Josslyn Victor Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll

I’m reading Marcus Scriven’s Splendour & Squalor: The Disgrace and Disintegration of Three Aristocratic Dynasties (2009), and boy do I have a fun story for you today.

At the end of the book, Scrivens includes an endnote (no. 2, p.349):

‘Edgar Vincent (1857-1941), 1st and last Viscount D’Abernon . . . was ambassador in Berlin from 1920 to 1926. His private secretary for his first two years in post was Josslyn (‘Joss’) Victor Hay, later the 22nd Earl of Erroll, who subsequently resigned from the Diplomatic Service, embraced (and, possibly, renounced) National Socialism, settled (perhaps not the right word) in Kenya, where he was horse-whipped outside Nairobi railway station by Major Cyril Ramsay-Hill (whose wife he later married) and was murdered on 24 January 1941.


But sheezus that is one jam-packed endnote.

Like most good aristocrats of his time (1901-1941), his family was distinguished but impoverished. Also like most good aristocrats, he got kicked out of Eton.

Joss was supposed to follow his father’s footsteps into diplomacy (Joss had passed the Foreign Office exam, after all), but that was quickly shot to shit in his early twenties when he met and fell in love with Lady Idina Sackville. She was married at the time and almost a decade older than Joss. 

Idina had previous form, too. About four years previously, she left her first husband, Captain Euan Wallace and married Captain Charles Gordon. I’m unclear whether she left Euan for Charles, but she married Charles almost the red-hot second her divorce was clear, so it’s possible.

This brings us to four years later, when she met Joss and presumably left her second husband for him. They had one daughter and their marriage lasted for seven years before they divorced. Apparently she left him because he had accumulated a great number of debts and was swindling her. Joss married again almost instantly and, again, true to form, Idina was also remarried (to husband number four) shortly after the divorce. Marriage to husband number four lasted for eight years and ended in divorce.

And then (sing it if you know the words) within the year she was married to husband number five. Their marriage lasted seven years before they divorced (there was no husband number six lined up, however, and she died nine years after that).


He and his second wife lived in Kenya amongst a group of wealthy expats known as ‘The Happy Valley Set‘. They were known for their exceptionally debauched lifestyle–they were hard-drinking, drug-taking, promiscuous, debt-riddled, the whole shebang.

In the mid-’30s, Joss joined the British Union of Fascists and became a super fanboy of Hitler. It goes without saying that he was also a rabid anti-Semite. Charming.

In 1939, his second wife died (I’m not sure how). But within the year, Joss was having an affair with Lady Diana Broughton, the wife of Sir Jock Delves Broughton, Baronet.

Sir Jock (I’m sorry, that is the most ridiculous name. It’s like you’ve asked middle schoolers to write a play about the Middle Ages) found out about his wife’s affair with Joss. Shortly thereafter, Joss was found shot dead in his car. Sir Jock was the prime suspect and was arrested for the murder. However, there were no witnesses to the murder, the evidence they had on Sir Jock didn’t really stand up in a court of law, and Sir Jock’s barber was the foreman of the jury and therefore not exactly impartial.

He was acquitted of the murder, but committed suicide a year later.

Meanwhile, Joss’s 15-year old daughter, Diana, whom he had with Idina, inherited his earldom  and became the 23rd Countess of Erroll (in one of the rare instances where a title and estate passed through the female line). She died young, as well, at age 52, but the cause of her death has never been revealed by the family.

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