Authors: Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

English statesman and historian

February 18, 1609

Dinton, Wiltshire, England

December 9, 1674

Rouen, France


Edward Hyde, later the earl of Clarendon, was the third son of Edward Hyde and Mary Langford Hyde. He was destined for the church, but after the death of his older brothers, he entered Magdalen Hall, Oxford University, in 1622. After receiving his B.A. in 1626, he was admitted to the Middle Temple in London to study law. For nearly a decade, he enjoyed the company of learned and artistic men, chiefly Ben Jonson and his followers, and looked to Lord Falkland for his political advancement. {$I[AN]9810000544} {$I[A]Clarendon, Edward Hyde, earl of} {$I[geo]ENGLAND;Clarendon, Edward Hyde, earl of} {$I[tim]1609;Clarendon, Edward Hyde, earl of}

Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon

(Library of Congress)

Hyde’s first marriage, to Anne Ayliffe in 1629, ended with her death six months later. In 1634, he married Frances Aylesbury, with whom he had three sons and a daughter; their daughter, Anne, was to become the mother of Queens Mary II and Anne, and their sons served in the government and were later instrumental in getting Hyde’s work published.

In 1633, he was called to the bar, and in 1634 he became one of Charles I’s managers of the masques. From that time until the king was beheaded in 1649, Hyde worked for the Crown, first as a member of Parliament for fourteen years and thereafter as adviser and keeper of writs and rolls. In 1643, he was knighted and named Chancellor of the Exchequer. In all offices, he spoke out for the king against slander, but he openly opposed the king’s highhanded and wrongheaded acts. At Charles I’s request, Hyde went into exile with the young prince of Wales, during which time he began writing his opus, a history of the English Civil War. He returned with Charles II in 1660 as Lord Chancellor and the new king’s most trusted adviser. He was made earl of Clarendon in 1661 after his daughter, Anne, married James, Duke of York.

Clarendon’s decline from favor, largely because of his opposition to court immorality and lax interpretation of constitutional law, led to his being exiled again following the death of his beloved wife. From 1667 to his death, Clarendon continued his work in France, ironically the country most antagonistic to him. His monument is his history of those “wicked times” as well as his portraits of famous men and of his own life, in what has come to be known as the first English history that is both artistic and comprehensive. While living in France, he also completed an autobiography, which was published more than a half-century after his death and which paid for the construction of the Oxford University Press printing house. Clarendon died in Rouen, France, in December 1674 and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Author Works Nonfiction: The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, 1702–4 (3 volumes; standard 1888 edition, 6 volumes) A Treatise of Feme Coverts; or, The Lady's Law, 1732 The Life of Edward, Earl of Clarendon, Lord High Chancellor of England, and Chancellor of the University of Oxford, 1759 (better known as The Life of Clarendon Written by Himself) Bibliography Brownley, Martine Watson. Clarendon and the Rhetoric of Historical Form. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985. Examines the literary aspects of Clarendon's history. Brownley, Martine Watson. “Clarendon, Gibbon, and the Art of Historical Portraiture.” English Language Notes, vol. 24, no. 1, 1986, pp. 49–58. Focuses on the art of historical portraiture in England. Depiction of character by classical historians. Brownley, Martine Watson. “Some Notes on Clarendon, Other Edward Hydes, and Various Literary Pursuits.” Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700, vol. 10, no. 1, 1986, pp. 14–18. Talks about Clarendon's relationship to writing, from his student days onward. Craik, Sir Henry. The Life of Edward, Earl of Clarendon, Lord High Chancellor of England. New York: Macmillan, 1911. Clarendon's autobiography. Harris, Ronald W. Clarendon and the English Revolution. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1983. An attempt to study Clarendon’s public life through his own writings, especially his history. The author views Clarendon as the greatest Royalist statesman of the seventeenth century, but the sections dealing with Clarendon’s literary and intellectual contributions are the strongest. Hicks, Philip. “Bolingbroke, Clarendon, and the Role of Classical Historian.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 20, no. 4, 1987, pp. 445–71. Contrasts Clarendon as classical historian with Viscount Bolingbroke, a later English historian whom Clarendon inspired. Hyde, Edward, Earl of Clarendon. The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England Begun in the Year 1641. Edited by W. Dunn Macray. 6 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1888. The standard edition of Hyde’s masterpiece. Knights, L. C. “Reflections on Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion.” Scrutiny, vol. 15, 1948. Criticizes Clarendon's narrow understanding of the civil war period but lauds the History for its literary merits, particularly the character-sketches it contains. Miller, George. Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1983. A prominent attempt to reevaluate the traditional picture of Clarendon as a politician and to emphasize his contribution to revolutionary politics. Ollard, Richard. Clarendon and His Friends. New York: Atheneum, 1988. A sympathetic biography of Clarendon, including his relationships with contemporaries Ben Jonson and Thomas Hobbes as well as his politics. Ollard, Richard. “Clarendon and the Art of Prose Portraiture in the Age of Charles II.” In Art and Patronage in the Caroline Courts: Essays in Honour of Sir Oliver Millar, edited by David Howarth. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Examines Clarendon's character-sketches as an artform. Trevor-Roper, H. R. “Clarendon and the Practice of History.” In Milton and Clarendon: Two Papers in Seventeenth-Century English Historiography, by F. R. Fogle and H. R. Trevor-Roper. Los Angeles: Clark Memorial Library, 1965. A warm defense of Clarendon’s contribution to English historical literature, praising the high quality and accuracy of his historiography. Wormald, B. H. G. Clarendon: Politics, History, and Religion, 1640-1660. 1951. Reprint. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Provides context for Clarendon's decisions and actions and examines his stance on religion.

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