Lawrence Hyde, Earl Rochester - Encyclopedia

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LAWRENCE HYDE ROCHESTER, Earl of (1641-1711), English statesman, second son of Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, was born in March 1641. After the restoration of Charles II. he sat as member of parliament, first for Newport in Cornwall and afterwards for the university of Oxford, from 1660 to 1679. In 1661 he was sent on a complimentary embassy to Louis XIV. of France, while he held the court post of master of the robes from 1662 to 1675. In 1665 he married Henrietta (d. 1687), daughter of Richard Boyle, earl of Burlington and Cork. When his father was impeached in 1667, Lawrence joined with his elder brother, Henry, in defending him in parliament, but the fall of Clarendon did not injuriously affect the fortunes of his sons. They were united with the royal family through the marriage of their sister, Anne, with the duke of York, afterwards James II., and were both able and zealous royalists. In 1676 Lawrence Hyde was sent as ambassador to Poland; he then travelled to Vienna, whence he proceeded to Nijmwegen to take part in the peace congress as one of the English representatives. Having returned to England, he entered the new parliament, which met early in 1679, as member for Wootton Bassett; in November 1679 he was appointed first lord of the treasury, and for a few years he was the principal adviser of Charles II. In April 1681 he was created Viscount Hyde of Kenilworth, and in November following earl of Rochester. He was compelled to join in arranging the treaty of 1681, by which Louis XIV. agreed to pay a subsidy to Charles, at the very moment when he was imploring William, prince of Orange, to save Europe from the ambitions of the French monarch. The conflict between his wishes and his interests may have tended to sour a temper never very equable; at all events the earl made himself so unpleasant to his colleagues that in August 1684 he was removed from the treasury to the more dignified, but less influential, post of president of the council, a process which his enemy Halifax described as being "kicked upstairs." Although appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland, Rochester did not take up this position; he was still president of the council when James II. became king in February 1685, and he was at once appointed to the important office of lord treasurer. But in spite of their family relationship and their long friendship, James and his treasurer did not agree. The king wished to surround himself with Roman Catholic advisers; the earl, on the other hand, looked with alarm on his master's leanings to that form of faith. In January 1687 he was removed from his office of treasurer, being solaced with a pension of £4000 a year and a gift of Irish lands.

After the revolution of 1688 Rochester appeared as a leader of the Tories, and he opposed ' the election of William and Mary as king and queen, raising his voice for the establishment of a regency on behalf of the exiled James. But he soon reconciled himself to the new order, perhaps because he could not retain his pension unless he took the oaths of allegiance. After this he was quickly in the royal favour and again a member of the privy council. He advised the queen in ecclesiastical matters, and returned to his former position as the leader of the High Church party. From December 1700 until February 1703 he was lord lieutenant of Ireland, although he did not spend much time in that country, and the concluding years of his public life were mainly passed in championing the interests of the Church. In 1710 he was again made lord president of the council. He died on the 2nd of May 1711, and was succeeded by his only son, Henry (1672-1758), who in 1724 inherited the earldom of Clarendon. When Henry died without issue on the 10th of December 1758 all his titles became extinct.

Lawrence Hyde had some learning and a share of his father's literary genius. The main employment of his old age was the preparation for the press of his father's History of the Rebellion, to which he wrote a preface. Like most of the men of his time, he drank deeply, and he was of an arrogant disposition and had a violent temper. In Dryden's satire of Absalom and Achitophel he is "Hushai," the friend of David in distress.

The correspondence of Rochester with his brother the earl of Clarendon, together with other letters written by him, was published with notes by S. W. Singer (1828). Other authorities are G. Burnet, History of his Own Time, edited by O. Airy (Oxford, 18 971900); John Evelyn, Diary, edited by H. B. Wheatley (1879); and Macaulay, History of England.

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