Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 28.djvu/403

This page has been validated.

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