Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon
Hyde was the third son of Henry Hyde (d.1634) of Dinton and Purton, both in Wiltshire, by his wife, Mary Langford. Henry's brother was Lawrence Hyde, Attorney General. The family of Hyde was long established at Norbury in Cheshire. Hyde was fond of his mother and idolised his father, whom he called "the best father, the best friend, and the wisest man I have known". Clarendon's two cousins, Richard Rigby, Secretary of Jamaica and his son, Richard Rigby, Chief Secretary of Ireland and Paymaster of the Army, were successful politicians in the succeeding generations.
He was educated at Gillingham School, and in 1622 entered Magdalen Hall, Oxford, (now Hertford College, Oxford, where his portrait hangs in the hall), having been rejected by Magdalen College, Oxford, and graduated BA in 1626. Intended originally for holy orders in the Church of England, the death of two elder brothers made him his father's heir, and in 1625 he entered the Middle Temple to study law. His abilities were more conspicuous than his industry, and at the bar his time was devoted more to general reading and to the society of eminent scholars and writers than to the study of law treatises.
This time was not wasted. In later years, Clarendon declared that "next the immediate blessing and providence of God Almighty" he "owed all the little he knew and the little good that was in him to the friendships and conversation... of the most excellent men in their several kinds that lived in that age." These included Ben Jonson, John Selden, Edmund Waller, John Hales and especially Lord Falkland. From their influence and the wide reading in which he indulged, he doubtless drew the solid learning and literary talent which afterwards distinguished him. The diarist Samuel Pepys wrote thirty years later that he never knew anyone who could speak as well as Hyde. He was the most prominent member of the famous Great Tew Circle, a group of intellectuals who gathered at Falkland's country house Great Tew.
Legal career 
In 1633 he was called to the bar, and obtained quickly a good position and practice: "you may have great joy of your son Ned" his uncle the Attorney General assured his father. His marriages had gained for him influential friends, and in December 1634 he was made keeper of the writs and rolls of the Court of Common Pleas. His able conduct of the petition of the London merchants against Portland earned him the approval of William Laud, with whom he developed a friendship, surprising on the face of it as Laud did not have a gift for making friends and his religious views were very different from Hyde's. Hyde in his History explained that he admired Laud for his integrity and decency, and excused his notorious rudeness and bad temper, partly because of Laud's humble origins and partly because Hyde recognised that he had the same weaknesses.
Political career 
In April 1640, Hyde was elected Member of Parliament for both Shaftesbury and Wootton Bassett in the Short Parliament and chose to sit for Wootton Bassett. In November 1640 he was elected MP for Saltash in the Long Parliament, He was at first a moderate critic of King Charles I, but gradually moved over towards the royalist side, championing the Church of England and opposing the execution of the Earl of Strafford, Charles's primary advisor. Following the Grand Remonstrance of 1641, Hyde became an informal advisor to the King. He was disabled from sitting in parliament in 1642.
Civil War 
Despite his own previous opposition to the King he found it hard to forgive anyone, even a close friend, who fought for Parliament, and severed many close ties as a result. With the possible exception of John Pym, he detested the Parliamentary leaders, describing Oliver Cromwell as "a brave bad man" and John Hampden as a hypocrite, while the "foxes and wolves" speech of Oliver St. John, in favour of the attainder of Strafford, he considered the depth of barbarism. His view of the conflict was undoubtedly coloured by the death of his best friend Falkland at the First Battle of Newbury.
During the Civil War, Hyde served in the King's council as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was one of the more moderate figures in the royalist camp. By 1645 his moderation, and the enmity of Henrietta Maria of France, had alienated him from the King, and he was made guardian to the Prince of Wales, with whom he fled to Jersey in 1646. Despite their differences, he was horrified by the execution of the King, whom he always remembered with reverence. In his opinion the fatal flaw of Charles I, and all the Stuart monarchs, was to let their own judgement, which was usually sound, become corrupted by the advice of their favourites, which was always disastrous.
Hyde was not closely involved with Charles II's attempts to regain the throne between 1649 to 1651. It was during this period that Hyde began to write his great history of the Civil War. Hyde rejoined the exiled king in 1651 and was sent by him on an unsuccessful diplomatic mission to the Court of Spain and soon became his chief advisor. Charles appointed him Lord Chancellor in 1658.
On the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, he returned to England with the King and became even closer to the royal family through the marriage of his daughter Anne to the king's brother James, Duke of York, later King James II. Anne Hyde's two daughters were the monarchs Queen Mary II (1688-1694) and Queen Anne (1702-1714). Contemporaries naturally assumed that Hyde had arranged the royal marriage of his daughter, but later historians support his repeated claims that it came as an unwelcome shock to him. He may well have hoped to arrange a suitable alliance for James with a foreign princess, and was aware that few regarded his daughter as a suitable royal match. On a personal level he seems to have disliked James, whose impulsive attempt to repudiate the marriage can hardly have endeared him to his father-in-law. Above all, as Cardinal Mazarin remarked, the marriage was certain to damage Hyde's reputation as a politician, whether he was responsible for it or not.
Chief Minister 
In 1660, Hyde was raised to the peerage as Baron Hyde, of Hindon in the County of Wiltshire, and the next year was created Viscount Cornbury and Earl of Clarendon. He served as Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1660-1667.
As effective Chief Minister in the early years of the reign he accepted the need to fulfill most of what had been promised in the Declaration of Breda, which he had partly drafted. In particular he worked hard to fulfill the promise of mercy to all the King's enemies, except the regicides, and this was largely achieved in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion. Most other problems he was content to leave to Parliament, in particular the restored House of Lords; his speech welcoming its return shows his ingrained dislike of democracy.
He played a key role in Charles' marriage to Catherine of Braganza, with ultimately harmful consequences to himself. Clarendon liked and admired the Queen and openly disapproved of the King maintaining mistresses. The King however resented any interference with his private life. Catherine's failure to bear children was also damaging to Clarendon, given the nearness of his own grandchildren to the throne, although it is most unlikely, as was alleged, that Clarendon had planned deliberately for Charles to marry an infertile bride. They were always on friendly terms and one of his last letters is to the Queen thanking her for her kindness to his family.
As Lord Chancellor, it is commonly thought that Clarendon was the author of the "Clarendon Code", designed to preserve the supremacy of the Church of England. In reality he was not very heavily involved with its drafting and actually disapproved of much of its content. The "Great Tew Circle" of which he had been a leading member prided itself on tolerance and respect for religious differences. The code was thus merely named after him, as he was a chief minister.
Clarendon easily survived the first attempt to impeach him in 1663. The charges made by George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol were so ludicrous that even Clarendon's worst enemies could not take them seriously. However, he began to fall out of favour with the King, whom he lectured frequently on his shortcomings, and was also increasingly unpopular with the public. Quite unjustly he was accused of arranging the King's marriage to a woman he knew to be barren in order to secure the throne for the children of his daughter Anne, while the building of his palatial new mansion, Clarendon House in Piccadilly, was taken, again unjustly, to be evidence of corruption. He was also blamed for the sale of Dunkirk. His open contempt for the King's leading mistress, Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, niece of his old friend Lady Morton, earned him her enmity, and she worked with the future members of the Cabal Ministry to destroy him. His authority was weakened by increasing ill-health, in particular attacks of gout, which became so severe that he was often incapacitated for months. Even neutral courtiers began to see Clarendon as a liability. In 1667 the upright Sir William Coventry admitted to Samuel Pepys that independently of the Cabal he had worked to bring Clarendon down. Above all the military setbacks of the Second Anglo-Dutch War of 1665 to 1667, together with the disasters of the Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London, led to his downfall. The successful Dutch Raid on the Medway in June 1667 was the final blow. It was in vain for Clarendon to plead that, unlike most of his accusers, he had opposed the war. Within weeks he was ordered by the King to surrender the Great Seal. As he left Whitehall Barbara Villiers shouted abuse at him to which he replied with simple dignity "Remember you will also be old". At almost the same time he suffered a great personal blow when his wife died after a short illness. Clarendon was impeached by the House of Commons for blatant violations of Habeas Corpus, for having sent prisoners out of England to places like Jersey, and holding them there without benefit of trial. He was forced to flee to France in November 1667. The King made it clear that he would not defend him, which betrayal of his old and loyal servant harmed Charles' reputation. Clarendon was accompanied to France by his private chaplain and ally William Levett, later Dean of Bristol.
Later years and exile 
He spent the rest of his life in exile, despite hopes, which never quite died, of a return. King Louis XIV of France, whose relations with the new English Ministry were rather cool, made no objection to allowing their old adversary to live permanently in France. Despite his chronic ill-health, he lived comfortably, although the terms of his exile were severe: until 1672 his children were forbidden to visit him, and he had to endure the death of Anne, his favourite child, without being allowed to see her. He spent his exile working on his History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, the classic account of the Civil War. The sale proceeds from this book were instrumental in building the Clarendon Building at Oxford University. He died in Rouen, France, on 9 December 1674. Shortly after his death, his body was returned to England, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Marriage & descendants 
Clarendon married twice:
- Firstly in 1629 to Anne Ayliffe (d.1629), daughter of Sir George Ayliffe of Grittenham, Wiltshire, who died six months afterwards, to Edward's intense grief. Without progeny.
- Secondly in 1634 to Frances Aylesbury, daughter of Sir Thomas Aylesbury, Master of Requests, by his wife Anne Denman. He seems to have been a good and faithful husband, despite what he himself called a passionate friendship with Anne's cousin Anne Villiers, Countess of Morton. From this second marriage there were six children who survived infancy, including:
- Henry Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon, eldest son and heir, a major political figures in his own right.
- Lawrence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester, 2nd son, a major political figures in his own right.
- Hon. Edward Hyde, 3rd son, died at the age of twenty, shortly after being brought into Parliament.
- James Hyde, fourth son, drowned in his early twenties.
- Anne Hyde, eldest daughter, wife of the future King James II. Clarendon was thus grandfather to both Queen Mary II and Queen Anne.
- Frances Hyde, younger daughter, married Thomas Keightley in 1675.
Death & burial 
Portrayals in drama & fiction 
In the film Cromwell, Clarendon (called only Sir Edward Hyde in the film), is portrayed by Nigel Stock as a sympathetic, conflicted man torn between Parliament and the King. He finally turns against him altogether when Charles I pretends to accept Cromwell's terms of peace, but secretly and treacherously plots to raise a Catholic army against Parliament and start a second civil war. Clarendon reluctantly, but bravely, gives testimony at the King's trial which is instrumental in condemning him to death.
In the 2003 BBC TV mini-series Charles II: The Power and The Passion, Clarendon was played by actor Ian McDiarmid. The series portrayed Clarendon (referred to as 'Sir Edward Hyde' throughout) as acting in a paternalistic fashion towards Charles II, something the King comes to dislike. It is also intimated that he had arranged the marriage of Charles and Catherine of Braganza already knowing that she was infertile so that his granddaughters through his daughter Anne Hyde (who had married the future James II) would eventually inherit the throne of England.
In fiction, Clarendon is a minor character in An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears and a recurring character in the Thomas Chaloner series of mystery novels by Susanna Gregory; both authors show him in a fairly sympathetic light.
- "Hyde, Edward (1609-1674)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. Contains a list of Clarendon's works.
- The history of Rebellion and Civil War in Ireland (1720)
- A Collection of several tracts of Edward, Earl of Clarendon, (1727)
- Religion and Policy, and the Countenance and Assistance each should give to the other, with a Survey of the Power and Jurisdiction of the Pope in the dominion of other Princes (Oxford 1811, 2 volumes)
- History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England: Begun in the Year 1641 by Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon (1717):
- Essays, Moral and Entertaining by Clarendon (J. Sharpe, 1819)
- The Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon, Lord High Chancellor of England, and Chancellor of the University of Oxford Containing:
- I Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon: An Account of the Chancellor's Life from his Birth to the Restoration in 1660
- II Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon: A Continuation of the fame, and of his History of the Grand Rebellion, from the Restoration to his Banishment in 1667
See also 
- Maclagan, Michael; Louda, Jiří (1999), Line of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, London: Little, Brown & Co, p. 27, ISBN 1-85605-469-1
- Birth of the First Earl of Clarendon History Today]
- Gillingham Grammar School, Dorset - An Historical Account" by A F H V Wagner, MA
- Willis, Browne (1750). Notitia Parliamentaria, Part II: A Series or Lists of the Representatives in the several Parliaments held from the Reformation 1541, to the Restoration 1660 .... London. pp. 229–239.
- Ollard, Richard Clarendon and his Friends Macmillans 1987 p.226
- Ollard p.226
- Kenyon, J.P. Stuart England Allen Lane 1978 p.215
- The Correspondence of Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, and of His Brother, Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, Henry Colburn, London, 1828
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon|
- Works by Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon at Project Gutenberg
- Essays by Edward Hyde at Quotidiana.org
- Volume 2 of The Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon by Henry Craik from Project Gutenberg
- The Life of Edward, Earl of Clarendon, in which is included a Continuation of his History of the Grand Rebellion by Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon (Clarendon Press, 1827): Volume I, Volume II, Volume III
- Historical Enquiries Respecting the Character of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon by George Agar-Ellis (1827)