ‘Whatever Lady Carlisle hears she immediately tells her nephews, Lord Lisle and Algernon Sidney, and is still Sempronia’ (Clarendon Papers, iii. 681). Lady Carlisle was in truth very like Sempronia, ‘the great stateswoman’ of Jonson's ‘Catiline.’ ‘She felt a woman's pride in attracting to her the strong heads by which the world was ruled,’ and sought to inspire statesmen and guide events (Gardiner, History, ix. 86). Scandalmongers have hinted that she was the mistress of Strafford and Pym, but with little probability. ‘She cannot love in earnest,’ says Toby Matthew, ‘so contenting herself to play with Love as with a child. Naturally she hath no passion at all.’
The countess died suddenly on 5 Nov. 1660 of apoplexy, and was buried at Petworth (Blencowe, Sydney Papers, p. 161). Vandyck painted several portraits of her; one is at Windsor, another at Petworth, a third, representing also her sister Dorothy, countess of Leicester, was in the possession of Lord Waldegrave. Engravings of these appear in Lodge's ‘Portraits,’ and in Lombart's series of engravings from Vandyck. A list is given in the catalogue of the Sutherland collection in the Bodleian Library, i. 126.
[Authorities quoted; Lodge's Portraits; Lady Carlisle's Letters in Collins's Sydney Papers and among the Domestic State Papers.]