The Lord Cornbury Scandal: The Politics of Reputation in British America / Edition 1

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For more than two centuries, Edward Hyde, Viscount Cornbury -- royal governor of New York and New Jersey from 1702 to 1708 -- has been a despised figure, whose alleged transgressions ranged from raiding the public treasury to scandalizing his subjects by parading through the streets of New York City dressed as a woman. This book, a tour de force of scholarly detection, challenges the standard view of Cornbury. Situating his career within the wider frame of early modern political culture, it explores such topics as the politics of late Stuart England; gossip, Grub Street, and the climate of slander; imperial finance and administration; the emergence of modern sexual culture; transatlantic communication; and constitutional perceptions in an era of reform. Patricia Bonomi argues that Cornbury lived at the peak of an age of slander and satire, when politicians in England and colonial America routinely employed malicious gossip and sexual innuendo to crush their opponents. Within this context she reassesses the most 'conclusive'" piece of evidence wielded in the long campaign against Cornbury -- a celebrated portrait, said to represent the governor in female dress, that hangs today in the New York Historical Society. Part narrative, part cultural study, this book offers new insight into the conflicting ideals and emotions and the dynamics of complex loyalty that shaped the politics of the First British Empire -- including those of the American Revolution.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Historical detective writing at its best.

The Journal of American History

Professor Bonomi is to be congratulated on a fine piece of historical revisionism.

Times Literary Supplement

A model of historical investigation.

Edmund S. Morgan, New York Review of Books

A tour de force of historical detection.

New York Times Book Review

An intriguing detective story that exposes the weaknesses in the case against Lord Cornbury.

New Republic

Bernard Bailyn
In this remarkable historical whodunit, Patricia Bonomi traces Cornbury's career through a dense jungle of Anglo-American politics to uncover a world 'steamy with intrigue, gossip, and rumor-mongering.'...A compelling story...that grips one from start to finish. -- Harvard University
Tim Hilchey
Bonomi. . .unravels the threads of the 'Cornbury legend' to reveal a man whose reputation as a cross-dresser owes more to the vitriol of his Whiggish political enemies than to any evidencethat he was other than. . .[a] devout Anglican. -- The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Patricia U. Bonomi is professor emerita of history at New York University. Her books include Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America and A Factious People: Politics and Society in Colonial New York.

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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations
Introduction: Under History's Carpet
The Cornbury Legend
The Underside of Opposition Politics
Moving beyond Whig History
Chapter 1. Lord Cornbury Redressed: The Governor and the Problem Portrait
Early History of the Portrait
Speculations: Expert and Otherwise
Chapter 2. Lord Cornbury in England
Youth and Marriage
Cornbury and the Glorious Revolution
Financial Doldrums
Cornbury Appointed Governor General
Return to England, 1710-1723
Chapter 3. Getting to Know Governor Cornbury
Modeling the Role of Imperial Governor
A Naval Engagement
Cornbury and the Church of England
Chapter 4. "Money's the Leading Card": Governor Cornbury and Imperial Finance
Charges of Financial Corruption in New Jersey and New York
Governor Cornbury's Expense Account
Cornbury's Administration in Comparative Perspective
Patricians in the Provinces
Chapter 5. "One Tale Is Good Till Another Is Told": Gossip and Satire in Anglo-American Politics
The Politics of Conspiracy
The Rise of Grub Street
The English Gossips
Gossip and Satire in America
Chapter 6. Sex and Gender in Early Modern English Culture
The Boundaries of Sex and Gender
The Emergence of the Homosexual Community in England
Transvestism: A Clinical View
Chapter 7. "'Tis Said He Dresses as a Woman": Imperial Communication, Gossip, and theSearch for Meaning
Imperial Communication in the Age of Sail
Evaluating the News
Allegations of Cross Dressing
Possible Sources of the Rumor
Chapter 8. The Politics of Reputation
War and Indian Affairs in New York
Governor and Assembly: The Balance of Power in New York
The Royal Colony of New Jersey
Political "Connexions"
A Neutral Observer Takes Cornbury's Measure
Chapter 9. An Age of Scurrility
List of Abbreviations

Figure 1. Putative Portrait of Lord Cornbury in Women's Clothes
Figure 2. The Assaut, or Fencing Match
Figure 3. Sketch Said to Be of Lord Cornbury
Figure 4. Portrait Said to Be of Lord Cornbury at Age Nineteen
Figure 5. Mrs. General Washington Bestowing Thirteen Stripes on Britania
Figure 6. Edward Hyde, First Earl of Clarendon
Figure 7. The Duke and Duchess of York
Figure 8. A Genealogy of the Stuart and Hyde Families
Figure 9. Henry Hyde with Theodosia Capel
Figure 10. The Royal Encampment at Hounslow Heath, 1686
Figure 11. Cornbury Hall, Oxfordshire
Figure 12. The Protestant's Joy
Figure 13. The Nine Conspirators Executed for the Assassination Plot
Figure 14. William III
Figure 15. Arrested for Debt
Figure 16. Queen Anne, 1703
Figure 17. Queen Anne in the House of Lords
Figure 18. New York City—View of the Fort and Town, circa 1708
Figure 19. A South Prospect of New York, 1719-1721
Figure 20. Lewis Morris
Figure 21. A Draught of New York, 1732
Figure 22. Indian Council at Johnson Hall
Figure 23. A Whig and Tory, a Wrestling
Figure 24. The Coffeehous Mob
Figure 25. A Scene in Grub Street
Figure 26. The Maiden Granadeere
Figure 27. Works of Mr. Thomas Brown, Frontispiece
Figure 28. Queen Anne, 1711
Figure 29. Queen Anne's Bedchamber Favorites
Figure 30. The Rivalry between the Duchess of Marlborough and Lady Masham
Figure 31. The Peculations of the Duke of Marlborough
Figure 32. News of a Strumpet, Title Page
Figure 33. Androboros, Title Page
Figure 34. Royal Masquerade
Figure 35. Hannah Snell, the Female Soldier
Figure 36. Mundus Foppensis, Title Page
Figure 37. The Devil in Masquerade
Figure 38. The Suicides of Three Men
Figure 39. Two Men Dancing / Embracing / Kissing?
Figure 40. This Is Not the Thing: or, Molly Exalted
Figure 41. Henry Hyde, Future Second Earl of Clarendon
Figure 42. Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont
Figure 43. Robert Livingston
Figure 44. Robert Hunter

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