The charms and wit of Lucy, Countess of Carlisle, second wife of James Hay, 1st Earl of Carlisle, which were celebrated in verse by all the poets of the day, including Carew, Cartwright, Herrick and Suckling, and by Sir Toby Matthew in prose, made her a conspicuous figure at the court of Charles I. There appears no foundation for the scandal which made her the mistress successively of Strafford and of Pym.
Strafford valued highly her sincerity and services, but after his death, possibly in consequence of a revulsion of feeling at his abandonment by the court, she devoted herself to Pym and to the interests of the parliamentary leaders, to whom she communicated the king's most secret plans and counsels. Her greatest achievement was the timely disclosure to Lord Essex of the king's intended arrest of the five members, which enabled them to escape. But she appears to have served both parties simultaneously, betraying communications on both sides, and doing considerable mischief in inflaming political animosities.
In 1647 she attached herself to the interests of the moderate Presbyterian party, which assembled at her house, and in the second Civil War showed great zeal and activity in the royal cause, pawned her pearl necklace for £1,500 to raise money for Lord Holland's troops, established communications with Prince Charles during his blockade of the Thames, and made herself the intermediary between the scattered bands of royalists and the queen. In consequence her arrest was ordered on the 21st of March 1649, and she was imprisoned in the Tower, whence she maintained a correspondence in cipher with the king through her brother, Lord Percy, till Charles went to Scotland. According to a royalist newsletter, while in the Tower she was threatened with the rack to extort information.
She was released on bail on the 25th of September 1650, but appears never to have regained her former influence in the royalist counsels, and died soon after the Restoration, on the 5th of November 1660.
Extracted from the entry for CARLISLE, EARLS OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.The initial phrase "The charms and wit of his second wife, Lucy, countess of Carlisle," has been replaced with the phrase "The charms and wit of Lucy, Countess of Carlisle, second wife of James Hay, 1st Earl of Carlisle"