Edward Hyde Clarendon, earl of, a British statesman and historian, born at Dinton, Wiltshire, Feb. 18, 1608, died in Rouen, France, Dec. 9, 1674. His family belonged to the English gentry, and had for several centuries been settled in Cheshire, He was educated at Magdalen hall, Oxford (1621-'6), and had been intended for the church; but his destination was changed in consequence of the death of his elder brother, and he was entered in the Middle Temple, of which his uncle, Sir N. Hyde, was treasurer. His studies were more miscellaneous than legal, and he associated much with loose characters. He did not show application until after his marriage in 1629 with Anne Ayliffe, who died six months afterward. In 1632 he married Frances Aylesbury. The deaths of his father and uncle had a grave effect on his character, and he applied himself to professional labors, yet not neglecting literature or politics. Circumstances of a professional nature brought him the acquaintance of Archbishop Laud, then the most powerful member of the government, by whom he was much assisted, and whom he greatly assisted in return.
Being chosen a member of the short parliament, which met April 13, 1640, he took the government side, though moderately, and was brought into collision with Hampden. On May 5 the parliament was dissolved by the king, a measure to which Hyde was opposed, boldly remonstrating with Laud on the subject. He was an advocate of practical reforms, and had the policy which he indicated been pursued, there can be little doubt that the British throne would have remained in possession of the house of Stuart. Hyde was chosen by Sal-tash to serve in the long parliament, November, 1640. In the first proceedings of that celebrated body he was as conspicuous a reformer as either Pym or Hampden. He led the way in the abolition of some of those abitrary tribunals by the use of which the Stuarts were seeking to make of England a monarchy after the fashion of France, the earl marshal's court and the council of York especially. He took part in the proceedings against the judges who had been concerned in the ship-money business, and in the impeachment of Lord Keeper Finch, distinguishing himself particularly in the latter transaction, He was not so prominently concerned in the proceedings against Strafford, but yet was active in them.
In the summer of 1641 Hyde separated himself from the reformers, indications of his intention to do so having been afforded at an earlier date. He broke with them on church questions, and his decision was apparently hastened by his discovery of the republican leanings of some of their chiefs. He attracted the king's attention, and they had an interview just before Charles made a visit to Scotland. From that time dates his connection with the Stuarts. He was one of those who, although opposed to arbitrary power, believed the parliament had gone far enough. The house of commons was beginning to evince an arbitrary disposition on some points, while the utter faithlessness of the king was unknown to the world. A reaction had commenced, but Charles knew not how to profit by it. The Irish rebellion and other circumstances were sufficient to set the popular tide in favor of the parliament again, when the bringing forward of the "grand remonstrance," in which all the king's crimes and errors were clearly set forth, led to a close contest in parliament, the result of which showed that the reformers were carrying matters too far, as they triumphed by only 11 majority. Hyde was very conspicuous in opposition, and narrowly escaped being sent to the tower.
The king's answer to the remonstrance was written by Hyde, and is an able state paper. Sensible of Hyde's talents, the king determined to associate him with Falkland and Colepeper as his chief ministers and advisers. He refused to accept office, but the three constitutional royalists were to meet often, to consult on the king's affairs, and to conduct them in parliament, the monarch asking their advice, and solemnly pledging himself to take no step in parliament without that advice; a pledge which he kept after his usual fashion. All three were of service to him, meeting every night, generally at Hyde's house, he doing all the writing that was necessary, and corresponding with the king. The suspicions of the other party were directed to him, but this could not have proved injurious if the king had acted with common honesty. In violation of his pledge to Hyde and his associates, as well as in violation of law, he endeavored to seize the "five members," an act that not only made civil war inevitable, but set the country once more against the king. Hyde says they were absolute strangers to the royal counsels, and detested them. Still he remained the royal adviser, and aided the king with his pen. He opposed the bill to remove the bishops from the house of peers.
In the dispute between the king and parliament respecting the militia, Hyde was the author of the ablest royal papers, all written in a constitutional spirit. The king had left London, and he summoned Hyde to York, to the vicinity of which he went in May, 1042. The war began three months later, but negotiations were commenced for an accommodation, and Hyde's services were put in requisition. In 1643 he was made chancellor of the exchequer, knighted, and sworn of the privy council. On the death of Falkland the king offered to make him secretary of state, but he declined the appointment. It was by his advice that parliament was summoned to meet at Oxford, where large numbers of both houses assembled, He was one of the royal commissioners who met the parliamentary commissioners at Uxbridge, the burden of the work on the royal side falling on his shoulders. The negotiations failed. When the king appointed Prince Charles head of the western association, Hyde was made a member of the prince's council, and saw the king for the last time March 5, 1645. During the proceedings in the west he attended the prince, first to Scilly, and then to Jersey. In the latter island he remained over two years, and long after the prince had left it.
In his correspondence he condemned the king's duplicity, as proved by the circumstances of Glamorgan's treaty. He commenced his "History of the Rebellion" while at Scilly, in March, 1646, and labored very diligently on it in Jersey. In the summer of 1618 he joined Prince Charles in Holland, and had some part in the intrigues of his quarrelsome court. The next year he was sent minister to Spain, in company with Lord Cot-tington. His mission proved a failure, and he left that country in 1651, taking up his residence at Antwerp. At the close of the year he joined Charles II. at Paris, and was intrusted with the management of his affairs. This brought him much unpopularity, and the exiled court was the scene of the worst intrigues. He suffered the extremes of poverty, and speaks in his correspondence of his lack of money, clothes, and fuel. The queen mother was his bitter enemy, and sought with the aid of the courtiers to ruin him, but without success. He was concerned in the plots against Cromwell's government, and listened to projects for the protector's assassination. He accompanied the vagrant court in all its wanderings, and was made lord chancellor in 1657. When it became apparent that a restoration was approaching, he favored moderate counsels.
Two days after the entrance of the king into London, Hyde took the seat of speaker of the house of lords, and sat in the court of chancery. It was vainly attempted to exclude him from power, and he became head of the administration. He was made Baron Hyde, Viscount Cornbury, and earl of Clarendon, but refused the garter. He wished to keep faith with the roundheads, but the current ran too strongly against all who had opposed the royal power for even the king to maintain his faith. Clarendon sought to govern constitutionally, but in the spirit of a departed age. He offended the country party by his arbitrary ideas, and the court by the purity of his morals. His position in the government made him responsible for acts which he did not approve; and the sale of Dunkirk to the French caused him much unpopularity, the people derisively applying the name of Dunkirk house to the magnificent mansion which he had built in London. His taste led him to form a splendid gallery of paintings, many of which he was accused of extorting from necessitous royalists. The marriage of his daughter Anne with the duke of York, heir presumptive to the crown, offended the nobility, and laid him open to grave suspicions with the ignorant portion of the people.
Without being corrupt, he was greedy of money, which he expended in the most ostentatious manner. By the year 1667 his unpopularity was at its height. The people changed the name of his palace to Holland house, because of their suspicion that he had been bribed by the Dutch; and from that to Tangier hall, as he was charged with having taken money to assent to the holding of that African town, which was a part of the dower of Catharine of Braganza, queen of Charles II. The disasters of the Dutch war were laid to his charge, though he had been opposed to the contest. The great plague, the great fire, and "hard times" generally, tended to swell his unpopularity. The populace broke his windows, cut down his trees, and painted a gibbet on the gate of his house. He was hated for his virtues by the king and his mistresses; by the cavaliers, because he had upheld the act of indemnity; by the dissenters, because he had promoted the act of uniformity; and by the Catholics, because he had opposed the dispensing power. The house of lords were offended by his showing regard for the constitutional privileges of the commons; and the house of commons believed he was either opposed to the very existence of parliaments, or had advised the dissolution of the parliament then existing.
The king, who always disliked extremes, recommended him to surrender the great seal; advice which he refused to take, framing his reply in language which could not fail to be offensive. Four days later (Aug. 13, 1667) he was forced to surrender the seal; but this did not satisfy his enemies, who on the meeting of parliament proceeded to extremities against him, encouraged by a reflection on him that appeared in the king's speech. It was then proposed to proceed against him by impeachment generally, but the lords refused to arrest him unless some specific charge were made. Finally, Clarendon was induced to retire to France, whereupon parliament passed a bill of banishment, and his vindication was burned by the hangman. At Evreux he was assailed by a mob of English sailors, and came near being murdered. He resided at Montpellier, Moulins, and Rouen for seven years. His retirement was devoted to literary pursuits. He completed his "History of the Rebellion," finished a work on the Psalms which he had commenced when in his first exile, wrote his "Life," an answer to Hobbes's "Leviathan," a large number of essays on political, moral, and religious subjects, a "Discourse on the Papal Power," etc.
His collected writings would form almost a library, and they would show an extensive range of subjects. His "History of the Rebellion" is one of the most remarkable works in the literature of modern times. It is full of errors of omission and commission, deliberately made. Indeed, Clarendon wrote an "apology" or "vindication" of the royal party, and not a history of the contest between that party and their opponents. Yet it has become a classic; and, to use the language of the author's descendant and biographer, "the arrangement of its materials, the dignity of its tone, the happy combination of disquisition with description, the felicity of expression which it frequently displays, the development of motives, the discrimination of character, have received the warm and merited admiration of many generations of readers." - Two of Clarendon's granddaughters, Mary and Anne, became queens regnant of England. Clarendon's "Life and Administration" has been written by T. II. Lister, one of his descendants. His "Life," and other autobiographical writings, are not to be trusted, and are inferior in value and interest to the " History of the Rebellion." It was not until more than 150 years after his death that his "History" and "Life" were published in a perfect state, for which we are indebted to the learned Dr. Bandinel.