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Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (1661-1724)
Born: 28th November 1661 
Baron Cornbury
Earl of Clarendon
Governor-in-Chief of of New York and New Jersey
Died: 31st March 1724 at Chelsea, Middlesex

Edward was the only child of Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon, and his first wife, Theodosia, daughter of Arthur, Lord Capel. His mother died when he was a toddler and, from the age of five, the family lived at Swallowfield Park in Berkshire, the home of father's new wife, Flower, daughter of the Rosicrucian Philosopher, William Backhouse. He was known, for most of his life, by his father's secondary title of Lord Cornbury and matriculated at Christ Church College, Oxford on 23rd January 1675.

In 1683, Edward entered the Royal Regiment of Dragoons as a Lieutenant-Colonel, becoming a Colonel two years later. He was also made Master of the Horse to Prince George of Denmark, husband of his cousin, the Princess Anne. In 1685, he was Page of Honour at the Coronation of his uncle, King James II and, in the same year, he was elected the Tory MP for Wiltshire, his family's ancient home. He held this seat for ten years, with only a brief lapse in 1688, the year of the Glorious Revolution in which he became one of the first commanders to desert King James, taking as many troops with him as a could. Macaulay, in his well-known description this event, describes Lord Cornbury as "a young man of slender abilities, loose principles, and violent temper," and attributes his treachery to the influence of Churchill. His Lordship subsequently sat for Christchurch from 1695 to 1701.

As a return for his desertion of King James II, William III appointed Cornbury Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of of New York and New Jersey in 1701. He travelled to America where he apparently gained a reputation as the 'worst governor Britain ever imposed on an American colony'. He supposedly took bribes, plundered the public treasury and is said to have spent half of his time dressed in women's clothes. A popular story tells how he received the official world at Albany on the Queen's birthday dressed in female attire copied from the robes of his Royal mistress. A portrait, now hanging in the New York Historical Society, is even thought by many to represent Cornbury in this costume. While contemporary evidence of such outrageous conduct is distinctly lacking and largely based on rumour, he was recalled from New York in 1708 and immediately thrown into prison by his creditors. He remained there till the death of his father entitled him to be liberated as a peer. He was succeeded as Governor by John, 4th Lord Lovelace.

Edward's wife, Catherine, Lady Cornbury, was the daughter of Henry O'Brien, Lord Ibrackan, and Catherine, Baroness Clifton of Leighton Bromswold in her own right. She predeceased her husband, dying in New York in 1706. She was buried there in the Trinity Church. When it was rebuilt in 1839, having been destroyed by fire for the second time, a massive silver coffin-plate was disinterred, with some fragments of bone. On the plate was the following inscription: 'Catherine, Lady Viscountess Cornbury, Baroness of Clifton of Bromswold, in the co. of Warwick, sole remaining daughter [ie. neice] and heir to the most noble Charles, Duke of Richmond and Lennox, born the 29th day of January, 1673, departed this life at the City of New York, in America, August 11th, 1706, in the 34th year of her age.' This plate and the bones were reinterred in a vault made for the purpose.

Edward, Lord Clarendon, had five children, of whom only one survived him. Three daughters died unmarried: 1. Catharine; 2. Mary, who was buried in Swallowfield Church in 1697; and  3. Flora, who was buried in Fulham in 1700. One daughter, Theodosia, married, in 1713, John Bligh, son of Thomas Bligh of Rathmore, County Meath, and Queen Anne gave her 10,000 on her marriage. In 1721, he was created Baron Clifton of Rathmore and, in 1725, Earl of Darnley. 

Edward, his only son, predeceased him, and we hear nothing of him till his death, which took place in February 1713. Hearne wrote: "Last Thursday, being the 12th of this inst., dyed the Viscount Cornbury of a high fever. He was just come to age, and inflamed his spirits by hard drinking, particularly by taking hot spirits in a morning. He was lately of Christchurch. I was particularly acquainted with him. He was a very pretty gentleman, of a tall but thin stature, very good-natured, loyal and well principled in other respects, and might have proved a very useful man." Lady Strafford thus alludes to his death in a letter to her husband: "Dearest Life, This letter will be a very dismal one to Captain Powell, since it brings the news of poor Lord Cornbury's death. He died yesterday morning of a fever got by a surfeit of drinking, for he and a good many more drank as many quarts of usquebath as is usual to be drank of wine, and was never cool after. Lady Theodosia will be now a great fortune, for Cobham is settled on her, and she is now Baroness of Clifton (of Leighton Bromswold)."

Notwithstanding his apparent delinquencies, Edward, 3rd Earl of Clarendon, was made a Privy Councillor on 13th December 1711, and Envoy Extraordinary to Hanover in 1714. Lady Theresa Lister wrote of him: "Edward Hyde, third Earl of Clarendon, presents one of those melancholy instances which too often occur amongst the descendants of distinguished men, where the name, the honours, the titles are reproduced, but unsupported and ungraced by any one of those qualities or virtues which won distinction for their ancestor. His conduct through life was a blot upon his name, and brought down upon him the scorn and reproach of two hemispheres."

Edward, 3rd Earl of Clarendon, sold Swallowfield Park to Thomas Pitt, commonly called 'Diamond' Pitt in 1719, and died, on 31st March 1723, at his house in Little Chelsea. He was buried in Westminster Abbey and was succeeded in his title by his first cousin, Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Rochester. The latter died in December 1753, when, his son (Henry Hyde, Lord Cornbury) having predeceased him, all his titles became extinct.

Partly edited from Lady Russell's 'Swallowfield & its Owners' (1901)

     

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