1st Earl of Carlisle (1622-1636)
James Hay was the son of Sir James Hay of Kingask (a member of a younger branch of the Erroll family), and of Margaret Murray, cousin of George Hay, afterwards 1st Earl of Kinnoull. He was knighted and taken into favour by James VI of Scotland, brought into England in 1603, treated as a 'prime favourite' and made a gentleman of the bedchamber. In 1604 he was sent on a mission to France and pleaded for the Huguenots, which annoyed Henry IV and caused a substantial reduction of the present made to the English envoy. On the 21st of June 1606 he was created by patent a baron for life, with precedence next to the barons, but without a place or voice in parliament, no doubt to render his advancement less unpalatable to the English lords. The king bestowed on him numerous grants, paid his debts, and secured for him a rich bride in the person of Honora, only daughter and heir of Edward, Lord Denny, afterwards Earl of Norwich. In 1610 he was made a knight of the Bath, and in 1613 master of the wardrobe, while in 1615 he was created Lord Hay of Sawley, and took his seat in the House of Lords.
He was sent to France next year to negotiate the marriage of Princess Christina with Prince Charles, and on his return, being now a widower, married in 1617 Lady Lucy Percy (1599-1660), daughter of the 9th Earl of Northumberland, and was made a privy councillor. In 1618 he resigned the mastership of the wardrobe for a large sum in compensation. He was created Viscount Doncaster, and in February 1619 was despatched on a mission to Germany, where he identified himself with the cause of the elector palatine and urged James to make war in his support. In 1621 and 1622 he was sent to France to obtain peace for the Huguenots from Louis XIII, in which he was unsuccessful, and in September 1622 was created Earl of Carlisle. Next year he went to Paris on the occasion of Prince Charles's journey to Madrid, and again in 1624 to join Henry Rich, afterwards Lord Holland, in negotiating the prince's marriage with Henrietta Maria, when he advised James without success to resist Richelieu's demands on the subject of religious toleration.
On the 2nd of July 1627 Lord Carlisle obtained from the king a grant of all the Caribbean Islands, including Barbados, this being a confirmation of a former concession given by James I. He was also a patentee and councillor of the plantation of New England, and showed great zeal and interest in the colonies. He became gentleman of the bedchamber to King Charles I after his accession. In 1628, after the failure of the expedition to Rhe, he was sent to make a diversion against Richelieu in Lorraine and Piedmont; he counselled peace with Spain and the vigorous prosecution of the war with France, but on his return home found his advice neglected. He took no further part in public life, and died in March 1636.
Carlisle was a man of good sense and of accommodating temper, with some diplomatic ability. His extravagance and lavish expenditure, his double suppers and costly entertainments, were the theme of satirists and wonder of society, and his debts were said at his death to amount to more than £80,000. "He left behind him", says Clarendon, "a reputation of a very fine gentleman and a most accomplished courtier, and after having spent, in a very jovial life, above £400,000, which upon a strict computation he received from the crown, he left not a house or acre of land to be remembered by."
The first earl was succeeded by James, his only surviving son by his first wife, at whose death in 1660 without issue, the peerage became extinct in the Hay family.
Extracted from the entry for CARLISLE, EARLS OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.