Anne Hyde, Duchess of York

Anne Hyde, Duchess of York

My primary interest of the character of Anne Hyde, duchess of York is her whole life: which is a mystery for me. She converted to Catholicism after her marriage with James II and had eight children but, unfortunately six of them died. I want to know more about her husband who had a lot of mistresses; how did Anne Hyde handle it? I am also curious about her father, Edward Hyde, who was part of the Clarendon Code. What was the reaction of her father when she converted to Catholicism? Why does her brother-in-law, who seemed to support her, refuse to let her children convert to Catholicism despite the fact that James II and Anne Hyde were both Catholics?

Anne Hyde knew she was taking a big risk by converting to Catholicism....

The British Museum

Source: The British Museum

Anne Hyde, Duchess of York did not have a happy life. Between the death of six out of eight of her children, her mother’s death, her father’s exile (in France), her husband’s infidelity and her breast cancer, the only positive thing was her secret conversion to Catholicism and her career in court. Born in 1637 in England (Windsor), Anne was a Protestant and a modest person. Her eventful life started in 1649 when she moved to Netherlands with her family. Her father, who was in exile, started to write on A History of the English Civil War. At the age of 17, Anne became Mary’s maid of honor who was “princess royal and princess of Orange, the eldest daughter of King Charles I, the widow of William II, prince of Orange and the mother of the young William III, Prince of Orange who would marry Anne’s daughter Mary” (Flantzer 2016).

Being a beautiful women with a success nearby men, Anne ended up marrying secretly James II and VII, Duke of York. “Anne Hyde was the first non-royal spouse to marry into the royal family since King Henry VIII‘s marriage to Catherine Parr in 1543. There would not be another non-royal spouse until 1871 when Queen Victoria‘s daughter Princess Louise married John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne and heir to the Dukedom of Argyll” (Flantzer 2016).

Eight months later, Anne Hyde got pregnant by James, and this news was not welcome at all; it created an outrage. For this reason, they were allowed to get officially married by the King Charles II. Anne conceived eight children with James; unfortunately, six of them passed away in infancy. The only survivors were Queen Mary II of England and Queen Anne of Great Britain.

            Anne was very invested in her job at the court. In fact, “she embarked whole-heartedly in politics” (Lewis 2005). She was so invested that she did not have time to take good care of her children. During her marriage to James II, the Duchess suffered a lot from her husband infidelities, she was well aware of them and talked to her father and the king about it. However, Anne Hyde was not Saint either. It seems that she had a lover named Henry Sidney “the fourth and youngest son of Robert, second Earl of Leicester, was born in 1641, and was four years the junior of the royal lady.” (Lewis 2005)

            Later on in her life, when politics started to deteriorate, Anne Hyde travelled to Rome, “it was thought that she took this step, less from strong religious conviction than from a desire to regain her influence over the Duke, who was to all intents and purposes already a convert. Whatever the reason, she was in August, 1670, formally received into the Roman Catholic Church” (Lewis 2005). In reality, the true reason of her trip was to convert to Catholicism. In fact, after her secret conversion to Catholicism, “her haughtiness had raised her many enemies. She was indeed a firm and kind friend: but the change of her religion made her friends reckon her death rather a blessing than a loss at that time to them all” (Lewis 2005). This was the most crucial moment of Anne Hyde’s life. It was a huge decision that would change her life forever. Being surrounded by an anti-Catholic spirit and more importantly her own father was the first earl of Clarendon who created the Clarendon code, Anne knew she was taking a big risk by converting to Catholicism. We should mention that even though Anne was invested in politics, she was not taking part in her father politic actions; hence, she was not part of the Clarendon code. Anne Hyde then, wrote the conversion narrative. The reason why Anne converted to Catholicism is because she was seeking the “true religion” (Saward 1999), she wanted to be herself without anybody intervening in her choice of being Catholic and she backed it up by saying “I do protest in the presence of Almighty God, that no person, man or woman, directly or indirectly, ever said anything to me or used the least endeavour to make me change my religion” (Saward 1999). To see that her biggest fear happened, meaning the rejection of her friends and even her own family, made Anne realized the degree of anti-Catholicism that was going on in England. Unfortunately, Anne was sick; she had breast cancer which took her life in 1671. During her sickness, her own brother, Henry Hyde, refused to pay her a visit because she converted to Catholicism. For him, she was not part of his family anymore.

“Before she passed away, she received the viaticum of the Church of Rome. Her remains were interred in the vault of Mary Queen of Scots in Henry Eighth’s Chapel at Westminster Abbey” (Lewis 2005).

  • King James II and VII
  • Charles II of England, Brother of James II
  • Anne Hyde
  • Anne Hyde
  • The duke and duchess of york with their two daughters
  • Edward Hyde, Father of Anne Hyde
  • King James II source: National Portrait Gallery

Conversion Narrative

A text written by Anne Hyde to explain the reason why she converted to Catholicism, she emphasized on the fact that no one influenced her.

She was an anti-Catholic, then she had personal doubts. By reading the book, History of the Reformation to have a much broader idea of God, she went through a form of crisis. Then, she talked to the bishop and the Catholics who brought her to conversations which, then brought her to convert. Finally, we have all her spiritual and personal expectations put in test.

Anne Hyde

after Sir Peter Lely, oil on canvas, feigned oval, (circa 1670)

after Sir Peter Lely, oil on canvas, feigned oval, (circa 1670)                                                        source: National Portrait Gallery 


after Unknown artist, line engraving, 1660s

after Unknown artist, line engraving, 1660s   source: National Portrait Gallery 


source: wikimedia

Anne Hyde with her husband James II and 

their daughters 

About This Exhibit


Nafi Saba

Exposition of Anne Hyde, her father and husband's life which includes inter-action with Catholicism

Edward Hyde, First Earl of Clarendon 


Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon   Source: Wikimedia

 Edward Hyde is the father of Anne Hyde. Living until 1674, he was known under the name of the First Earl of Clarendon. He was in exile twice: first in Breda, then in France. Before his first exile, he was an attorney and part of legislative body. In 1641, he come to be King Charles I’s consultant. In 1643, he was named Chancellor of the Exchequer. “In his early years of exile, Hyde played no political role, but instead began writing a history of the English Civil War, The History of the Rebellion.” (Flantzer 2016). Edward was very tough as a person. He was a complete anti-Catholic person, “He was one of the crucial participants in the protracted negotiations about the eventual shape of the restored Church of England and in the end joined in the refusal to include Nonconformists in the reconstructed church; he generally supported the series of punitive measures against religious dissidents which came to be known as the Clarendon Code” (Neal 1999). After this episode, Hyde was accused of treason in 1667 and articles was published (see image, because of the quality of the image, see "Arch-Bishop of Canterbury's letter to his majesty" for a clear version). He preferred to leave the country and go in exile in France than to respond to those accusations. He spent the rest of his life finishing his book, The History of the Rebellion, giving his own version of what really happened.

What was the reaction of her father when Anne converted to Catholicism?

Edward Hyde was very upset about Anne’s secret marriage; he was so disappointed by the situation that he would preferred Anne dead than married to James. For him, she humiliated the family. The apotheosis was when Anne converted to Catholicism, “when he heard of her shaking in her religion, was more troubled at it than at all his misfortunes. He writes her a very good and long letter upon it, enclosed in one to the Duke; but she was dead before it came into England.” (Lewis 2005). The reasons of his strong opposition to Anne’s conversion was clear: he was the earl of Clarendon. As a matter of fact Edward Hyde always wanted to prevent the king from taking decisions that would destroy the Anglican Church or isolate Protestants in England, which shows that he had no other room for another religion. Moreover, it is understandable that Edward Hyde was upset by his daughter’s conversion because he lost everything by fighting against this same religion (against toleration).

It should be noted that not only Hyde should be accused of his anti-Catholic spirit, but also the majority of English people. There were no tolerance of Catholicism in the eighteenth century. In fact, many if not all the Protestants were complaining about allowing any imposition of Catholics in the society. It is the case of the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury who wrote a letter to his majesty to show his dissatisfaction about the presence of Catholics he emphasized on the fact that his majesty was first against Catholicism (like Anne Hyde), and now he is totally for it “Your Majesty hath propounded a Toleration of Religion… By your Act you labour to set up the most Damnable and Heretical Do∣ctrine of the Church of Rome, the Whore of Babylon: How hateful it will be to God, and grievous to your good Subjects, the Pro∣fessors of the Gospel, That your Majesty who hath often disputed, and learnedly writ∣ten against those Heresies, should now shew your self a Patron of those wicked Doctrines which your Pen hath told the World, and your Conscience tells your Self, are Superstitious, Idolatrous, and Detestable” (Church of England 1689). This quote also shows that even though there were a strong anti-Catholic feeling, some people started to cultivate tolerance which was the case of Anne Hyde and fortunately she found peace in it.

Clarendon Code, 1661–1665

"Group of English statutes passed after the Restoration of Charles II to strengthen the position of the Church of England. The Corporation Act (1661) required all officers of incorporated municipalities to take communion according to the rites of the Church of England and to abjure the Presbyterian covenant. The Act of Uniformity (1662) required all ministers in England and Wales to use and subscribe to the Book of Common Prayer; nearly 2,000 ministers resigned rather than submit to this act. The Conventicle Act (1664) forbade the assembling of five or more persons for religious worship other than Anglican. The Five-Mile Act (1665) forbade any nonconforming preacher or teacher to come within 5 mi (8.1 km) of a city or corporate town where he had served as minister.” (Literary Reference Center, 2016)



source: EEBO

           source: EEBO



Arch-Bishop of Canterbury's letter to his majesty

"My Lords,

THe Commons Assembled in Parliament, having received Information of divers Treasonable Practises and Designes of a great Peer of this House (Edward Earl of Clarendon) Commanded me to Accuse the said Edward Earl of Clarendon of Treason, and other Crimes and Misdemeanors; And I do here in their Names, and in the Names of the Commons of England, accuse Edward Earl of Cla∣rendon of Treason, and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. I am further commanded by the House of Commons, to desire your Lord∣ships, That the Earl of Clarendon may forth-with be Sequestred from Parliament, and be committed to safe Custody: They further com∣mand me to acquaint your Lordships, That they will in convenient time Exhibite the Articles of the Charge against him.

Novemb. 14. 1667.

The Vote of the House of Lords.

Resolved, &c.

That the Lords have not Complyed with the Desires of the House of Commons, concerning the Commitment of the Earl of Clarendon, and Sequestring him from Parliament; Because the House of Commons have only Accused him of Treason in general, and have not assigned, or specified any particular Treason.

I. THat the Earl of Clarendon hath designed a standing Army to be Raised, and to Govern the Kingdom thereby; Ad∣vised the King to Dissolve the present Parliament, so lay aside all thoughts of Parliament for the future, to Govern by Military Power, and to maintain the same by Free-Quarter, and Contribution.

II. That he hath in hearing of many of his Majesties Subjects, falsly and seditiously said, The King was in his Heart a Papist, Popishly affected; or words to that effect.

III. That he hath received great sums of Money for passing the Canary Pattent; and other illegal Pattents, and granted several Injunctions to stop proceedings at Law against them, and other illegal Pattents formerly granted.

IV. That he hath advised and procured divers of his Majesties Subjects to be Imprisoned against Law, in remote Islands, Gar∣risons, and other Places, thereby to prevent them from the be∣nefit of the Law; and to introduce presidents for Imprisoning of other of his Majesties Subjects, in like manner.

V. That he hath corruptly sold several Offices, contrary to Law.

VI. That he hath procured his Majesties Customes to be Farmed at under Rates, knowing the same; and great pretended Debts to be paid by his Majesty; to the payment whereof, his Majesty was not in strictness bound: And hath received great sums of Money for procuring the same.

VII. That he hath received great sums of Money from the Compa∣ny of Vintners, or some of them, or their Agents, for exhausting the Prices of Wine, and for freeing them from the payment of legal Penalties, which they had incurred.

VIII. That he hath in short time gained to himself a far greater Estate then can be imagined to be lawfully gained in so short a time: And contrary to his Oath, hath procured several Grants under the Great Seal from his Majesty to himself and Relations, of several of his Majesties Lands, Hereditaments, and Leases, to the dis-profit of his Majesty.

IX. That he introduced an Arbitrary Government in his Majesties Forreign Plantations, and hath caused such as Complained there∣of, before his Majesty and Council, to be long Imprisoned for so doing.

X. That he did reject and frustrate a Proposal and Undertaking, approved by his Majesty, for the Preservation of Mevis and St. Christophers, and Reducing the French Plantations to his Maje∣sties obedience, after the Commissions were drawn for that pur∣pose, which was the occasion of such great Losses and Damages in those parts.

XI. That he advised and effected the Sale of Dunkirk to the French King, being part of his Majesties Dominions, together with the Ammunition, Artillery, and all sorts of Stores there, and for no greater value then the said Ammunition, Artillery, and Stores were worth.

XII. That the said Earle did unduly cause his Majesties Letters Pat∣tents under the Great Seal of England (to one Dr. Cronither) to be altered, and the Inrolement thereof to be unduly razed.

XIII. That he hath in an Arbitrary way, examined and drawn into question divers of his Majesties Subjects concerning their Lands, Tenements, Goods and Chattels, and Properties; determined thereof at the Council-Table, and stopped proceedings at Law; and threatned some that pleaded the Statute of 17 Car. 1.

XIV. That he had caused Quo Warranto's to be issued out against most of the Corporations of England by Act of Parliament, to the intent he might receive great sums of Money from them for Re∣newing their Charters; which when they complyed withal, he caused the said Quo Warranto's to be discharged, and prosecution thereon to cease.

XV. That he procured the Bills of Settlement for Ireland, and re∣ceived great sums of Money for the same, in a most corrupt and unlawful manner.

XVI. That he hath Deluded and Betrayed his Majesty, and the Na∣tion, in all Forreign Treaties and Negotiations, relating to the late War.

XVII. That he was a principal Author of that fatal Counsel of Di∣viding the Fleet, about June, 1666." (Arbor, 2003)

Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon

after Sir Peter Lely, line engraving, late 17th to early 18th century

after Sir Peter Lely, line engraving, late 17th to early 18th century                                    source: National Portrait Gallery 


after Adriaen Hanneman, oil on canvas, octagonal, (circa 1648-1655)

after Adriaen Hanneman, oil on canvas, octagonal, (circa 1648-1655)                           source: National Portrait Gallery 

James II and VII, Duke of York and his mistresses...


King James II and VII, Duke of York                                     source: Wikimedia

James II, Duke of York and Albany, King of England was born in 1633 and died in 1701. He had all the qualifications of a King. He was a good person, but he had a lot of mistresses whom Anne was aware of which constituted misunderstanding within the couple. “His royal highness’s amorous propensities she could not, indeed, check. He flitted after every fresh face, and even made love to one at least of his brother’s mistresses” (lewis 2005). He made Anne go through every sort of humiliations from sleeping with her maid of Honor, Arabella Churchill (daughter of Sir Winston Churchill) to married women. It should be noted that Arabella gave a total of four children to James before becoming a nun. It is important because she was born Protestant and later on became Catholic during a period of strong anti-Catholicism, again we have the idea of people changing their mind coming back. James fell in love with Lady Chesterfield whom he loved so much that “the Duchess of York hath complained to the King and her father about it, and my Lady Chesterfield has gone into the country for it.” (lewis 2005). Of course, her husband “was so angry at the attentions paid her by the Duke of York that he sent her to his country seat” (lewis 2005). Anne Hyde was so sick of James’s mistresses that she poisoned one them called Lady Denham.

The character of James II was very interesting; certainly he had a lot of mistresses, but he was hundred percent tolerant toward Catholicism. In addition, he converted to Catholicism after the death of his wife Anne Hyde even though he supported the Hyde Earl of Clarendon. Great Britain was now facing “a convert to Roman Catholicism ruling a largely Protestant population, he advocated greater tolerance towards Catholics in his Declaration of Indulgence of 1687” (National Portrait Gallery 2016) and to cover the whole, he married a Catholic woman named Mary of Modena.  Now, let’s imagine a whole empire of Protestants in majority and more precisely anti-Catholics people ruled by a Catholic King what is the outcome? Yes they started to mobilize troops to dethrone him, King James left the throne and went in France in exile and never came back.

Why does Charles II, who seemed to support his brother and Anne, refused to let their daughters convert to Catholicism despite the fact that James II and Anne Hyde were both Catholics?

His brother refused the conversion of his daughters to Catholicism which allowed Mary (one of his daughter) to take over the kingdom with her husband. I believe that, the reason why Charles II refused the conversion of his nieces is because he knew it will create another scandal and also he judged that they should be the one to take this crucial decision, exactly like their parents did, not follow the wish their parents.


My primary goal was to expose the life of Anne Hyde and associate it with the impact of Catholicism in her life and the one of her family. I believe I reached this goal. I discovered astonishing things during my research, and one thing I retained is that Catholicism was the one religion that created hate among English people: Edward Hyde got rejected, Anne Hyde got rejected and finally James II also got rejected. King James II tried to make people accept the religion but fell to his project. Anne Hyde was an interesting personage, she knew what she wanted exactly in her life and did not let her entourage prevent her from getting it (conversion to Catholicism). The most important for her was to feel in peace with God and herself. Catholicism in eighteen century was a phenomenon that could be compared to Apartheid in South Africa, Racism in United States, and Colonization in Africa, it is all about lack of tolerance due to the idea of internalization.







  • Arbor, Ann, MI; Oxford (UK): text creation partnership, 2008-09 (EEBO-TCP Phase 1). His Grace the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury's address to His Majesty for the suppression of monasteries, fryeries, nunneries, and other popish seminaries, or allowing any general tolleration to the Roman Catholicks of England
    Church of England. Province of Canterbury. Archbishop (1611-1633 : Abbot), Abbot, George, 1562-1633., Sancroft, William, 1617-1693., Church of England. Province of Canterbury. Archbishop (1678-1690: Sancroft). London, 1689 web:;idno=A75900.0001.001










  • Literary Reference Center. Columbia University Press, Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition; Q2 2016, p1-1, 1p web: