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Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon

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Title: Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon  
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Subject: Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Cottington, 1st Baron Cottington, Anne Hyde, English Civil War, Charles II: The Power and The Passion
Collection: 1609 Births, 1674 Deaths, 17Th-Century Antiquarians, 17Th-Century English Writers, Alumni of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, Burials at Westminster Abbey, Cavaliers, Chancellors of the Exchequer of England, Chancellors of the University of Oxford, Earls of Clarendon, English Essayists, English Historians, English Mps 1640 (April), English Mps 1640–48 (up to Pride's Purge), Fellows of the Royal Society, Hyde Family (English Aristocracy), Lord Chancellors of England, Lord High Stewards, Lord-Lieutenants of Oxfordshire, Lord-Lieutenants of Wiltshire, Members of the Pre-1707 English Parliament for Constituencies in Cornwall, People Educated at Gillingham Grammar School, Dorset, People from Purton
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Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon

Edward Hyde
Earl of Clarendon
Personal details
Born 18 February 1609
Died 9 December 1674(1674-12-09) (aged 65)
Rouen, France
Spouse(s) Anne Ayliffe (m. 1629 – her death six months later)
Frances Aylesbury (m. 1634)
Arms of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon: Quarterly, 1st and 4th: Azure, a chevron between three lozenges Or (Hyde); 2nd: Paly of six or and gules a bend azure (Langford); 3rd: Azure, a cross argent (Aylesbury) [1]

Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon (18 February 1609 – 9 December 1674) was an English statesman, historian, and maternal grandfather of two English, Scottish and Irish monarchs, Queen Mary II and Queen Anne.


  • Origins 1
  • Education 2
  • Legal career 3
  • Political career 4
  • Civil War 5
  • Restoration 6
    • Chief Minister 6.1
    • Downfall 6.2
  • Later years and exile 7
  • Marriage and descendants 8
  • Portrayals in drama and fiction 9
  • Bibliography 10
  • See also 11
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


Hyde was the third son[2] 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,[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

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."[6] 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.[5] 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.

Edward Hyde in 1626, aged 17, by Cornelis Janssens van Ceulen, UK Government art collection

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. Both his marriages gained 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 easily and his religious views were very different from Hyde's.[4] 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 the same weaknesses in himself.

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,[7] Hyde was at first a moderate critic of King Charles I, but became more supportive of the king after he began to accept reforming bills from Parliament. Hyde opposed legislation restricting the power of the king to appoint his own advisors, viewing it unnecessary and an affront to royal prerogative.[8] He 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 left London about 20 May 1642, and rejoined the king at York.[4]

Edward Hyde by William Dobson, circa 1643

Civil War

Despite his own previous opposition to the king he found it hard to forgive anyone, even a former friend, who fought for Parliament, and he severed many personal 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 Oliver St. John's "foxes and wolves" speech, in favour of the attainder of Strafford, he considered to be the depth of barbarism. His view of the conflict was undoubtedly coloured by the death of his best friend Lord Falkland at the First Battle of Newbury in September 1643.

During the Civil War, Hyde served in the king's council beginning 22 February 1645, and was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer on 3 March,[4] 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.[4]

Portrait of Edward Hyde by Jacob van Reesbroeck, 1649-1653

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, as with 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 on 13 January 1658.[4]


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 modern historians in general accept his repeated claims that he had no hand it in, and that indeed it came as an unwelcome shock to him: he is supposed to have told Anne that he would rather see her dead than so disgrace her family.[9] There are good reasons why Clarendon might have opposed the marriage: he may have hoped to arrange a marriage for James with a foreign princess, and he was well aware that nobody regarded his daughter as a suitable royal match, a view which Clarendon, a rigid social conservative, entirely shared. 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. Anne enforced the rules of etiquette governing such marriages with great strictness, and thus caused Clarendon and his wife some social embarrassment: as commoners, they were not permitted to sit down in Anne's presence, or to refer to her as their daughter in public (in theory, this was not allowed even in private). 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.[10]

Hyde, by Adriaen Hanneman, circa 1648–1655

Chief Minister

On 3 November 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.[4]

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, and in particular to the restored House of Lords; his speech welcoming the Lords' return shows his ingrained dislike of democracy.[4]

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. He and Catherine were always on friendly terms, and one of his last letters was written 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 chief minister.[11]


In 1663, the Earl of Clarendon was one of eight Lords Proprietor given title to a huge tract of land in North America which became the Province of Carolina.[4]

The Earl of Clarendon in a 1666 engraving by David Loggan.

Clarendon easily survived the first attempt to Clarendon House in Piccadilly, was regarded, again unjustly, as 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, a niece of his great 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 on end: Pepys records that early in 1665 he could scarcely stand, and was forced to lie on a couch during Council meetings. Even neutral courtiers began to see Clarendon as a liability: some apparently tried to persuade him to retire, and when that did not work, spread false reports that he was anxious to step down. In 1667, just after the fall of Clarendon, the upright Sir William Coventry admitted to Samuel Pepys that he had worked to bring Clarendon down (he was largely responsible for the false reports that Clarendon wanted to retire); this was not, as he stressed, because he had any doubts about Clarendon's desire to serve the King to the best of his ability, but because his dominance of policy-making made even the discussion, let alone the adoption of any alternative policy, impossible. [12] Clarendon in turn in his memoirs makes clear his bitterness against Coventry for what he regarded as his betrayal, which he contrasted with the loyalty which William's brother Henry Coventry showed to him throughout his life.

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, and the successful Dutch Raid on the Medway in June 1667 was the final blow to his career. 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 "Madam, pray remember that if you live, 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. Efforts to pass an Act of Attainder against him failed, but an Act providing for his banishment was passed in December and received the royal assent. Apart from Clarendon's son-in-law the Duke of York, and Henry Coventry, few spoke in his defence. Clarendon was accompanied to France by his private chaplain and ally William Levett, later Dean of Bristol.[13]

Later years and exile

He spent the rest of his life in exile, despite his hopes, which never quite died, of being allowed to return home. Louis XIV of France, whose relations with the new English Ministry were rather cool, had no serious objection to allowing their old adversary to live permanently in France, and he settled in Rouen. Despite his chronic ill-health, he lived comfortably enough, although the terms of his exile were severe: until 1672, his children were forbidden to visit him, and in 1671 he had to endure the death of Anne, who was generally thought to be his favourite child, without being allowed to see her again. In his final years the restrictions were relaxed, due to the influence of his friend Henry Coventry, now Secretary of State. He spent his exile working on his History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, the classic account of the Civil War, and for which he is chiefly remembered today. 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 a private ceremony in Westminster Abbey on 4 January 1675.[4]

Marriage and descendants

Clarendon married twice. Firstly, in 1629, he married Anne Ayliffe (died 1629), daughter of Sir George Ayliffe of Grittenham, Wiltshire, who died 6 months after, without issue, and to Edward's intense grief.

Secondly, he married, in 1634, 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 his first wife's cousin Anne Villiers, Countess of Morton. From this second marriage there were six children who survived infancy, including:

Portrayals in drama and fiction

Nigel Bruce played Sir Edward Hyde in the 1947 film The Exile, with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as Charles II.

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 the 2004 film Stage Beauty, starring Billy Crudup and Claire Danes, Clarendon (again referred to simply as Edward Hyde) is played by Edward Fox.

In fiction, Clarendon is a minor character in An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears, and he is also a recurring character in the Thomas Chaloner series of mystery novels by Susanna Gregory; both authors show him in a fairly sympathetic light.


  • 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 (3 volumes) (1702-1704):
    • Volume I, Part 1,
    • Volume I, Part 2, new edition, 1807.
    • Volume II, Part 1,
    • Volume II, Part 2,
    • Volume III, Part 1,
    • Volume III, Part 2
  • 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 same, and of his History of the Grand Rebellion, from the Restoration to his Banishment in 1667

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^ History TodayBirth of the First Earl of Clarendon in
  3. ^ Gillingham Grammar School, Dorset – An Historical Account" by A F H V Wagner, MA
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Firth 1891.
  5. ^ a b  
  6. ^ Life, i., 25
  7. ^  
  8. ^ Holmes, Clive (2007). Why was Charles I executed? ([Reprint.] ed.). London: Continuum. p. 44.  
  9. ^ Ollard, Richard Clarendon and his Friends Macmillans 1987 p.226
  10. ^ Ollard p.226
  11. ^ Kenyon, J.P. Stuart England Allen Lane 1978 p.215
  12. ^ Diary of Samuel Pepys 2 September 1667
  13. ^ The Correspondence of Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, and of His Brother, Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, Henry Colburn, London, 1828


  •  Firth, Charles Harding (1891). "Hyde, Edward (1609-1674)". In Contains a list of Clarendon's works.  

External links

  • Essays by Edward Hyde at
  • by Henry CraikThe Life of Edward Earl of ClarendonVolume 2 of 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)
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Parliament suspended since 1629
Member of Parliament for Shaftesbury
With: William Whitaker
Succeeded by
William Whitaker
Samuel Turner
Preceded by
Parliament suspended since 1629
Member of Parliament for Wootton Bassett
With: Sir Thomas Windebanke, 1st Baronet
Succeeded by
William Pleydell
Edward Poole
Preceded by
George Buller (MP)
Francis Buller
Member of Parliament for Saltash
With: George Buller (MP)
Succeeded by
John Thynne
Henry Wills
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir John Colepeper
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Vacant – last held by Sir Edward Herbert
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Orlando Bridgeman
(Lord Keeper)
Preceded by
The Lord Cottington
(Lord High Treasurer)
First Lord of the Treasury
Succeeded by
The Earl of Southampton
(Lord High Treasurer)
Preceded by
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper
Academic offices
Preceded by
Duke of Somerset
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
Gilbert Sheldon
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Viscount Falkland
Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire
Succeeded by
The Viscount Saye and Sele
Title last held by
The Duke of Ormonde
Lord High Steward
Title next held by
The Lord Finch
Preceded by
The Earl of Southampton
Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Essex
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Clarendon
Succeeded by
Henry Hyde
Baron Hyde
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