Francis Hay was the son of Andrew, 8th Earl, and of Lady Jean Hay, daughter of William, 6th Earl. The date of his birth is unrecorded, but he succeeded to the earldom (created 1453) in 1585, was early converted to Roman Catholicism, and as the associate of Huntly joined in the Spanish conspiracies against the throne of Elizabeth.
A letter written by him, declaring his allegiance to the king of Spain, having been intercepted and sent by Elizabeth to James VI|James in February 1589, he was declared a rebel by the council. He engaged with Huntly and Crawford in a rebellion in the north of Scotland, but their forces surrendered at Aberdeen on the arrival of the king in April; and in July Erroll gave himself up to James, who leniently refrained from exacting any penalty. In September of the same year he entered into a personal bond with Huntly for mutual assistance; and in 1590 displeased the king by marrying, in spite of his prohibition, Lady Elizabeth Douglas, daughter of the Earl of Morton. He was imprisoned on suspicion of complicity in the attempt made by Gray and Bothwell to surprise the king at Falkland in June 1592; and though he obtained his release, he was again proclaimed a rebel on account of the discovery of his signature to two of the 'Spanish Blanks', unwritten sheets subscribed with the names of the chief conspirators in a plot for a Spanish invasion of Scotland, to be filled up later with the terms of the projected treaty. After a failure to apprehend him in March 1593, Erroll and his companions were sentenced to abjure Romanism or leave the kingdom; and on their non-compliance were in 1594 declared traitors. On the 3rd of October they defeated at Glenlivet a force sent against them under Argyll; though Erroll himself was severely wounded, and Slains Castle, his seat, razed to the ground.
The rebel lords left Scotland in 1595, and Erroll, on report of his further conspiracies abroad, was arrested by the states of Zealand, but was afterwards allowed to escape. He returned to Scotland secretly in 1596, and on the 10th of June 1597 abjured Romanism and made his peace with the Kirk. He enjoyed the favour of the king, and in 1602 was appointed a commissioner to negotiate the union with England. His relations with the Kirk, however, were not so amicable. The reality of his conversion was disputed, and on the 21st of May 1608 he was confined to the city of Perth "for the better resolution of his doubts", being subsequently declared an obstinate "papist", excommunicated, deprived of his estate, and imprisoned at Dumbarton; and after some further vacillation was finally released in May 1611. Lord Erroll died on the 16th of July 1631, and was buried in the church of Slains.
He married (1) Anne, daughter of John, 4th Earl of Atholl; (2) Margaret, daughter of the regent Murray; and (3) Elizabeth, daughter of William, 6th Earl of Morton. By his third wife he had several children, of whom his eldest son, William, succeeded him. The dispute which began in his lifetime concerning the hereditary office of lord high constable between the families of Erroll and of the Earl Marischal was settled finally in favour of the former; thus establishing the precedence enjoyed by the Earls of Erroll next after the royal family over all other subjects in Scotland.
See The Erroll Papers (Spalding Club Miscellany, vol. ii. 211); Andrew Lang, History of Scotland, vol. ii.; Historical Manuscripts Commission, Manuscripts of Earl of Mar and Kellie; D. Calderwood's History of the Church of Scotland; John Spalding's Memorials (Spalding Club, 1850); Collected Essays of T. G. Law, ed. by P. H. Brown (1904); Treason and Plot, by M.A.S. Hume (1901).
Being the entry for ERROLL (or ERROL), FRANCIS HAY, 9TH EARL OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.