By Jeannine Kerwin

Biographies and Portraits

Edward Hyde the Earl of Clarendon (1609-1674), a dignified statesman and historian, as depicted here and from the National Portrait Gallery was the Lord High Chancellor during the early years of the Restoration of King Charles II. Several wonderful websites offer excellent and well detailed biographies and related background information on Lord Clarendon:1911 Encyclopedia;British Civil Wars and Wikipedia.

Clarendon in the Diary

Sam’s interactions with the Lord Chancellor were limited but favorable, including an affectionate walk where he took Lord Sandwich’s young son to meet the King, the Duke and Lord Chancellor. Sam witnessed the King granting Hyde his title and Earldom and often shared niceties while delivering a letter. Over time, amidst the political factions, Clarendon often found himself on the unpopular side of the licentious Court of Charles II. He was unfairly blamed by Lord Bristoll on a variety of fabricated charges which the Lords agreed did not constitute treason.

By 1667 he found himself blamed for the Second Dutch War and more sensitively to Charles II, the marriage of Frances Stuart to the Duke of Richmond. Charles dismissed him in 1667 and Clarendon lived out the final years of his life in exile. During that time he wrote his famous History of the Great Rebellion. Shamefully for the King, as Clarendon was old and very ill he twice wrote to the King asking to be allowed to return home to England to die with his children. The King never replied to his requests and Clarendon died at Rouen, with his younger son Lawrence Hyde present, on December 9, 1674.

Further Resources

Some of the biographies and related non-fiction written by or about Clarendon are listed below. These books tend to be rare and may be available through your local library (with the help of the research department) or are sometimes available through the used book search or your local country

  • Clarendon and His Friends by Richard Ollard
  • Clarendon’s Four Portraits by Edward Hyde Earl of Clarendon
  • The History of the Great Rebellion and Civil Wars in England in the Year 1641 by Edward Hyde Earl of Clarendon
  • The Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon by Edward Hyde Earl of Clarendon
  • The Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon, Lord High Chancellor of England by Sir Henry Craik
  • The Life and Administration of Edward First Earl of Clarendon with Original Correspondence with Authentic Papers never before published by T.H. Lister

Additional Background

Editor’s Note

This summary incorporates links provided by Matthew in 2003.

1893 text

On January 29th, 1658, Charles II. entrusted the Great Seal to Sir Edward Hyde, with the title of Lord Chancellor, and in that character Sir Edward accompanied the King to England.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

14 Annotations

Paul Brewster  •  Link

Hyde was chairman of the Treasury Commission
per L&M

steve h  •  Link

Macaulay's portrait of Clarendon

"At the Restoration Hyde became chief minister. In a few months it was announced that he was closely related by affinity to the royal house. His daughter had become, by a secret marriage, Duchess of York. His grandchildren might perhaps wear the crown. He was raised by this illustrious connection over the heads of the old nobility of the land, and was for a time supposed to be allpowerful. In some respects he was well fitted for his great place. No man wrote abler state papers. No man spoke with more weight and dignity in Council and in Parliament. No man was better acquainted with general maxims of statecraft. No man observed the varieties of character with a more discriminating eye. It must be added that he had a strong sense of moral and religious obligation, a sincere reverence for the laws of his country, and a conscientious regard for the honour and interest of the Crown. But his temper was sour, arrogant, and impatient of opposition. Above all, he bad been long an exile; and this circumstance alone would have completely disqualified him for the supreme direction of affairs. I" ...
"To him England was still the England of his youth; and he sternly frowned down every theory and every practice which had sprung up during his own exile. Though he was far from meditating any attack on the ancient and undoubted power of the House of Commons, he saw with extreme uneasiness the growth of that power. The royal prerogative, for which he had long suffered, and by which he had at length been raised to wealth and dignity, was sacred in his eyes. The Roundheads he regarded both with political and with personal aversion. To the Anglican Church he had always been strongly attached, and had repeatedly, where her interests were concerned, separated himself with regret from his dearest friends. His zeal for Episcopacy and for the Book of Common Prayer was now more ardent than ever, and was mingled with a vindictive hatred of the Puritans, which did him little honour either as a statesman or as a Christian."

Pedro.  •  Link

Hyde and Catarina de Braganca.

According to Hilda Lewis in her biography of Catarina, Hyde seems to be the main person with whom Charles discusses the proposal of marriage. This proposal being put by the Portuguese Ambassador, Fransico de Mello, initially via Lord Manchester. This was probably during May 1661.
The value of the dowry was obviously hard to refuse, but Charles wanted to know what Catarina looked like, and was assured she was very good looking. His Ambassador to Spain, Bristol, came to him just before he was about to sign and begged him not to commit. He told Charles that she was ugly, deformed and sterile. This held back the signing while Hyde investigated and could not find any faults. Luis XIV wrote to Charles saying she was a princess of great beauty, and thereby approving of the marriage. Catarina's mother hearing of the problem sent a "miniatura" [miniature portrait] of her daughter and by all acounts Charles was impressed. The contract was in the end signed on 23rd June 1661.

jeannine  •  Link

Grammont footnote on Hyde

Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, "for his comprehensive knowledge of mankind, styled the chancellor of human nature. His character, at this distance of time, may, and ought to be impartially considered. His designing or blinded contemporaries heaped the most unjust abuse upon him. The subsequent age, when the partizans of prerogative were at least the loudest, if not the most numerous, smit with a work that deified their martyr, have been unbounded in their encomium." -- Catalogue of Noble Authors, vol. ii. p. 18. Lord Orford, who professes to steer a middle course, and separate his great virtues as a man from his faults as an historian, acknowledges that he possessed almost every virtue of a minister which could make his character venerable. He died in exile, in the year 1674. see note 43

Pedro  •  Link

Clarendon Rocks.

Trade needed good access to the sea and this required safe harbour entrances deep enough to allow larger and larger ships access. At Christchurch, for example, there were several attempts to manage the harbour mouth, the most notorious being the construction of the jetties through the spit. At the end of the seventeenth century, Andrew Yarranton, supported by Lord Clarendon, Lord of the Manor of Christchurch and Chancellor to Charles II, constructed a cut through Mudeford spit using ironstone boulders from nearby Hengistbury Head. Because he built the jetty on the downdrift side of the channel, the cut was constantly being blocked. Clarendon Rocks can be seen today and appear on many of the charts and maps of Christchurch.

Pedro  •  Link

Clarendon on the Second Dutch War.

Clarendon was anti-war...

"A peace with Holland would disappoint the Spaniards expectation of a rupture between us, and likewise that of the seditious and discontented party at home; it would compose the minds of men who do still apprehend new troubles, revive the deadness of trade, and encourage foreign investment."

(Felling, British Foreign Policy 1660-1672)

nix  •  Link

Clarendon's withdrawal and exile, from his entry in the original DNB --

By the advice of friends Clarendon wrote to the king protesting innocence of the crimes alleged in his impeachment. `I do upon my knees,' he added, `beg your pardon for any overbold or saucy expressions I have ever used to you … a natural disease in old servants who have received too much countenance.' He begged the king to put a stop to the prosecution, and to allow him to spend the small remainder of his life in some parts beyond seas #ib. p. 1181#. Charles read the letter, burnt it, and observed 'that he wondered the chancellor did not withdraw himself.' He was anxious that Clarendon should withdraw, but would neither command him to 'go nor grant him a pass for fear of the commons. Indirectly, through the Duke of York and the Bishop of Hereford, he urged him to fly, and promised `that he should not be in any degree prosecuted, or suffer in his honour or fortune by his absence' #ib. p. 1185#. Relying on this engagement, and alarmed by the rumours of a design to prorogue parliament and try him by a jury of peers, Clarendon left England on the night of 29 Nov., and reached Calais three days later. With Clarendon's flight the dispute between the two houses came to an end. The lords accepted it as a confession of guilt, concurred with the commons in ordering his petition to be burnt, and passed an act for his banishment, by which his return was made high treason and his pardon impossible without the consent of both houses #19 Dec. 1667; Lister, ii. 415-44, iii. 472-77; Cont. pp. 1155-97 ; Carte, Ormonde, v. 58 ; Lords' Journals, xii. 178; Commons' Journals, ix. 40-3#.

The rest of Clarendon's life was passed in exile. From Calais he went to Rouen #25 Dec.#, and then back to Calais #21 Jan. 1668#, intending by the advice of his friends to return to England and stand his trial. In April 1668 he made his way to the baths of Bourbon, and thence to Avignon #June 1668#. For nearly three years he lived at Montpelier #July 1668-June 1671#, removing to Moulins in June 1671, and finally to Rouen in May 1674 #Lister, ii. 478, 481, 487; Cont. p. 1238#. During the first part of his exile his hardships and sufferings were very great. At Calais he lay for three months dangerously ill. At Evreux, on 23 April 1668, a company of English sailors in French service, holding Clarendon the cause of the non-payment of their English arrears, broke into his lodgings, plundered his baggage, wounded several of his attendants, and assaulted him with great violence. One of them stunned him by a blow with the flat of a sword, and they were dragging him into the courtyard to despatch him, when he was rescued by the town guard #ib. pp. 1215, 1225#. In December 1667 Louis XIV, anxious to conciliate the English government, ordered Clarendon to leave France, and, in spite of his illness, repeated these orders with increasing harshness. After the conclusion of the Triple League had frustrated the hope of a close alliance with England, the French government became more hospitable, but Clarendon always lived in dread of fresh vexations #Cont. pp. 1202-1220, 1353#. The Archbishop of Avignon, the governor and magistrates of Montpelier, and the governor of Languedoc, treated him with great civility, and he was cheered by the constant friendship of the Abbé Montague and Lady Mordaunt. His son, Laurence, was twice allowed to visit him, and Lord Cornbury was with him when he died #Correspondence of Henry Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, ed. Singer, i. 645; Lister, iii. 488#.

To find occupation, and to divert his mind from his misfortunes, Clarendon 'betook himself to his books,' and studied the French and Italian languages. Never was his pen more active than during these last seven years of his life. His most important task was the completion and revision of his ' History of the Rebellion ' together with the composition of his autobiography. In June 1671, and again in August 1674, he petitioned for leave to return to England, and begged the queen and the Duke of York to intercede for him #Clarendon State Papers, iii. App. xliv, xlv#. These entreaties were unanswered, and he died at Rouen on 9 Dec. 1674 #Lister, ii. 488#. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 4 Jan. 1675, at the foot of the steps ascending to Henry VII's chapel, where his second wife had been interred on 17 Aug. 1667 #Chester, Westminster Abbey Register, pp. 167, 185#. His two sons, Henry, earl of Clarendon #1638-1709#, and Laurence, earl of Rochester #1642-1711#, and his daughter, Anne, duchess of York #1637-1671#, are separately noticed. A third son, Edward Hyde, baptised 1 April 1645, died on 10 Jan. 1665, and was also buried in Westminster Abbey #ib. p. 161#. Clarendon's will is printed in Lister's ' Life of Clarendon ' #ii. 489#.

As a statesman, Clarendon's consistency and integrity were conspicuous through many vicissitudes and amid much corruption. He adhered faithfully to the principles he professed in 1641, but the circle of his ideas was fixed then, and it never widened afterwards. No man was fitter to guide a wavering master in constitutional ways, or to conduct a return to old laws and institutions; but he was incapable of dealing with the new forces and new conditions which twenty years of revolution had created.

Clarendon is remarkable as one of the first Englishmen who rose to office chiefly by his gifts as a writer and a speaker. Evelyn mentions his ' eloquent tongue,' and his ' dexterous and happy pen.' Some held that his literary style was not serious enough. Burnet finds a similar fault in his speaking. 'He spoke well ; his style had no flow [flaw ?] in it, but had a just mixture of wit and sense, only he spoke too copiously; he had a great pleasantness in his spirit, which carried him sometimes too far into raillery, in which he showed more wit than discretion.' Pepys admired his eloquence with less reserve. `I am mad in love with my lord chancellor, for he do comprehend and speak out well, and with the greatest ease and authority that ever I saw man in my life. … His manner and freedom of doing it as if he played with it, and was informing only all the rest of the company, was mighty pretty ' #cf. Warwick, Memoirs, p. 195; Evelyn, ii. 296; Pepys, Diary, 13 Oct. 1666#.,_Edward_(160...

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Clarendon's name lives on in the Oxford University Press imprint

In 1713, Delegate Henry Aldrich, Dean of Christ Church, oversaw the Press moving to the Clarendon Building. This was named in honour of Oxford University's Chancellor, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon. Oxford lore maintained its construction was funded by proceeds from his book *The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (1702–04). In fact, most of the money came from Oxford's new bible printer John Baskett - and the Vice-Chancellor William Delaune defaulted with much of the proceeds from Clarendon's work. In any event, the result was Nicholas Hawksmoor's beautiful but impractical structure beside the Sheldonian in Broad Street. The Press worked here until 1830, with its operations split into the so-called Learned Side and Bible Side in different wings of the building.

The Clarendon Building

Bill  •  Link

[at the restoration:]

But he [Charles] did then so entirely trust the Earl of Clarendon, that he left all to his care, and submitted to his advices as to so many oracles. The Earl of Clarendon was bred to the Law, and was like grow eminent in his profession when the wars began. He distinguished himself so in the House of Commons, that he became considerable, and was much trusted all the while the King was at Oxford. He stayed beyond sea following the King's fortune till the Restoration; and was now an absolute favourite, and the chief or the only Minister, but with too magisterial a way. He was always pressing the King to mind his affairs, but in vain. He was a good Chancellour, only a little too rough, but very impartial in the administration of justice. He never seemed to understand foreign affairs well: And yet he meddled too much in them. He had too much levity in his wit, and did not always observe the decorum of his post. He was high, and was apt to reject those who addressed themselves to him with too much contempt. He had such a regard to the King, that when places were disposed of, even otherwise than as he advised, yet he would justify what the King did, and disparage the pretensions of others, not without much scorn; which created him many enemies. He was indefatigable in business, tho' the gout did often disable him from waiting on the King: Yet, during his credit, the King came constantly to him when he was laid up by it.
---History of His Own Time. G. Burnet, 1724

Bill  •  Link

Clarendon, in his autobiography, admits the "weakness and vanity" he had exhibited in the erection of [Clarendon] house, and "the gust of envy" which it drew upon him; while he attributes his fall more to the fact that he had built such a house than to any misdemeanour he was thought to have been guilty of. Lord Rochester (Clarendon's second son) told Lord Dartmouth that when his father left England he ordered him to tell all his friends "that if they could excuse the vanity and folly of the great house, he would undertake to answer for all the rest of his actions himself."
---London, Past and Present. H.B. Wheatley, 1891.

Clarendon House:

Bill  •  Link

The virtue of the earl of Clarendon was of too stubborn a nature for the age of Charles II. Could he have been content to enslave millions, he might have been more a monarch than that unprincely king. But he did not only look upon himself as the guardian of the laws and liberties of his country, but had also a pride in his nature that was above vice; and chose rather to be a victim himself, than to sacrifice his integrity. He had only one part to act, which was that of an honest man. His enemies allowed themselves a much greater latitude: they loaded him with calumnies, blamed him even for their own errors and misconduct, and helped to ruin him by such buffooneries as he despised. He was a much greater, perhaps a happier man, alone and in exile, than Charles the second upon his throne.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.

Bill  •  Link

Lord Clarendon had all that knowledge of his subject, that strength of head, as well as integrity of heart, which are essential to a good historian. He has been, in some instances, accused of partiality; but this proceeded from an amiable, perhaps an invincible cause; the warmth of his loyalty and friendship. He particularly excels in characters, which if drawn with precision and elegance, are as difficult to the writers, as they are agreeable to the readers of history. He is, in this particular, as unrivalled among the moderns, as Tacitus is among the ancients. They both saw those nice distinctions, and specific differences in human nature, which are visible only to the sagacious. He paints himself, in drawing the portraits of others; and we every where see the clear and exact comprehension, the uncommon learning, the dignity and equity of the lord-chancellor, in his character as a writer. It appears from the memoirs of his own life, that he had all the virtue of a Cato; and it is no less evident that he had something of his roughness and severity. His style is father careless than laboured. His periods are long, and frequently embarrassed and perplexed with parentheses. Hence it is, that he is one of the most difficult of all authors to be read with an audible voice. Ob. 9 Dec. 1674.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.