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The Proctor family and the Scottish HAY Clan

The story has come down in Neil's wider family that they are descended via an illegitimate liaison with Earls of Erroll / Kinnoull (the Hay Clan of Scotland). This page explores whether the story is a genealogical joke or a link with Scottish nobility, and it concludes with some notes on the Hay Clan.

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A genealogical joke or a link with Scottish nobility?

Hay to Cryer line of descent

In an episode of the television programme So You Think You are Royal, a story had come down in a family that it was descended from the aristocracy. The genealogist investigated and concluded that the story was unfounded, and either a confidence trick or a joke that had become perpetuated as fact down through the generations. In Neil's wider family, there is a similar story. Although Neil himself knew nothing of it, it passed down the line of Sophia Jull (born Sophia Proctor) one of the daughters of Neil's great great great grandfather, Robert Proctor. It reached me via Lawrence Rush, a descendant of Edward Proctor, one of Robert's sons, who had himself only heard of it after making contact with a descendant of Sophia.

Having investigated the story as far as we can, there can be little doubt that it genuinely has been passed down through the generations. However, whether it is factual, a joke or a confidence trick has been impossible to verify. There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence supporting it, but that of course does not make it true. First of all, the story.

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The story

The story concerns the Scottish Earls of Erroll / Kinnoull. The Earl of Erroll holds the title of Lord High Constable of Scotland. As Lord High Constable, the Earl has precedence in Scotland before Dukes and every other hereditary honour. He is the first citizen of Scotland, preceding all except those members of the Blood Royal. The current incumbent and Chief of the Clan is Merlin Sereld Victor Gilbert Hay, 24th Earl of Erroll.

According to the story passed down to today's generation, an aristocratic Lady from the Hay Clan had an illegitimate child, fathered by either the cook or the groom, from whom was descended a son, either Robert Proctor (c1780-before 1841), Neil's great great great grandfather, or an ancestor of Robert. The name of the Lady was uncertain although the story came down through Sophia's descendants that it was Lady Sophia of the Earls of Kinnoull. Detailed investigation casts doubt on the Sophia name, so let us call her Lady X Hay while we draw some conclusions about her actual identity.


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The circumstantial evidence in support of the story

When an unmarried young woman of nobility found herself pregnant, the standard practice was to keep the matter quiet. She would be send away somewhere where no-one was likely to know the family, probably on some pretext like touring Europe. Then, after the birth, a family would be found who would take in the baby and bring it up, without having anything obvious to do with the real mother.

If Lady X Hay found herself in this position, a location in the south of England (like Kent where Neil's mother's family had its roots) would serve the purpose admirably, being almost as far from Scotland as anywhere in the British Isles. Yet, why would the Hays choose Kent in particular, when other counties in the south of England would serve almost as well? A ready answer lies in a number of historically facts:

So it is plausible, although not proven, that a branch of the Scottish Proctors moved to Kent and took in the illegitimate Hay baby.

More evidence of the link between the Proctors and the Hays lies in the way that the Hay name was perpetuated in the Proctor line. Neil's great great grandmother, Jane Hay Proctor, was by no means the only one to be given it: Robert's son, John Wellard Proctor, named his son Andrew Hay Proctor; Robert's son, Edward Proctor, named his son Walter Hay Proctor; and Robert's daughter Sophia's grandson was Edward Hay Jull.

Lawrence Rush's hunch, with which I concur, is that the alleged illegitimate baby would not have been far back from Robert Proctor and could well have been Robert himself. The reasoning, with which I concur, is that names and traditions tend to die out through the generations unless there is a direct reason to keep them going, and there was a flurry of Hay naming in and from Robert's children. Also, no convincing baptism record for Robert has ever been found, which, although in itself means nothing, would be in agreement with the secrecy with which the illegitimate Hay baby would have been brought into the world.

If the illegitimate Hay baby was indeed Robert Proctor, then to put a name to Lady X we have to look for a young female Hay aristocrat who was of childbearing age around the time of Robert's estimated birth, i.e. 1780 plus or minus a few years. My strong suspicion is that the name of Lady X got forgotten and reinvented as the story passed down the generations. My own family history research has shown numerous examples even over comparatively few years. Adding weight to my suspicion is the coincidence that the name of Sophia happened to be identical to that of Robert's daughter Sophia, through whose line the story passed. Certainly no Lady Sophia Hay fits the facts. For example one was the daughter of Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll and Elizabeth Douglas.1; she married John Gordon, 1st and last Viscount Melgum, son of George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly and Lady Henrietta Stuart, but that was in 1626.

The most likely name for Lady X is Augusta. This conclusion came about by my asking myself why Neil's great great great grandmother Jane Hay Proctor would give her firstborn daughter the name of Jane Augusta. Jane was of course her own name, and giving it to her daughter followed established tradition. But why Augusta? There was no Augusta in Jane Hay's husband's Bath line; Jane Augusta was not born in August, her mother was not Augusta and her grandmother, Robert's wife, was not Augusta. So maybe her great grandmother was.

Furthermore, Edward, a son of Robert Proctor, named one of his daughters Jane Augusta and she - like Neil's great great grandmother, born Jane Augusta Bath - was always known as Augusta. Edward's eldest son by his first marriage in turn called his daughter Louise Augusta.

Lady Augusta Hay did exist, and she fits the facts of the story perfectly...

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Lady Augusta Hay

Lady Augusta Hay was the third daughter of James Boyd (later Hay) 15th Earl of Erroll and his second wife, born Isabella Carr. Her younger sister was Lady Maria Elizabeth Hay (1771-1801) of the Proctor-Jull connection outlined above.

Lady Augusta was born in 1766, a date which fits perfectly with Robert Proctor's projected birth date of c1780. If Robert was born in 1780 that would have made Lady Augusta 14 years old at the time, which is not improbable, but it does suggest that Robert's birth year was nearer 1782. Robert's wife Sarah Wellard was born about 1779, so this would fit too.

Lady Augusta later married George Boyle, 4th Earl of Glasgow, son of John Boyle, 3rd Earl of Glasgow and Elizabeth Ross. She was 22 at the time: 8 March 1788. Her children did well for themselves: Her daughter Augusta Boyle married Lord Frederick Fitz-Clarence, son William 4th of Hanover, King of England. (He had 10 illegitimate children with Dorothea Bland whilst still with his first wife Caroline and before marrying his second wife. Interestingly King William's daughter by Dorothea, Elizabeth Fitz-Clarence, married Sir William George Hay, 18th Earl of Erroll, and there were four children. It is also worth mentioning that King William's daughters included a Sophia, Augusta, Mary and Elizabeth - all given names perpetuated in the Hay family.)

Lady Augusta Hay, took over the Etal estate in Northumberland. Yet when she died on 23 July 1822 at the age of 56, it was in the south of England at the Old Kent House in Knightsbridge, where only a few years earlier Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (the father of Queen Victoria) installed his mistress Madame de St Laurent. Augusta was interred in St Marylebone which must have meant a lot to her because that was where her son by George Boyle, 4th Earl of Glasgow, James Boyle-Carr, 5th Earl of Glasgow and was baptised. Augusta's other son by George Boyle was John who died in Tunbridge Wells but was also buried in Marylebone Church on 16 March 1818. Significantly for the Proctor-Hay story, it was also where Robert Proctor's first daughter Elizabeth Ann was baptised.

So, is the Proctor-Hay story a work of fiction, a confidence trick, a joke on future generations or a factual account? We may never know, but wherever the truth lies, it is an intriguing story.

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Some notes on the Hay family

A number of websites claim that the Hays originated from the Norman princes de La Haye who were part of William the Conqueror's army that swept into England in 1066. Members of the family were certainly in Scotland in the 12th century - William de La Haye was a cup bearer to King Malcolm IV who reigned between 1153 and 1165 and he was given the charter to lands around Errol a few years later. However, a story under the heading of History and Legends by John Mackey cites Hays living in Scotland much earlier, back to before the 10th century, but - even if the story is accurate - these Hays would not necessarily be the same line. Judging by the influence and affluence of the Hays, it is most likely that they were rewarded by William the Conqueror for their support.

Returning to recorded fact: The wide ranging Hays were already established at Yester in East Lothianeven before the year 1200, and the Marquess of Tweeddale who is patron of the Hay Society, owns the same land today. Furthermore, in the Records of Scotland the Hays appear in the 12th century when King William the Lion granted William de Hay a charter of the lands of the barony of Erroll. Today, the village of Errol is at the heart of that land now called the Carse of Gowrie.

The first Earl of Kinnoull was George Hay in 1633 and the first Earl of Erroll was created in 1452. The Earls of Kinnoull, or at least the first Earl, was High Chancellor of Scotland - which expired in 1707 following the Treaty of Union with England. The Earls of Erroll hold the higher office of Lord High Constable. By all accounts, the Kinnoulls seem to be the 'junior' Earls compared to the Errolls.

The official website of the Hay Clan contains much more about the Hay Clan.

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This website Cryer family history is Pat Cryer. For applications to reproduce text or images, click here.