Today, 31 December 2020, is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Prince Charles Edward Casimir, better known to posterity as Bonnie Prince Charlie.
He was born in Rome, the elder son of James Francis Edward, legitimate heir to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland, as the only son of the deposed King James VII. In 1744 his father appointed him regent, and he headed for Scotland to lead the ill-fated Jacobite Rising of 1745, which ended in defeat on Culloden Moor on 16 April 1746.
Prince Charles Edward’s life thereafter was one of disappointment. Although only 25 at the end of the Forty-Five, he spent the rest of his days in bitterness, lacking purpose as the realisation gradually dawned that the Jacobite ship had sailed, and he would never recover his family’s inheritance. Eventually, he descended into alcoholism and the abuse of his wife, girlfriend and daughter, although he was later reconciled with his daughter Charlotte, whom he legitimised and on whose heirs he pinned his hopes of an eventual restoration.
Many Scottish families were divided on the Jacobite question and the Hays are no exception. The then chief, the Countess of Erroll, mustered her tenants and sent them into the Prince’s service under the command of her chamberlain, William Moir, where they served in the regiment commanded by Lord Lewis Gordon. Another prominent north-east Hay, Andrew Hay of Rannes, served as a major in Pitsligo’s Horse, a regiment that also contained his cousins of Arnbath, Mountblairy and Asleid.
By contrast, the lowland Hays tended to favour the government side. The fourth Marquis of Tweeddale was Secretary of State for Scotland at the time, whilst his brother spent 1745 fighting against France in the British Army. However, William Hay of Drumelzier was a sympathetic Jacobite, albeit a timid one, although is brother William Hay of Eddington fought for the Prince in the Spanish Irish Grenadiers. One of the most prominent of the Hay Jacobites also came of the border branch: John Hay of Restalrig was appointed private secretary to Prince Charles Edward in succession to John Murray of Broughton, although Restalrig’s track record means he is not remembered in a positive light.
Hays from all walks of life fought for the Prince. Among them was the direct ancestor of our member and well-known bagpipe maker Burgess Hay, from Badenyon in the Aberdeenshire parish of Strathdon. Burgess’s forebear served throughout the rising and fought at Culloden, in the regiment of his local laird, John Gordon of Glenbuchat. ‘Old Glenbuchat,’ as he was known, was one of the most notable of Jacobite veterans, who had fought at Killiecrankie alongside Bonnie Dundee nearly 60 years before.