HYDE, Edward, Visct. Cornbury (1661-1723).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1685 - 1687
1689 - 1695
1695 - Nov. 1701

Family and Education

b. 28 Nov. 1661, o. s. of Henry Hyde†, 2nd Earl of Clarendon, by his 1st w. Theodosia, da. of Arthur Capel†, 1st Baron Capell of Hadham.  educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1675; Académie Foubert, Paris 1676; Padua Univ. 1678.  m. 10 July 1688, Catherine (d. 1706), suo jure Baroness Clifton of Leighton Bromswold, da. and h. of Henry O’Brien†, Ld. Ibrackan, of Great Billing, Northants., 1s. d.v.p. 2da. d.v.psuc. fa. as 3rd Earl 31 Oct. 1709.1

Offices Held

Lt.-col. R. Drag. 1683, col. 1685–July 1689; gent. of the horse to Prince George of Denmark 1683, master of the horse 1685–90; PC 13 Dec. 1711; envoy extraordinary to Hanover June–Sept. 1714.2

Freeman, King’s Lynn c.1687, Reading, 1689, Wilton 1689–d.3

Gov. of New York 1701–Sept. 1703, of New York and New Jersey Sept. 1703–8.

SPG 1712.4


Lord Cornbury was named after his grandfather, the 1st Earl of Clarendon (Edward†). During the 1680s, Cornbury judged it best to swim with the stream, finding early favour with his uncle, James II, but being among the first army officers to desert to William III in 1688. Although he was dismissed by the latter shortly afterwards, this action was nevertheless to secure Cornbury’s position with his cousin, Queen Anne, a valuable patroness from whom he later sought help in extricating himself from financial ruin, an unprofitable marriage failing to alleviate the embarrassed circumstances to which his father had brought the family estates. Wilful and passionate, he was still unpopular with some Wiltshire Tories in 1690, his own father writing apprehensively, ‘I hope he has not done anything in the last [Parliament] whereby to forfeit the good opinion of his countrymen’. With magnate support Cornbury managed to carry the election after a stiff contest which gave him ‘great trouble and expense’. He was classed as a Tory and probable Court supporter by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in his list of the new Parliament. In June 1690 Cornbury lost his remaining office, that of master of the horse to Prince George, when he refused to attend the Prince into Ireland, giving as his reason the fact that his former regiment ‘was now in Ireland, and that he could not think it consistent with his honour to go thither, the King having put such a mark of disgrace upon him, as to take away his regiment’. No doubt his main concern in the 1690–1 session was the passage of a bill to grant majority status to his wife. However, he acted as teller on three occasions: on John Grobham Howe’s side in the Cirencester election; on a question of leave for Sir William Ellys, 2nd Bt.; and for a saving clause to be included in the attainder bill on behalf of Lord Dover. He attended the committee hearing of the election for New Radnor, probably in support of Robert Harley*. In December Lord Carmarthen saw Cornbury as a possible supporter should Carmarthan’s position come under threat, and he was classed as a Court supporter on Harley’s list of April 1691. In the 1691–2 session he spoke on 23 Dec. against the proposals offered by the East India Company. Although Cornbury’s conduct in 1688 might have been redeemed by his father’s evident Jacobitism, for which the latter had suffered imprisonment in 1690–1, he was nevertheless one of the 29 specifically exempted from James II’s declaration of indemnity in April 1692. Later in the year he was falsely implicated in Robert Young’s plot to restore James, aimed principally at Bishop Sprat and the Earl of Marlborough (John Churchill†). In the next session he was nominated to the committee on the Address on 10 Nov. 1692, and he spoke on the Court side when this was reported. In supporting the motion for a supply on 22 Nov. he went, as he himself said, ‘a little further’ and proposed ‘that his Majesty will be pleased to lay before the House a state of the war for the army and navy for the next year’, but ‘this was opposed by some who thought it irregular and that it was a distinct matter’. On 3 Dec. in the committee of ways and means he seconded Sir Robert Howard’s motion on the army estimates to vote ‘the whole number of men as brought in’. He was also named to the drafting committee for the mutiny bill, which he later carried to the Lords on 2 Mar. 1693. Grascome listed him as a member of the Court party in the spring of 1693, and also, in error, as a placeman, probably on the strength of an unfounded rumour in the previous February that he was to be made governor of the Isle of Wight. In the next session Cornbury was named to the drafting committee for the bill to encourage the clothing trade, a matter of much relevance to a clothing county like Wiltshire. When the conduct of the fleet during the Smyrna convoy came under consideration on 17 Nov. 1693 he and other Court Tories for once joined their party leaders, taking exception to the use of the word ‘treacherous’ in the resolution condemning the actions of the admirals. He spoke on 14 Dec. for the Court on the question of augmenting the army. In February 1694 (and again in January 1695), he was involved in privilege suits following the arrest of his coachman and other servants for debt.5

Switching to his father’s borough of Christchurch in 1695, Cornbury seems to have become more active as a legislator. He was involved in the management of two bills during the 1695–6 session, that relating to the relief of hackney coachmen and that to suppress hawkers and pedlars. He was forecast as likely to support the Court in the division of 31 Jan. on the proposed council of trade, signed the Association, and voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. All these indicate solid support for the ministry. In the following session, on 7 Nov. 1696, he was ordered to attend the House, and on the 9th gave his consent to allow a widow to continue her suit to recover a longstanding debt originally owed to her husband by Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond and Lennox. On 25 Nov. he voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. By 1697 Cornbury’s financial difficulties were becoming acute. In August he had to apply to Sir William Trumbull* to lend him £7, otherwise ‘I am like to be exposed to the greatest affront imaginable for so small a sum’; in November it was reported that his father was ‘now in a worse condition than ever’ and that ‘Lord Cornbury and his lady are starving, and to complete their misery have fallen out with Lord Rochester [Laurence Hyde†]’; and in January 1698 the same source claimed that Cornbury had ‘locked his lady up for some time past and suffers her not to stir out’. Despite his father’s financial distress, Cornbury appealed to him for money, being himself unable even to pay lawyers to sue his creditors, and blamed his poverty on the villainy of the family lawyer. He does not seem to have attended the Commons during the 1697–8 session, but on 16 June 1698 was ordered to present himself on the 20th. Instead he sent a message excusing his absence on account of illness and promising to do his best to come up on the 27th. Although he again failed to appear on that day the matter was dropped. Two months later the King granted him £260 as ‘royal bounty’ with a further allowance of £10 a week ‘by way of subsistence’, an arrangement which was to last until his appointment to office in 1701.6

Returned again for Christchurch in 1698, Cornbury was classed among the Court party in a comparative analysis of about September of that year. He was very active in this Parliament. He was named to four drafting committees, presenting bills from two of them and taking on the management of the bill enabling posthumous children to inherit. He seems to have become something of a specialist in naturalization bills, five of which he reported from committee. He also spoke against the disbanding bill, voting against it at third reading on 18 Jan. 1699, and a week later was awarded the King’s moiety of two annuities forfeited by Catholic priests. At this time he was said to be in line for a regiment, but nothing came of it. In the following session he was less active in a legislative capacity. He reported only one naturalization bill from committee, and presented a bill setting up a Westminster court of conscience. Re-elected in January 1701, he was again busy in this Parliament’s only session. He presented a bill to suppress vagabonds and regulate disorderly servants, and reported three bills from committee, one of which was to allow his relative Henry Hyde to vest his estate in trustees, and another, ironically given his circumstances, was for the relief of prisoners for debt. In March 1701 he had been granted Petersham Lodge, Surrey, worth £40 p.a., and in the following September he was given office, as governor of New York, with a salary of £600 plus various profits and perquisites.7

Cornbury’s arrival in New York was delayed until May 1702, partly as a result of his recurrent financial difficulties. In the previous August he had been arrested following a suit by a mercer for £600, and he had to secure a writ of supersedeas from the lord keeper, the granting of which was dependent upon the favourable interpretation of an Act allowing a Member parliamentary privilege. He was set free in this instance ‘by some private composition with the creditor’ brought about by the ‘terror’ which the latter felt at being called to account for breaching such privilege. Rather than adapt to existing political factions in the colonies, Cornbury developed his own ring of supporters whom he placed in high office. Browbeating the provincial councils, Cornbury enriched himself through land sales, the confiscation of Quaker property and increased land taxes, despite objections from the proprietors to the Board of Trade. In April 1707 the New Jersey assembly drew up a list of grievances against him, and when their action was followed by the New York assembly in September 1708 he was dismissed from office. Anticipating this action, Cornbury’s creditors, owed some £4,000, had him arrested for debt, and he was only released when he succeeded to the peerage. The story current at the time that he had ‘saved £50,000’ from his government, enough to rescue his family estates, was a wild exaggeration; in a letter to his father from prison in March 1709 he complained of the ‘ungrateful rascals’ who had succeeded in securing his dismissal from office, and how he had been obliged to pay £12,000 in militia rates from his own funds, for which he expected to be reimbursed by the crown. Following his return to England there were several reports that he was negotiating a marriage with a widow who would bring him £21,000. On his appointment in June 1714 as envoy to Hanover, where he took John Gay as his secretary, one observer considered him ‘un des plus zélés Jacobites’, while Baron Bothmer penned an acid character-sketch:

He is a selfish and presumptuous fool, and a fool to such a degree, that being appointed governor by the Queen in the Indies [sic], he thought that it was necessary for him, in order to represent her Majesty, to dress himself as a woman, which he actually did.8

Cornbury made his will on 30 Mar. 1723, on the eve of his death. A report that he died ‘in obscurity and deep debt’ is born out by his own plaintive admission that ‘as for the worldly estate which I have any claims to it is so inconsiderable that I should not have mentioned it’. His only significant remaining property, Cornbury House, once in danger of being demolished and sold for materials, had already been mortgaged. Cornbury’s only son, also Edward, had died aged 20 ‘by a surfeit of drinking’, and the 2nd Earl of Rochester (Henry Hyde*) was named as heir to the estate. Cornbury himself was buried in the family vault in Westminster Abbey.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: D. W. Hayton / Henry Lancaster


  • 1. The Gen. n.s. vi. 20; Clarendon Corresp. ed. Singer, ii. 180–1; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/44, John* to Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, 7 Dec. 1692.
  • 2. CSP Dom. July–Sept. 1683, p. 215; Morice ent’ring bk. 3, f. 155.
  • 3. Lynn Freemen, 198; Berks. RO, R/AC1/1/18, p. 3; Wilts. RO, G25/1/21, p. 500; G25/1/22, pp. 43, 47.
  • 4. Hist. Mag. of Protestant Episcopal Church, xxxiii. 25.
  • 5. Clarendon Corresp. 180–1, 301, 304, 306, 308, 314–15; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 12, f. 97; 24, f. 168; Newberry Lib. case mss, Clarendon to Abingdon, 15 Feb. 1690; HMC Portland, iii. 451; viii. 27–28; Luttrell Diary, 92, 216, 249, 289; Clarke, Jas. II, ii. 485; Hopkins thesis, 290; Nat. Archs. Ire. Wych mss 1/61, William Ball to Sir Cyril Wyche*, 15 Nov. 1692; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 39; HMC 7th Rep. 215, 219.
  • 6. HMC Downshire, i. 762; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 486; 1698, p. 36; Sotheby’s Cat. of Printed Bkks, 1932, lot 196; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 450; xiv. 9; xvi. 393.
  • 7. Cam. Misc. xxix. 385; Cal. Treas. Bks. xiv. 54; BL, Althorp mss, John Granville* to Ld. Halifax (William Savile*), 9 May 1699; HMC Lords, n.s. v. 329; Add. 7074, f. 31.
  • 8. Add. 15895, ff. 339, 343–4, 347–9; 40775, ff. 85, 93–94; 70420, newsletter 5 Dec. 1709; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 30 Nov. 1706; Luttrell, vi. 282, 506; HMC Portland, v. 427, 484; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 626; Messages from the Governors ed. Lincoln, i. 98; New Jersey Archives, ser. 1, xiii. 301, 322; iii. 171; PRO 31/3/203, f. 6.
  • 9. Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 251, 308; PCC 139 Richmond; Add. 15895, f. 385.