Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hyde, Laurence

HYDE, LAURENCE, Earl of Rochester (1641–1711), second son of Edward Hyde, first earl of Clarendon [q. v.], and of his second wife, was born in March 1641. On the return of the family to England at the Restoration, Laurence entered parliament as member for Newport in Cornwall, but from April 1661 to the dissolution in July 1679 sat as representative of the university of Oxford. In October 1661 he took part in an embassy to congratulate Louis XIV on the birth of a dauphin, and from May 1662 till 1675 was master of the robes. In 1665 he married Lady Harrietta, daughter of Richard Boyle, first earl of Burlington [q. v.], who proved herself a devoted though perhaps not a discreet wife. Hyde, who with his elder brother Henry (1638–1709) [q. v.] warmly defended their father on his impeachment (1667), afterwards described himself as having been 'much exposed to his own free choice and direction for seven years by his father's banishment and his mother's death,' and as having been 'absolutely left to it' after his father's death (9 Dec. 1674). The unfinished 'Meditations,' composed by him on the first anniversary of that event (printed in Diary and Correspondence, i. Appendix, 645-50), prove his anxiety for his father's fame, which he pretends to have to some extent jeopardised by advising him to quit England. He adds that during the seven years of his father's exile he attended him but twice, spending with him not more than five weeks in all (cf. Pepys, v.100).

In June 1676 Hyde was named ambassador extraordinary to John III (Sobieski), king of Poland (Diary and Corresp. i. 589-90, 590-624). After being received at Danzig by Queen Maria Casimira Louisa, he journeyed to the king's headquarters at Leopol, and there, after some hesitation, helped to bring about the compromise with the Turks, which was confirmed two years later in Constantinople (ib. pp. 633-6; cf. Zinkeisen, Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches in Europa, v. 80-1). In accordance with the king's instructions, he made representations to the king of Poland on behalf of the protestants of the country (Diary and Correspondence, i. 14-15). His mission came to an end in October, when he proceeded to Vienna, in order to condole with the emperor, Leopold I, on the death of his second consort (Claudia Felicitas). Finding, however, that the emperor had already married again, he forthwith continued his journey to the Netherlands, where (January 1677) he found a commission awaiting him as one of the ambassador-mediators at the congress of Nimeguen. According to Temple ('Memoirs,' pt. iii., in Works, edit. 1750, i. 440), while by his advice Hyde accepted the offer, he modestly excused himself from ' entering into the management of any conferences or despatches ' (cf. Hyde's ' Diary ' in Diary and Correspondence, i. 624-32). In the September following he was, however, on Temple's recommendation, again sent to Nimeguen, with special instructions to urge the Prince of Orange to press on the peace before visiting England (ib. pp.637-41; cf. Temple, i. 450-1). After again visiting England Hyde returned to the Hague in August 1678, and promised the States General armed assistance. But they had concluded their particular treaty with France, and the promise came too late. Temple, who had not been consulted, describes Hyde as having the mortification to return to England in September, on the exchange of the notifications of the Nimeguen treaty, 'with the entire disappointment of the design upon which he came, and believed the court so passionately bent ' (ib. i. 474-5).

In the new parliament which met in March 1679 Hyde took his seat among the reduced court party as member for Wootton Bassett. The treasury having, after Danby's resignation, been put into commission, he was on 26 March named one of the lords (Burnet, ii. 202). During the following months he was much in the confidence of the absent Duke of York, whose renunciation of Catholicism he would, however, have gladly welcomed as a solution of the problem (Diary and Correspondence, i. 42-7). The dismissal of Shaftesbury and the resignation of Essex which followed amidst the agitations of the latter part of the year made it necessary, though Halifax remained in office, for the crown to depend on new men. The leading ministers were now Sunderland, Godolphin, and Hyde, who was on 19 Nov. appointed first lord of the treasury and a privy councillor. To the public the ' young statesmen ' were `the chits,' and the first tory administration that has eo nomine conducted English affairs seemed a 'jest' (cf. the epigram in Dryden, Works, ed. Scott, xv. 273-5). Hyde having continued staunch against exclusion (cf. Diary and Correspondence, i. 49), the House of Commons revenged itself upon him, his elder brother, and their relative, the Marquis of Worcester, by voting addresses against them as ' men inclined to popery ' (Reresby, p. 48, 4 Jan. 1681). Hyde vindicated himself with vehemence (according to Burnet, ii. 255, even with tears), and at the instance of his friend Sir William Jones, the words relating to popery were ultimately struck out of the address. On 23 April 1681 (cf. Reresby, pp.201, 211) he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Hyde of Kenilworth; and when, after the dissolution of the Oxford parliament, the full tide of the reaction had set in, he was glorified in Dryden's great legitimist satire as the manly Hushai, 'the friend of David in distress,' and extolled as sparing of the public while liberal of his own money (Absalom and Achitophel, pt. i. 888-897). The length which he was prepared to go in the service of his master was soon shown by the worst act of his political life, his negotiation with Barillon of the secret subsidy treaty with France of 1681. This was at the time when his correspondent, the Prince of Orange, was impressing upon him that `it is only by you in England that the Netherlands can be saved ' (Diary and Correspondence,i.56sqq.; cf.ib.pp.79,89). Against the opinion of Halifax, who had remained in office, he continued to deprecate the calling of parliament (Reresby, p. 235), and rose higher and higher in the goodwill of the king. In August, and again in September, Evelyn (ii. 398-9) speaks of Hyde as 'the great favourite.' On 29 Nov. he was created Earl of Rochester. Of the high tory reaction during the last years of Charles II he must be regarded as a principal instrument.

But though he was protected both by the Duke of York and by the Duchess of Portsmouth, Rochester's natural arrogance made him many enemies. Among these was Halifax, with whom he had co-operated as to the Exclusion Bill, but from whom he had differed as to the policy of convoking parliament. The quarrel doubtless owed its origin to Halifax's jealousy of Sunderland, who was restored to office with Rochester's help (cf. Reresby, pp. 268–96; Burnet, ii. 338 sqq.). Finally, Rochester treated a charge of fraud brought by Halifax against certain contractors as implying an accusation of corruption against himself. The king's intention of annulling the obnoxious contract was frustrated by his death (cf. Reresby, pp. 268–96; cf. Lives of the Norths, iii. 148–51). In the meantime, parliament remaining unconvoked, Rochester maintained himself in power (Reresby, pp. 300, 305), although his overbearing demeanour made him unpopular at court, and did him harm with the king (Burnet, ii. 444, where the ‘stop of all payments’ is said to have been imputed to him). He was disappointed of his hope of being made lord treasurer; and when, in August 1684, he was promoted to the lord presidency of the council, he was declared by Halifax to have been ‘kicked upstairs’ (Macauley, i. 277; cf. Reresby, pp. 307–8; Evelyn, ii. 434; Diary and Correspondence, i. 94–6). Shortly afterwards (October), when Ormonde was recalled from Ireland, Rochester was, through the influence of the Duke of York, appointed his successor (see Diary and Correspondence, i. 96–105). He was not, however, on this occasion to cross the Channel. On 25 Jan. 1685 his daughter, Lady Ossory, died; and in the ‘Meditations’ which he put to paper on the first anniversary of this event (printed ib. i. 170–5) he relates how, his 'soul being gone,' and his wife 'lying weak and worn with continual sickness,' he resolved to retire into privacy and contemplation. He does not add that 2 Feb. 1685 had been fixed by the king for the investigation, suggested by Halifax, of the treasury books formerly under his control, and that a rumour was abroad that he 'would be turned out of all, and sent to the Tower' (Burnet, ii. 446, corroborated, according to Macauley, i.429 note, by the treasury books). On the previous night Charles II was mortally ill; on 6 Feb. he died; and ten days afterwards Rochester was made lord treasurer (Reresby, p. 316). In the course of the year several minor appointments were in addition bestowed on him, and on 29 June he was created K.G. (Doyle). Among those who speedily claimed his good offices in his new position was the Prince of Orange, at that time desirous of a reconciliation with his father-in-law (Diary and Correspondence, i. 115 sqq.); in return Rochester advised the prince to remove Monmouth from Holland (ib. i. 122). After Sedgmoor, Monmouth from Ringwood solicited Rochester's intercession with King James (ib. p.143).

Neither Rochester nor his brother in Ireland could look without distrust upon the development of the policy of the new king under the influence of the catholic clique, which came to the front towards the end of 1685. Sunderland seems early in December to have begun his manœuvres for the overthrow of the Hydes, and more especially of Rochester. While successfully undermining the position of Clarendon [q.v.] in Ireland, Sunderland at home alienated Queen Mary of Modena from Rochester and the other relatives and friends of the king's first wife (Reresby, p.349). Rochester was certainly believed to have been implicated in the unsuccessful intrigue to detach the king from the influence of the queen and the jesuits by means of his mistress, Catharine Sedley, just created Countess of Dorchester (Macauley, ii. 73, note; Diary and Correspondence, ii. 314, note). The temporary retirement of Lady Dorchester to Ireland, and the resentment of the queen, palpably diminished his influence. The rumour in March (Ellis Correspondence, i. 59) that he was to receive a dukedom was probably idle. What Roger North regards as his second infirmity, his love of the bottle, caused him at times to betray apprehensions of the decline of his authority (Bonrepaux ap. Macauley, ii. 75, note). In the vain hope of averting his fall, he agreed in the autumn of this year (1686) to serve on the ecclesiastical commission which the king was preparing to use against the church of England (if Burnet, iii. 111, is to be trusted), and he yielded to the peremptory command of the king by voting for the suspension of Henry Compton [q.v.], the bishop of London.

According to the account which Burnet (iii. 122 seqq.) professed to have derived from Rochester himself, the king had since Monmouth's execution never consulted him except on treasury business, in which he had recently proved his usefulness by procuring a loan (cf. Macauley, ii. 147). Finally James, on the direct suggestion of Sunderland (Clarke, Life of James II, ii. 100), pressed Rochester to allow himself to be ‘instructed in religion,’ and after some demur the latter agreed to a conference, at which two English clergymen should attend to confront the priests. The conference was held on 30 Nov. Rochester's enemies, according to Burnet, made his wife responsible for this step; but this Rochester denied. According to the same hostile evidence (which herein substantially agrees with that of Dalrymple, i. 182–3), Rochester had before the conference become convinced that nothing could avert his fall, and consequently bore himself so haughtily and contemptuously towards the priestly disputants that the king broke up the meeting. On 7 Dec. he had an audience with the king, from whom, in return for assurances and complaints, he received permission to act according to his conscience (Diary and Correspondence, ii. 87-91). At a final audience on 10 Dec. the necessity of his dismissal was announced to him. The king was clearly ashamed afterwards of his share in the transaction (Clarke, ii. 98-9). As for Rochester, however complicated the motives of his conduct may have been (see Macauley, ii. 147), the fact remains that he held out where many gave way, and that his final decision set an example to many protestant waverers (cf. Hallam, Constitutional History, 10th ed., iii. 66, note ; and see the enthusiastic praise of Clarendon in Diary and Correspondence, ii. 132). Rochester's dismissal, which took effect on 4 Jan. 1687, caused great excitement at court (the spiteful ' epitaph ' composed on the occasion cannot possibly be Dryden's ; see Scott's Dryden, xv. 279) . It was, however, softened by the grant of an annual pension of 4,000l. out of the post office for two lives, and of forfeited Irish lands valued at about 2,000l. a year in addition (Ellis Correspondence, i. 218-19).

The next months of Rochester's life were saddened by the illness of his wife (Dartmouth MS. 131; Ellis Correspondence, i. 259), who died on 12 April 1687 (Doyle). As governor of the Merchant Adventurers of England, he was placed on a commission for preventing the exportation of wool(Ellis Correspondence, ii. 13); but otherwise he kept away from public affairs. In July he paid a visit to Spa (ib. i. 314-15), but on his return he notes (6 Oct.) the continuance of the king's estrangement from him (Dartmouth MS. 146). Having, however, in the course of the year been appointed to the lord-lieutenancy of Hertfordshire, he in November and December showed himself ready to respond to the wish of the court by helping to pack a parliament (Macauley, ii. 324).

When William of Orange had landed in England, and King James was on the point of setting out for Salisbury, Rochester joined with his old adversary Halifax in suggesting and signing a petition for the calling of a free parliament and the opening of negotiations with the prince (ib. p. 501). At the council of peers held by the king on his return from the west (27 Nov.), Rochester vehemently urged the same course (Diary and Correspondence, ii. 209). Yet William seems, notwithstanding their former intimacy, to have been at this time strongly prepossessed against him (ib. ii. 217; cf. 348 n.), and received him very coldly when presented to him on 16 Dec. at Windsor by Clarendon (ib. p. 227) ; and this although only a few days earlier (11 Dec.) Rochester had signed the peers' order designed to prevent any action on the part of the English fleet against the prince (Dartmouth MSS. 229; cf. 232, 280). In the critical debates which ensued Rochester spoke resolutely against the settlement of the crown on William and Mary, and in favour of the alternative plan of a regency, which Sancroft suggested (Evelyn, iii. 70; cf. Burnet, iii. 376) . In consequence, he altogether lost the favour of the Princess Mary (Diary and Correspondence, ii. 264). When, however, the date (2 March 1689) arrived for members of the houses to take the oaths to the new government, or forfeit their seats, Rochester, unlike Clarendon [q.v.], submitted. Macaulay (iii. 33) considers the amount of Rochester's pension and its importance to himself and his family a sufficient explanation of his conduct. In July of this year he appealed to Burnet through the Countess of Ranelagh to use his influence for the continuance of this pension (Burnet, vi. 295 seqq.) In April 1691 he was again in communication with Burnet on behalf of his imprisoned elder brother (ib. pp. 301-3); in return he was about the same time employed by the bishop, though without success, as intermediary with the nonjuring prelates (ib. iv. 128). By declining to interfere actively in the queen's difference with her sister Anne concerning the dismissal of the Marlboroughs he regained Queen Mary's goodwill; though considerable deductions must be made from the assertion of the duchess that Rochester was ' the queen's oracle ' and ' the prosecutor of the ill-usage of the princess' Anne (Account of the Conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough, pp.54 seqq., 72, 93 seqq., 123). It was about this time that he was (1 March 1692) readmitted to the privy council; and by the following year he had certainly acquired a considerable influence over Queen Mary, especially in church matters (Burnett, iv. 210-11). Thus, in the following years he could again assert himself at the head of the high church party by attempting obstruction and obnoxious legislation (Macaulay, iv. 476 ; Burnet, iv. 255), and by seeking to embroil affairs in general by constitutional quibbling and factious interpellations (ib. iv. 251; Macaulay, iv. 476). When the association on behalf of the king was formed after the discovery of the assassination plot in 1696, Rochester formulated a paraphrase of the term 'rightful and lawful king' for the use of the tories (Burnet, iv. 306-7); but in December of the same year he was one of the chief opponents of the bill of attainder against Fenwick, and signed the protest against it (ib. iv. 351 n.; Macauley, v. 218). On the reconstitution of the ministry towards the close of William's reign he was (12 Dec. 1700) named lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and virtually placed at the head of affairs, with Harley as manager of the commons (Burnet, iv. 470; cf. Evelyn, iii. 155). But William seems soon to have found that Rochester's imperious temper and manner were unredeemed by any commanding political ability; instead of controlling his party he could only stimulate it to factiousness, so that the year in which he was at the head of affairs seemed to the king `one of the uneasiest of his whole life.' Expostulations followed; and, after the king had gone to Holland in June, Rochester, who had (partly, perhaps, on account of indisposition) delayed his departure as long as possible, at last started for Ireland in September (Burnet, iv. 536; cf. Diary and Correspondence, ii. 381 ; and see ib. pp. 357 seqq., 431 seqq.) His stay in Ireland was too brief to exercise much influence upon the relations between the two kingdoms. According to Burnet, the unalterable confidence reposed in him by the establishment enabled him to oblige ' people of all sorts, dissenters as well as papists;' in one instance in his treatment of the halfway officers his measures were so harsh as to be disavowed by the king (Diary and Correspondence, ii. 348-9, 403).

Early in 1702 William III informed Rochester of the termination of his lord-lieutenancy; but at the king's death (8 March) Queen Anne retained her uncle in office. She seemed resolved to trust him as of old, and in token of her goodwill named one of his daughters a lady of her bedchamber (Conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough, pp. 123, 133). He had, however, returned to England, and when urged by the queen to go back to his post delayed his departure (see ib. p. 141). In truth, he was intent upon recovering supreme ministerial authority at home with the aid of the interest of the church, to which Queen Anne was so warmly attached. He seized an early opportunity of showing his care for convocation (Burnet, v. 17); and as the spirits of the high church clergy rose, so did their expectations from his leadership,more especially as they resented the apathy of Godolphin towards the bill against Occasional Conformity. Rochester was, however, unable to maintain himself in office against the Marlborough influence, and resigned his lord-lieutenancy on 4 Feb. 1703. The same influence continued to depress his fortunes during the greater part of the reign. Towards the succession question he bore himself cautiously, not involving himself with the Jacobites, and remaining on good terms with Hanover (Diary and Correspondence, ii. 459; cf. Burnet, iv. 497); in 1705 he even, from factious motives, suggested an establishment for the Electress Sophia in England (ib. v. 190, 231). He continued to put himself forward as the champion of the church, opposing both the Regency Bill in 1705 and the Scottish union in 1707 on ecclesiastical grounds (ib. v. 237-8, 294). The goodwill of his clients is shown by his election in 1709 to the high-stewardship of the university of Oxford, of which in 1700 he had been made a D.C.L. (Doyle). In 1707 he also took part in those complaints against the admiralty which wounded the queen by reflecting on her husband. But at the crisis of 1710 he shared the good fortune of the tory party, and 21 Sept. was once more made lord president of the council (Burnet, vi. 12). He died suddenly in the night of 1-2 May 1711 at his house near the Cockpit, having written a letter on cabinet business to Dartmouth only a few hours before (see Dartmouth MSS. 305; cf. Swift, Journal to Stella, 3 May 1711).

In 1702-4 Rochester published his father's great historical work. Clarendon's will had left all his papers and writings at the disposal of both his eldest and his second son, but Rochester was chiefly responsible for the publication. He composed the dignified, though towards the close rather unctuous, preface to the first volume (1702), and the dedications to the queen of the second (1703) and third (1704), written with a more direct partisan purpose of extolling the principles of the high church party. (For the evidence showing Rochester to have been the author of these introductions, sometimes ascribed to Dean Aldrich, cf. Horace Walpole, Letters, ed. Cunningham, iii. 159; preface to History of the Rebellion, ed. W. D. Macray, 1888, i. p. ix; Lady Theresa Lewis, i. 67*-87*; and for Rochester's interest in a French translation of the 'History' by de la Conseillère de Meherène, vol. i. 1705, see Diary and Correspondence, ii. 458.) Rochester had indisputably inherited from his father certain literary gifts as well as tastes, and was both an effective and a facile writer. He posed too as a patron of letters. Dryden and Lee dedicated to him their 'Duke of Guise' (1683), and the former his 'Cleomenes' (1692). He proved himself for the most part an assiduous and adroit man of business. As a courtier he showed more suppleness in his relations with a varied succession of rulers than might have seemed natural to him; and Burnet declares him to have been `the smoothest man in the court' till success turned his head and made him insolent. Roger North, who says that in his passion he would 'swear like a cutter,' adds that he was too prone to indulgence in wine. His enemy the Duchess of Marlborough further describes him as consumed by petty vanity and love of trifling ceremonies (Account of Conduct, p.98). But it is impossible on this subject to trust either her or Halifax, who with aristocratic spite referred to him as 'scarce a gentleman' (Reresby, p.273). Though he began his public career as a diplomatist, he was, as King William found in his latter days, little versed in foreign affairs. The strength of his position lay in his being long accounted the head of the church of England party; and at the crucial moment under James II he showed himself worthy of the confidence placed in him. In his domestic relations he was unexceptionable. He is described by Macky as of middle stature, well-shaped, and of a brown complexion. A portrait of him and his wife by Lely, and another of him by Wissing, are preserved at the Grove, Watford.

His only son Henry (1672-1753) became fourth and last Earl of Clarendon, and second and last Earl of Rochester of the Hyde family. He is noticed under his wife, Jane Hyde. Rochester also had four daughters Anne, first wife of James Butler, second duke of Ormonde [q. v.]; Henrietta, wife of James Scott, earl of Dalkeith; Mary, first wife of Francis Seymour, first lord Conway; and Catherine, who was unmarried.

[The Correspondence of Rochester and his elder brother, with the Diary of Clarendon from 1687-90, and that of Rochester during his Polish embassy in 1676, was edited with notes and biographical introductions by S. W. Singer (2 vols. 1828), and is here cited as Diary and Correspondence. This includes the whole of the State Letters of Henry, Earl of Clarendon, edited, with a preface vindicating his memory (by Dr. Douglas, bishop of Salisbury), for the Clarendon Press, 2 vols. 1763, and reprinted at Dublin in 1765. See also Burnet's Hist. of his own Time, 6 vols. 1833; Evelyn's Diary and Correspondence, ed. H. B. Wheatley, 4 vols. 1879; Memoirs of Sir John Reresby, ed. J. J. Cartwright, 1875; Manuscripts of the Earl of Dartmouth, Hist. MSS. Comm. llth Rep. App. pt. v. 1887; Roger North's Lives of the Norths, 3 vols. 1826; Clarke's Life of James II, 2 vols. 1816; Ellis Correspondence, 2 vols. 1829; [Hooke's] Account of the Conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough, 1742; [Fielding's] Vindication of the Duchess of Marlborough, 1742; Dalrymple's Memoirs, 3 vols. 1790; Macaulay's Hist. of England, 5 vols. 1857-1861. See also Lady T. Lewis's Lives of the Friends and Contemporaries of Lord Chancellor Clarendon, 3 vols. 1852; Lister's Life of Clarendon, 1837-8; Doyle's Baronage.]

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