The History of the Rebellion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Hyde, circa  1648–1655. Portrait by Adriaen Hanneman (d. 1671), National Portrait Gallery, London, no 773

The History of the Rebellion by Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon is his account of the English Civil War. This work (originally published in 1702–1704 as The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England) was the first full-scale, detailed history of the Civil War and was written by a key player in the events contained within it.[1]


Clarendon wrote the original History between 1646 and 1648, which only recorded events to March 1644. After his banishment, he wrote his autobiographical Life between 1668 and 1670. In 1671 he then revised the History by incorporating the Life into it and writing new sections covering events after March 1644.[2]


Clarendon subtly advanced his own views of royalist strategy in the History. For example, he disagreed with the royalist camp in Paris, headed by the Queen, who agreed with Charles' compromises over the Anglican Church to win the support of the Presbyterian Scots against Parliament. Clarendon strenuously opposed such alterations to the Church of England and thought that by negotiating away the episcopal character of the Church, Charles' advisers were destroying the cause for which they should have been fighting.

The History is influenced by his politics, and he denigrates the reasons for accepting religious compromises by denying that there was widespread Protestant disaffection with the Anglican Church prior to 1640; he attributes the little disaffection to a wicked faction.[3]

King Charles the 2d in Disguise rideing before Mrs Lane by which he made his Escape; the Lord Wilmor at a distance. Clarendon Vol: 3. Pag. 418.


The original publication of the History was part of a publishing war between supporters of the rival Roundheads and Cavaliers. The publication of the Roundhead Edmund Ludlow's Memoirs in 1698-1699 was a sensational success and led to a spate of Roundhead Civil War memoirs from the Whigs, especially from the printer John Darby.[4] In 1701 the Tories began a counter-attack by printing the Cavalier memoirs of Sir Philip Warwick, followed in the next year by the first volume of Clarendon's History and the memoirs of Sir Thomas Herbert.[5] In his preface to the first volume of his father's work, Laurence Hyde wrote:

In an age when so many memoirs, narratives, and pieces of history come out as it were on purpose to justify the taking up arms against that king, and to blacken, revile, and ridicule the sacred majesty of an anointed head in distress; and when so much of the sense of religion to God, and of allegiance and duty to the crown is so defaced that it is already within little more than fifty years since the murder committed on that pious prince by some men made a mystery to judge on whose side was the right and on which the Rebellion is to be charged.[6]

The second volume was published during the Tory push for the Occasional Conformity Bill that sought to strengthen the Anglican hold on power by depriving Dissenters of all offices. Hyde in his preface warned Queen Anne that the "Monarchy of England is not now capable of being supported but upon the principles of the Church of England". The Dissenters' current activities, Hyde claimed, were "an industrious propagation of the rebellious principles of the last age".[7] Hyde warned her that unless she adhered to the Tories she would suffer the same fate as her grandfather Charles I.[8] The Queen wrote to her friend Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough on 21 October 1703:

Sir B. Bathurst sent me Ld Clarendons history last week, but haveing not quite made an end of ye first part, I did not unpack it, but I shall have that Curiosety now, to See this extraordinary dedication, which I should never have looked for in ye Second part of a book, & me thinks it is very wonderfull that people that dont want sense in some things, should be soe rediculous as to shew theire vanity.[9]

David Hume, writing in his The History of Great Britain in 1756, provided a mixed assessment of Clarendon:

This age affords great materials for history; but did not produce any accomplished historian. Clarendon, however, will always be esteemed an entertaining writer, even independent of our curiosity to know the facts, which he relates. His style is prolix and redundant, and suffocates us by the length of its periods: But it discovers imagination and sentiment, and pleases us at the same time that we disapprove of it. He is more partial in appearance than in reality: For he seems perpetually anxious to apologize for the king; but his apologies are often well grounded. He is less partial in his relation of facts, than in his account of characters: He was too honest a man to falsify the former; his affections were easily capable, unknown to himself, of disguising the latter. An air of probity and goodness runs through the whole work; as these qualities did in reality embellish the whole life of the author.[10]

The republican Whig historian Catharine Macaulay believed the History to be "as faithful an account of facts as any to be found in those times...The characters are described in strong if not just colours, but the style is disagreeably pompous" and "the author's conclusions are so much at war with his facts that he is apt to disgust a candid reader with his prejudices and partiality".[11]

The debate over the Civil War continued into the eighteenth century and Tory defences of the History against Whig criticisms appeared in 1716 by Henry Cantrell, in 1731 by Francis Atterbury, in 1732 by William Shippen and in 1739 by John Davys.[12]

In 1757 a former Secretary of State, Thomas Robinson, attacked the Tories, claiming that "the creed of those gentlemen was in the preface to Clarendon's History" i.e. Laurence Hyde's 1701 preface.[13]


  • Lord Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, edited by W. D. Macray, 6 vols. Clarendon Press (1888); repr. (1958); repr. (1992). The standard, scholarly edition.
  • Gertrude Huehns (ed.), Clarendon: Selections from The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars and the Life By Himself (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955).
  • Paul Seaward (ed.), Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon: The History of the Rebellion. A New Selection (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).


  1. ^ Richardson, p. 25.
  2. ^ Wormald, p. ix.
  3. ^ Seaward, pp. xx-xxi.
  4. ^ Worden, p. 39, 86-87.
  5. ^ Worden, p. 39.
  6. ^ Richardson, pp. 33-34.
  7. ^ Keith Feiling, A History of the Tory Party: 1640-1714 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), p. 372.
  8. ^ Gregg, p. 168.
  9. ^ Gregg, p. 168.
  10. ^ Hume, p. 154.
  11. ^ Hill, p. 27.
  12. ^ Linda Colley, In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party, 1714-60 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 86.
  13. ^ Colley, p. 89.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brownley, Martine Watson. Clarendon & the Rhetoric of Historical Form (1985)
  • Craik, Henry. The life of Edward, earl of Clarendon, lord high chancellor of England. (2 vol 1911) online
  • Eustace, Timothy. "Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon," in Timothy Eustace, ed., Statesmen and Politicians of the Stuart Age (London, 1985).
  • Finlayson, Michael G. "Clarendon, Providence, and the Historical Revolution," Albion (1990) 22#4 pp 607–632 in JSTOR
  • Firth, Charles H. "Clarendon's 'History of the Rebellion,"' Parts 1, II, III, English Historical Review vol 19, nos. 73-75 (1904)
  • Gregg, Edward. Queen Anne (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).
  • Harris, R. W. Clarendon and the English Revolution (London, 1983).
  • Hill, Bridget. The Republican Virago. The Life and Times of Catharine Macaulay, Historian (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).
  • Hill, Christopher. "Clarendon and Civil the War." History Today (1953) 3#10 pp 695–703.
  • Hume, David. The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to The Revolution in 1688 (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1983).
  • MacGillivray, R.C. (1974). Restoration Historians and the English Civil War. Springer.
  • Miller, G. E. Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (Boston, 1983), as writer
  • Ollard, Richard. Clarendon and his friends (Oxford University Press, 1988)
  • Richardson, R. C. The Debate on the English Revolution (London: Methuen, 1977).
  • Seaward, Paul. ‘Introduction’, in Seaward (ed.), Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon: The History of the Rebellion. A New Selection (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Trevor-Roper, Hugh. "Clarendon's 'History of the Rebellion'" History Today (1979) 29#2 p73-79
  • Worden, Blair. Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil Wars and the Passions of Posterity (London: Penguin, 2001).
  • Wormald, B. H. G. Clarendon. Politics, Historiography and Religion. 1640-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964).