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Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester

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Title: Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester  
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Subject: Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, Anne, Queen of Great Britain, John Robartes, 1st Earl of Radnor, John Somers, 1st Baron Somers, Francis Scott, 2nd Duke of Buccleuch
Collection: 1641 Births, 1642 Births, 1711 Deaths, 17Th-Century English Diplomats, Ambassadors of England to Poland, Earls of Rochester, English Mps 1660, English Mps 1661–79, English Mps 1679, Hyde Family (English Aristocracy), Knights of the Garter, Lord High Treasurers, Lord Presidents of the Council, Lord-Lieutenants of Cornwall, Lord-Lieutenants of Hertfordshire, Members of the Pre-1707 English Parliament for Constituencies in Cornwall, Members of the Pre-1707 Parliament of England for the University of Oxford, Members of the Privy Council of England, Younger Sons of Earls
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Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester

The Right Honourable
The Earl of Rochester
Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, by Willem Wissing (c. 1685-1687).
First Lord of the Treasury
In office
Monarch Charles II
Preceded by The Earl of Essex
Succeeded by The Lord Godolphin
Lord President of the Council
In office
24 August 1684 – 18 February 1685
Monarch Charles II
James II
Preceded by The Earl of Radnor
Succeeded by The Marquess of Halifax
In office
21 September 1710 – 13 June 1711
Monarch Anne
Preceded by Lord Somers
Succeeded by The Duke of Buckingham and Normanby
Lord High Treasurer
In office
Monarch James II
Preceded by
Succeeded by
The Lord Belasyse
as Lord High Treasurer Commission
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
In office
Monarch William III
Preceded by Lords Justices
Succeeded by The Duke of Ormonde
Personal details
Born March 1642
Died 2 May 1711
London, England
Resting place Westminster Abbey
Political party Tory
Children Henry Hyde, Anne Hyde, Mary Hyde, Henrietta Hyde
Religion Anglican

Laurence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester KG PC (March 1642 – 2 May 1711) was an English statesman and writer. He was originally a supporter of James II but later supported the Glorious Revolution in 1688. He held high office under Anne, but their frequent disagreements limited his influence.


  • Early life 1
  • Family 2
  • Early career 3
  • Reign of James II 4
  • Glorious Revolution 5
  • Later life 6
  • Literature 7
  • Legacy 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early life

The second son of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon and his wife, Frances Aylesbury, Hyde was a near contemporary of King Charles II of England. He was baptized at St Margaret's, Westminster on 15 March 1642.[1]

Following the Restoration, he sat as member of parliament, first for Newport, Cornwall and later for the University of Oxford, from 1660 to 1679.[1]

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 Lady Henrietta Boyle (died 1687), daughter of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Burlington and Cork. They had four children:

Laurence was an affectionate father: Anne, Countess of Ossory, was his favourite child, and her early death in 1685 following a miscarriage was a blow from which some thought he never fully recovered. Anne was noted for wit and charm, as was her younger sister Henrietta, Countess of Dalkeith. John Evelyn called Henrietta "the wittiest of her sex"; other friends said that she retained the charm of youth even when she was well over fifty.

When his father was impeached in 1667, Laurence joined his elder brother, Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon, 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 future King James II, making her Duchess of York.

In 1676, Laurence 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.

Early career

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. Hyde was an opponent of the Exclusion Bill that would have prevented James, Duke of York from acceding to the throne.[2]

He was created Earl of Rochester, Viscount Hyde of Kenilworth, and Baron Wotton Basset on 29 November 1682. Compelled to join in arranging the treaty of 1681, by which Louis XIV agreed to pay a subsidy to Charles, he was simultaneously imploring William, Prince of Orange, to save Europe from the ambitions of the French monarch.

Rochester's enemy Lord Halifax called for an inquiry into Rochester's stewardship of the finances and it was found that £40,000 had been lost by mismanagement. As a consequence Rochester was, in August 1684, removed from office and given the post Lord President of the Council, a more dignified but less lucrative and important office. Halifax said: "I have seen people kicked down stairs but my Lord Rochester is the first person that I ever saw kicked up stairs".[3]

Reign of James II

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 1686, James tried to convert Rochester to Catholicism and every audience Rochester had with the king was spent in arguments over the authority of the Church and the worship of images. Rochester had interviews with Catholic divines in order to appear open-minded but he refused to convert. The king agreed to a conference between Catholic and Protestant divines in a formal disputation. James allowed Rochester to choose any Anglican ministers except John Tillotson and Edward Stillingfleet. Rochester chose two chaplains who happened to be in waiting, Simon Patrick and William Jane. The conference was held in secret on 30 November at Whitehall and the divines discussed the real presence, with the Catholics taking on the burden of proof. Patrick and Jane said little, with Rochester defending the Anglican position. At one point Rochester lost his temper and angrily asked whether it was expected that he would convert on so frivolous grounds. He then composed himself, knowing how much he was risking, and complimented the divines and requested that he be given time to digest what was said. James knew now that Rochester did not intend to be convinced.[4]

News of the conference leaked and Tory churchmen were shocked that Rochester might have wavered in his faith. Rochester requested another conference and James consented. Rochester let it be known to influential Catholics at court that he would do everything they requested (except convert) so long as he remained in office. He told them that as a Protestant he would prove more useful to them than as a Catholic. However on 17 December James called Rochester into an audience and told him that so high an office of Lord Treasurer could not be held by a staunch Anglican under a Catholic monarch. James asked him to think again on his refusal to convert but Rochester would not and on 4 January 1687 he was dismissed. However he received a pension of approximately £4000 per annum and £40,000 and estates from a convicted traitor.[5]

In October 1687, James asked the Lord Lieutenants to provide three standard questions to all members of the Commission of the Peace: would they consent to the repeal of the Test Act and the penal laws; would they assist candidates who would do so; and would they accept the Declaration of Indulgence. As Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Rochester eagerly pursued this but was told by the county squires that they would send no man to Parliament who would vote away the safeguards of the Protestant religion.[6]

Glorious Revolution

On 5 November 1688, William, Prince of Orange landed at Torbay. Rochester was a leading voice for the calling of a free and legal Parliament and that negotiations should be opened with William. James replied to this petition that he wished for a free Parliament but would only call one after William had left England, declaring that so as long as he was present a free Parliament was impossible as William could command nearly one hundred votes.[7] At the council of Lords held by James, Rochester defended the petition and declared that he saw no hope for king and country except through a Parliament. He added that negotiations should be opened with William.[8]

Rochester 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.[9] But he soon reconciled himself to the new order, perhaps because he could not retain his pension unless he took the oaths of allegiance.[10] 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. During William and Mary's bitter quarrel with Princess Anne, Rochester tried to mediate, but with little success. Anne, who could be a bitter enemy, thanked him for his expressions of goodwill, but added sarcastically that she would have valued them much more if she thought that they had been sincere.

Later life

From December 1700 until February 1703 he was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, although he did not spend much time in that country. The widespread belief that he would be a key advisor to his niece Queen Anne was quickly shown to be an illusion: they had never been close, and Anne resented anyone who attempted to bully her. Rochester, whose great weakness as a politician was his uncontrollable temper, could never resist a quarrel, and after a series of such quarrels the Queen dismissed him from office early in 1703.

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, and in the final year of his life was generally seen as a mature and moderate statesman. On his death, he was succeeded by his only son, Henry (1672–1758), who in 1724 inherited the earldom of Clarendon. When Henry died without issue on 10 December 1758, all his titles became extinct.


Laurence 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 in which he expounded his Tory philosophy. The work was dedicated to his niece Queen Anne: the Queen, whose poor eyesight made reading something of an ordeal, was not especially pleased, particularly since the preface could be interpreted as an attack on her own policies. She remarked drily that it was strange that a man who did not lack sense in other ways should be made ridiculous by his vanity.[11]


Thomas Macaulay in his History of England said of Rochester:

He had excellent parts, which had been improved by parliamentary and diplomatic experience; but the infirmities of his temper detracted much from the effective strength of his abilities. Negotiator and courtier as he was, he never learnt the art of governing or of concealing his emotions. When prosperous, he was insolent and boastful; when he sustained a check, his undisguised mortification doubled the triumph of his enemies: very slight provocations sufficed to kindle his anger; and when he was angry he said bitter things which he forgot as soon as he was pacified, but which others remembered many years. His quickness and penetration would have made him a consummate man of business but for his selfsufficiency and impatience. His writings prove that he had many of the qualities of an orator: but his irritability prevented him from doing himself justice in debate: for nothing was easier than to goad him into a passion; and, from the moment when he went into a passion, he was at the mercy of opponents far inferior to him in capacity. Unlike most of the leading politicians of that generation, he was a consistent, dogged, and rancorous party man, a Cavalier of the old school, a zealous champion of the Crown and of the Church, and a hater of Republicans and Nonconformists. He had consequently a great body of personal adherents. The clergy especially looked on him as their own man, and extended to his foibles an indulgence of which, to say the truth, he stood in some need, for he drank deep, and when was in a rage—and he very often was in a rage—he swore like a porter.[12]

In John Dryden's satire, Absalom and Achitophel, he is "Hushai," the friend of David in distress.


  1. ^ a b Speck 2008.
  2. ^ Macaulay 1889, p. 127.
  3. ^ Macaulay 1889, p. 136.
  4. ^ Macaulay 1889, pp. 401–402.
  5. ^ Macaulay 1889, pp. 402–403.
  6. ^ Macaulay 1889, p. 489.
  7. ^ Macaulay 1889, pp. 575–576.
  8. ^ Macaulay 1889, p. 584.
  9. ^ Macaulay 1889, p. 637.
  10. ^ Macaulay 1889, p. 671.
  11. ^ Speck, W. A. (1970). Tory & Whig. The Struggle in the Constituencies. 1701-1715. London: Macmillan. p. 90. 
  12. ^ Macaulay 1889, p. 125.


  • Macaulay, Thomas Babington (1889).  
  • Speck, W.A. (2008) [2004]. "Hyde, Laurence, first earl of Rochester (bap. 1642, d. 1711)". (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)  

Further reading

  • Tapsell, Grant (2010). "Laurence Hyde and the Politics of Religion in Later Stuart England".  

External links

  •  Ward, Adolphus William (1891). "Hyde, Laurence". In  
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir Francis Drake, Bt
William Morice
Member of Parliament for Newport (Cornwall)
With: Sir Francis Drake, Bt
Succeeded by
Sir Francis Drake, Bt
John Speccot
Preceded by
Thomas Clayton
John Mylles
Member of Parliament for Oxford University
With: Sir Heneage Finch, Bt 1661–1674
Thomas Thynne 1674–1679
Succeeded by
Heneage Finch
John Eddisbury
Preceded by
John Pleydell
Sir Walter St John, Bt
Member of Parliament for Wootton Basset
With: John Pleydell 1679
Henry St John 1679–1681
Succeeded by
Henry St John
John Pleydell
Court offices
Preceded by
Viscount Mansfield
Master of the Robes
Succeeded by
Sidney Godolphin
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Essex
First Lord of the Treasury
Succeeded by
The Lord Godolphin
Preceded by
The Earl of Radnor
Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Halifax
Preceded by
The Lord Godolphin
as First Lord of the Treasury
Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by
The Lord Belasyse
as First Lord of the Treasury
Title last held by
The Lord Capell
as Lord Deputy of Ireland
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Succeeded by
The Duke of Ormonde
Preceded by
The Lord Somers
Lord President of the Council
Succeeded by
The Duke of Buckingham and Normanby
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Earl of Bridgewater
Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Shrewsbury
Preceded by
The Earl of Godolphin
Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of Cornwall
Succeeded by
The Earl of Rochester
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Rochester
Succeeded by
Henry Hyde
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