Hyde, Laurence (1641/2–1711), 1st earl of Rochester, lord lieutenant of Ireland , was baptised in March 1642, second son of Edward Hyde, the leading royalist and later earl of Clarendon and Charles II's lord chancellor. After the family's return to England at the restoration of the monarchy, he was MP for Newport (1660–61), Oxford University (1661–79), and Wootton Bassett (1679). He was the master of the robes 1662–75 and ambassador to Poland in 1676, first lord of the treasury 1679–81 and an English privy councillor from November 1679. During the exclusion crisis he was a leading opponent of excluding the duke of York (later James II (qv)) from the succession to the throne because of his catholicism. He was rewarded with elevation as Viscount Hyde of Kenilworth in April 1681 and earl of Rochester in November that year, his elder brother Henry having succeeded to his father's title as 2nd earl of Clarendon (qv). He was lord president of the council from 1681 until James II made him lord treasurer days after his accession in February 1685. His brother Clarendon became lord lieutenant of Ireland late the same year, a post Charles had been considering for Rochester a few months earlier.
Rochester's and Clarendon's connections with James were intimate, their sister Anne having been his first wife. However, they distrusted the catholic clique with whom James gradually surrounded himself, while the secretary of state, Robert Spencer, earl of Sunderland, actively undermined Rochester's position in the ministry. Rochester was dismissed, amidst rumours of a failed effort to convert him to catholicism, in December 1686. The revolution in 1688–9 saw Rochester adopt the standard position of favouring the appointment of a regent rather than deposing James. Unlike Clarendon, who never accepted the new regime and who retired from public life, Rochester gradually returned to active politics, being reappointed to the privy council in 1692 and developing a close relationship with his niece Queen Mary before her death two years later. At this stage he was seen as the leading light among the high-church tendency within the tory party.
Rochester's appointment as lord lieutenant of Ireland on 28 December 1700 marked his return to political primacy. Although his time in the post was relatively short and mostly spent in London (he was in Ireland from 18 September 1701 to 4 January 1702), he was the most powerful lord lieutenant since Tyrconnell (qv) in terms of his English power and influence, and he left a significant mark on the makeup of the Irish judiciary and the Church of Ireland hierarchy. His appointment was significant in an Irish context also, given his close Irish links. He had married (1665) Henrietta (1645–87), daughter of Richard Boyle, 1st earl of Burlington (qv), thus connecting him with the Boyle clan who had vast landed and political interests in Co. Cork, while his daughter Anne (d. 1685) was married to James Butler (qv), earl of Ossory and later 2nd duke of Ormond. During the winter of 1684–5, while awaiting his expected appointment to Dublin, Rochester was in regular and detailed correspondence with the incumbent, the 1st duke of Ormond (qv), on the situation in Ireland. Throughout Clarendon's brief but turbulent tenure in Ireland, he had sent his brother virtually daily accounts of his dealings with leading catholic and protestant figures, the state of the revenue and the administration generally, and Tyrconnell's machinations. Therefore Rochester had a background of familiarity with Ireland. While lord lieutenant, his chief informant was his brother-in-law Thomas Keightley (qv), who was a commissioner of the Irish revenue.
Rochester had no intention of making major changes in the administration he had inherited from Lord Capel and the other mainly whig governors of the 1690s. However, Irish protestants were generally suspicious of him because of his support in the English parliament for the tory-inspired resumption (confiscation) of lands that had earlier been forfeited by the defeated Jacobites. On his appointment Rochester nominated Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (qv) of Dublin, the 2nd earl of Mount-Alexander (qv), and the earl of Drogheda as lords justices. Drogheda had been a leading opponent of the resumption act, and his appointment was a gesture of reconciliation which was unsuccessful, in that Drogheda's continuing perceived contrariness led to his removal in April 1702, to be replaced by Keightley. Rochester spent only three months of his governorship in Ireland (at the end of 1701), but his correspondence with Keightley displays an intense interest in the minutiae of government and in particular in the state of the revenue. He expressed concern at such abuses as the sale of military commissions in Ireland and at the absenteeism among the revenue commissioners. Rochester did not order sweeping personnel changes but he did take advantage of the deaths and retirements to alter – slowly but quite decisively – the political tilt of the Irish judiciary and the Church of Ireland episcopate, most of the new appointees being Irish or English tories. Among these appointments were the translations of Archbishops Marsh and William King (qv) to Armagh and Dublin respectively, as well as the appointment of his chaplain, Charles Hickman (1648–1713), to the lucrative see of Derry.
The lack of a parliament since 1699 meant that many of the protestant elite at this stage viewed the Dublin administration as somewhat irrelevant, preferring to deal directly with London. Those protesting against the activities of the trustees appointed by the English parliament to administer forfeited lands in Ireland directed a ‘national address’ to Westminster. Rochester made clear to Alan Brodrick (qv) his opposition to it, although he had previously expressed some sympathy with the anti-trustee activists. By 1703, following the resolution of the forfeitures question, he was making plans to summon a new parliament, but these plans were frustrated by his removal as lord lieutenant in February 1703, and his replacement by his son-in-law Ormond, then perceived in Ireland as a more conciliatory figure. His removal was motivated by English political concerns, rather than by his performance as viceroy, particularly his opposition to the continental war policy of John Churchill (qv), duke of Marlborough. During his time in opposition he oversaw the publication of his father's History of the rebellion (1702–4).
Rochester made a partial and unexpected political comeback in England as lord president of the council, under Robert Harley, in 1710. He died 2 March 1711 in office at his house near the cockpit, Whitehall, and was buried in Westminster abbey. His only son, Henry (1672–1753), succeeded to his title, and later also to the earldom of Clarendon, following the death of his cousin, Edward. Of his four daughters, one, Anne married the future 2nd duke of Ormond, while another married the prominent tory, Francis Seymour, Lord Conway. There is a portrait of Rochester in the National Portrait Gallery in London. His correspondence with his brother was published in 1828, while his letters to Keightley are found in the De Ros papers in PRONI and the Inchiquin Papers in the NLI.