It’s easy to imagine that we live in an age of unparalleled weirdness from our elected officials. Anthony Weiner’s—um—“self-portraits”, Mark Sanford’s “hiking the Appalachian Trail”, Larry Craig’s adventures in the airport men’s room…and on it goes. You may well ask, “Where are the dignified statesmen of yesteryear?” By way of reply, I give you Lord Cornbury. Born Edward Hyde, he became Viscount Cornbury at the age of 14. He entered military service and then became a member of Parliament. In 1701, he was appointed colonial governor of New Jersey, then one year later, of New York as well. That second job was given to him by the reigning monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland, Queen Anne. Or, as he knew her, “Cousin Anne”. Even then, it’s was who you know, not what you know. Anyhoo, this is where old Corny’s story gets, shall we say, interesting. In the New World, he quickly established a reputation alternately described as a moral profligate, a degenerate and pervert, a fop and a wastrel. Corrupt as the day was long, Eddie was possibly the worst governor Britain ever appointed to an American colony. And given the history of dismal colonial governors, that’s saying something. Historian George Bancroft opined that Lord Cornbury exhibited “arrogance, joined to intellectual imbecility.” Ouch. Now, just being a corrupt ignoramus hardly challenges the likes of Messrs. Weiner, Sanford and Craig. But wait…there’s more. It seems that among his other quirks, the Corn-ster fancied wearing women’s clothes. And not just in the privacy of the governor’s mansion. No, Eddie liked to strut his stuff. He was reported to have opened the 1702 New York Assembly clad in a hooped gown topped with an elaborate headdress, accessorizing the whole ensemble by carrying a fan. When his choice of clothing was questioned, he replied, “You are all very stupid people not to see the propriety of it all. In this place and occasion, I represent a woman (the Queen), and in all respects I ought to represent her as faithfully as I can.” Now, THAT’s a rebuttal! Makes weak sauce of Craig’s “wide stance” malarkey. His High Mightiness (his preferred title) was nothing if not consistent. When his wife died in 1707 (and can you blame her?) he reportedly wore women’s clothing to the funeral. No account of his chosen outfit survives, but I’ll bet it was effervescent. Well, by 1708 even his dear cousin had seen enough, and removed him from office. And before you wag a finger at Queen Anne for waiting so long, bear in mind that her’s was a tough life. 17 pregnancies, 12 miscarriages, 4 children dead before the age of 2, and the sole surviving boy dead at 11. Plus she had gout. Out of a job, Edward presumably packed up his extensive trousseau and sailed back to England. A year later, his father, the 2nd Earl of Clarendon, died (of shame?) and Lord Cornbury was promptly tossed into prison for the debts he had left England to avoid in the first place. On the bright side, he was now the 3rd Earl of Clarendon, which must have allowed him to cut the chow line in the slammer. Alas, His High Mightiness ended up His Low Nothingness, dying in obscurity and debt in 1723. However, in a great example of fair play that the Brits are known for, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. And so it’s clear that the shameless politicians of today are part of a long line of off-kilter behavior. As well as proof of Harry Truman’s maxim: “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.” asd
Today’s Fact Cetera
When startled, geckos make a noise than sounds like “Eeek!”.