HYDE, Henry (1638-1709).
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Family and Education
b. 2 June 1638, 1st s. of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, and bro. of Hon. Edward Hyde and Laurence Hyde. educ. M. Temple 1661. m. (1) Jan. 1661, Theodosia (d. Mar. 1662), da. of Arthur Capel, 1st Baron Capell of Hadham, 1s.; (2) 19 Oct. 1670, Flower (d. 17 July 1700), da. and h. of William Backhouse of Swallowfield, Berks., wid. of William Bishop of South Warnborough, Hants, and of her cos. Sir William Backhouse, 1st Bt., of London, s.p. styled Visct. Cornbury 20 Apr. 1661; KB 23 Apr. 1661; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Clarendon 19 Dec. 1674.1
Commr. for assessment, Wilts. Aug. 1660-74, Mdx. 1661-3, 1664-74, Oxon. 1663-74, Berks. and Westminster 1673-4; keeper, Windsor Forest and bailiff of Clewer manor, Berks. Nov. 1660-4; commr. for oyer and terminer, Wales 1661; j.p. Wilts. 1661-75, Mdx. 1661-bef. 1680, Oxon. 1661-89, Berks. 1670-89, dep. lt. Wilts. 1661-2, Oxon. 1663-89; commr. for loyal and indigent officers, Wilts. 1662; capt of militia horse, Oxon by 1663; custos rot. Oxon. 1663-89; ranger of Wychwood Forest, Oxon. 1674-d.; high steward, Reading 1674-?d., Salisbury 1683-d., Oxf. Univ. 1686-d.; keeper, Somerset House 1679-?89; searcher of customs, Gravesend 1681-5; gov. New River Co. by 1682.2
Commr. for trade Nov. 1660-8, private sec. to Queen Catherine of Braganza 1662-5, ld. chamberlain 1665-8, 1670-5, treas. and receiver-gen. by 1680-6; PC 8 Jan.-21 Apr. 1679, 26 May 1680-9; ld. privy seal Feb.-Sept. 1685; ld. lt. [I] 1685-7; commr. for licensing pedlars 1686-7.3
Hyde’s great-grandfather, the younger son of a minor gentry family which had never distinguished itself in its native Cheshire, became an Exchequer clerk and a client of Sir John Thynne, subsequently sitting for Malmesbury in 1559 and acquiring an estate in Wiltshire. During the Interregnum Hyde joined his father, the historian and statesman, in exile on the Continent, ‘so that he was generally half the day writing in cipher or deciphering, and was so discreet as well as faithful that nothing was ever discovered by him’. After the Restoration he was returned at a by-election for Lyme Regis, and became a moderately active Member of the Convention. Before his brother Laurence joined him in the House, he certainly served on six committees, including two concerned with unauthorized publications, and later possibly on eight others, of which the most important was for the Dunkirk establishment, attending the House of Lords with a draft order on the subject on 12 Sept. 1660. In the second session, ‘Mr Hyde’ was among those instructed to recommend a form of prayer for use in the House. In the debate on the pamphlet The Long Parliament Revived on 20 Nov. he wanted its author to be asked whether he had submitted it for examination by the proper authorities, and four days later he was sent with three senior Members to ask the lord chief justice to punish offences against customs officials. One of the brothers was teller for the second reading of the tanning bill, and was sent to the Lords to desire a conference on the college leases bill.4
Although the family property in Wiltshire was apparently occupied by Nevil Maskelyne, Hyde was returned for the county at the general election of 1661, sharing with Charles Seymour a bill of £191 7s.2d. In the Cavalier House of Commons, under the courtesy title of Lord Cornbury, he was a moderately active Member, being appointed to 101 committees, acting as teller in nine divisions, and making 25 recorded speeches. In the opening session he was appointed to the committees for the security bill and the bill to restore the temporal jurisdiction of the clergy. He carried the latter bill to the House of Lords on 13 June, and again after amendment a week later. He also served on the committees for the corporations and uniformity bills. He was teller for the second reading of the bill for the execution of those under attainder, and was appointed to the committee. On the King’s marriage he was appointed to the new Queen’s household, first as her private secretary and then, in succession to the 2nd Earl of Chesterfield, as chamberlain. After the division on the Declaration of Indulgence on 25 Feb. 1663, a Roman Catholic correspondent assumed that Cornbury had voted on the opposite side to his brother and John Bulteel, that is, presumably, in the minority against debating it. He was appointed to the committee for the Witney grammar school bill. He was listed as a court dependent in 1664, and during the first session was appointed to the committee for the additional corporations bill and acted as teller for retaining the reference to courts of equity in the conventicles bill. In the next session he was among those sent to thank the King and the City for providing for the defence of the country against the Dutch, and on 28 Jan. 1665 he carried to the Lords a bill to make the Avon navigable from Christchurch to Salisbury. He was one of the Members appointed to attend the King on 30 Oct. 1666 with a resolution against imports from France, and he twice acted as teller against the proposal to extend favour to all the merchants who had failed to comply. Andrew Marvell alleged that he was the first to flee from Chatham during the Dutch attack on the Medway, and pictured him as leading the peers’ sons to reinforce the court party in the House astride a hobby horse, perhaps an allusion to his activities in the Oxfordshire militia.5
Cornbury was less prominent than his brother in his father’s defence. But on 22 Nov. 1667 he moved that the charges against him should be specified and sent to the Lords, and he defended the acquisition of the lease of Witney. He was already out of favour at Court on suspicion of assisting the Duchess of Richmond to escape the King’s pursuit, and was now ordered to withdraw, though his post was not filled. After the Christmas recess he was appointed to the committee to inspect the militia laws. His name was on both lists of the court party in 1669-71, when he took part in all the measures against conventicles. During the negotiation of the secret treaty of Dover he was restored to his post through the mediation of the Duchess of Orleans. In 1673 he was appointed to the committee for the test bill and helped to manage a conference, though he felt compelled to defend an English priest in the Queen’s household and brought in a proviso for her servants ‘not so happily worded as he could have wished’. He wished the bill of ease for Protestant dissenters to apply only to nonconformists who renounced the Covenant, and although he was put on the committee at the end of the list, he acted as teller for the indefinite adjournment of the debate when the bill returned from the Lords. In contrast, his was the first name on the committee to draw up an address on the state of Ireland. In the autumn session he seconded the motion of (Sir) William Coventry for redress before supply, instancing as a grievance that ‘some men have been under prejudice for giving votes’.6
With the break-up of the Cabal, Cornbury seized the opportunity to pay off old scores against his father’s enemies. He did not speak in the debate on Lauderdale in 1674, but of Buckingham he said:
Suppose he should acquit himself of all the great matters concerning the King, yet here is a crime in the face of the sun, a murder, and his living with that miserable woman [Lady Shrewsbury] in perpetual adultery.
But it was against Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) that he was most ‘malicious’ and ‘inveterate’. He acted as teller for the address for his dismissal, and on 20 Jan. said:
[I] will not enlarge on his religion, but he might have made distinction between Protestants and Papists. He had so great a hand in all these things that there seems much more against him than either of the rest. Buckingham proposed the alliance with France, but Arlington promoted it.
Cornbury’s standing in the House was now so high that he was employed as messenger to ask the latitudinarian Whichcott to preach, and to ask the concurrence of the Lords in an address for peace, as well as helping to prepare reasons for two conferences.7
Cornbury succeeded as second Earl of Clarendon on his father’s death later in the year. But he was already in the scriveners’ books to the tune of £19,860, and he was never able to extricate himself from debt, though always ready with a plausible excuse and a promise. Building, planting and collecting were apparently the only causes of his extravagance. He remained in opposition during the Danby administration, and was dismissed on an obvious pretext in 1675. He went over to the Court during the Exclusion crisis, returning Tories for his borough of Christchurch. He voted against the bill in 1680, after which the Commons resolved that he was a promoter of Popery. He resided chiefly on his second wife’s property at Swallowfield, which gave him an interest at Reading, some six miles distant. James II appointed his former brother-in-law first lord privy seal and then lord lieutenant of Ireland; but his authority was undermined by the Roman Catholic commander-in-chief Tyrconnel, who took over from him. He assisted with the defence of the Seven Bishops, and, after castigating the royal policy in the council of peers, he followed his son’s example by going over to the Prince of Orange. But he opposed the transfer of the crown, and was imprisoned as a Jacobite in 1690-1. ‘Though he almost wanted bread to eat’, he refused employment and remained a strict non-juror. His father’s palatial house in Piccadilly had already been demolished, and Cornbury had to be conveyed to his brother, though the transaction was kept secret to save appearances. He died of asthma on 31 Oct. 1709 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He was one of the principal informants used by Burnet for his History, in which he is described as ‘the most beloved of all the family, for he was humble and obliging, but peevish and splenetic, [and] his judgment was not [to] be much depended on’.8