Hay, Charles (DNB00)

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HAY, Lord CHARLES (d. 1760), soldier, was third son of Charles Hay, third marquis of Tweeddale, and brother of John Hay, fourth marquis [q. v.] He is sometimes described as Lord Charles Hay of Linplum, because, on the death of his kinsman, Sir Robert Hay, in 1751, he succeeded to that gentleman's estate and territorial designation of Linplum. In 1722 he was gazetted ensign, and in 1729 was preferred to a troop in the 9th regiment of dragoons. He seems to have been present at the siege of Gibraltar in 1727, and to have served as a volunteer under Prince Eugene during the prince's campaign in 1734 on the Rhine, in the war of the Polish succession. In 1741 Hay was elected knight of the shire for Haddington, and two years later was given command of a company in the 3rd foot guards. As virtual, if not actual, lieutenant-colonel of the 1st foot guards he gained conspicuous distinction at Fontenoy. On 11 May 1745 he unexpectedly found himself, on reaching the crest of a low hill, face to face with the French guards, who, though anticipating an engagement as little as Hay, showed no sign of flinching or even of disorder. According to the French accounts, of which Voltaire's is the best known, Lord Charles stepped from the ranks and, in response to a similar movement promptly made by the French commander, politely called to him to order his people to fire, but in reply was assured, with equal politeness, that the French guards never fired first. According to the story which he himself sent in a letter to his brother three weeks later, his men came within twenty or thirty paces of the enemy, whereupon he advanced in front of the regiment, drank to the health of the French, bantered them with more spirit than pungency on their defeat at Dettingen, and then turned and called on his own men to huzzah, which they did. Whichever be the correct version of the occurrence, Hay unquestionably showed extraordinary coolness. In the fighting that followed he was severely wounded; the first published accounts of the battle placed his name in the list of the killed. In 1749 he was appointed one of the king's aides-de-camp, in 1752 colonel of the 33rd regiment, and in 1757 (the first year of the seven years' war) major-general. Hay subsequently received a high command in the force that was sent to Halifax in Nova Scotia under General Hopson, to join the expedition which was gathering there, under the Earl of Loudoun, to attack the French. Loudoun's dilatoriness provoked Hay into exclaiming—such, at any rate, was the charge against him—that ‘the general was keeping the courage of his majesty's troops at bay, and expending the nation's wealth in making sham sieges and planting cabbages when he ought to have been fighting.’ Thereupon a council of war ordered him under arrest, and sent him back to England. After considerable delay he was tried before a court-martial, which sat from 12 Feb. to 4 March 1760. Dr. Johnson, who, at Hay's instance, had been introduced to him at this time, saw him often, was ‘mightily’ pleased with his conversation, and pronounced the defence he had prepared ‘a very good soldierly defence.’ The decision was not made public, the case being referred to the king; and Hay died (1 May 1760) before George II could make up his mind what course to take.

[Gent. Mag. 1745 pp. 247, 251, 276, 1760 p. 100; Douglas's Peerage of Scotland; Anderson's Scottish Nation, iii. 586; Carlyle's Frederick, vi. 63, vii. 204; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Dr. Birkbeck Hill, iii. 8, iv. 23; Walpole's George II, iii. 269; Parkman's Wolfe and Montcalm, i. 471, 6th ed.]

J. R.