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Earl of Clarendon Biography

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CLARENDON, EDWARD HYDE, EARL OF (1609-74). An English historian, and Chancellor of Charles II. The son of Henry Hyde, a private gentleman, he was born at Dinton, Wiltshire, Feb. 18, 1609. Destined for the church, he proceeded to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was graduated Bachelor of Arts, Feb. 14 1626. But instead of the clerical profession, he entered the Middle Temple, under his uncle, Chief Justice Sir Nicholas Hyde, treasurer of the society, and was called to the bar Nov. 22, 1633. His intimate friends were the brilliant literati of the period-Ben Jenson, Waller, Selden, Carew, Chillingworth, Hales, Falkland, and others. To them in after years he attributed much of his knowledge and worldly experience. He was twice married-his first wife dying after six months--and by both alliances gained wealth and political influence. In 1634 he became Keeper of the Writs and Rolls of the Common Pleas, and by some brilliant defense work acquired an extensive law practice. He came into high favor with Laud and was frequently consulted by him. He entered the "Short Parliament" of 1640 for Wootton Bassett and distinguished himself as a supporter of the Popular party. He represented Saltash in the "Long Parliament," but as an Episcopalian he eventuallv seceded from the Popular party on ecclesiastical questions, and thereby gained the King's favor. He headed the Royalist party in the Commons and counseled conciliation by a persistent appeal to the "known laws of the land." He was the author of most of the King's answers to the parliamentary manifestoes. At the outbreak of the Civil War he attached himself to the royal cause and in 1643 was knighted and made Chancellor of the Exchequer and Privy Councilor. After viewing the battle of Edgehill he joined Prince Charles (Charles II) in the West, and accompanied him in his flight to Jersey. He remained in that island for two years and began his History of the Rebellion. In June, 1648, after capture and spoliation by an Ostend pirate, he rejoined Prince Charles at The Hague. He exerted himself to save the life of Charles I, and after that monarch's execution was retained as counselor by Charles II, in 1649, going to Spain on an unsuccessful mission for assistance. At Charles's request he rejoined him in Paris and as the King's most trusted adviser there, as also in Cologne and Bruges, spent the next nine years, frequently in abject poverty. Charles formally declared him Lord Chancellor in 1658. At the Restoration in 1660 Charles confirmed this appointment and in November of this year created him Baron Hyde. He also became chancellor of Oxford University and in April, 1661, he was created Viscount Cornbury and Earl of Clarendon. In September, 1660, his daughter Anne formed a secret marriage with the Duke of York, afterward James II, and subsequently became the mother of Mary and Anne, the future English queens. The King and Clarendon were wroth; but Clarendon's indignation was somewhat overacted, and excited an aftersuspicion that he deliberately proposed the barren Catharine of Braganza as Charles II's consort, to provide for his posterity's succession to the throne. During his premiership the settlement of Scotland and Ireland owed much to him, and he took a leading part in colonial extension. He was one of the eight proprietors to whom the first Carolina Charter was granted in 1663, the Cape Fear establishment being named "Clarendon County" after him. He also helped the Presbyterian Baxter, to whom he offered a bishopric, in the incorporation of a company for the propagation of the gospel in New England. The ill success of the Dutch War and the sale of Dunkirk to the French aroused public indignation, and he became exceedingly unpopular. In 1663 the Earl of Bristol unsuccessfully accused him of bribery in the House of Lords, but in 1667 he fell a victim to court intrigue; and having offended the King by opposing his divorce, that he might marry Fanny Stewart, whom Clarendon induced the Duke of Richmond to wed, Charles deprived him of his offices and indirectly advised him to withdraw to Calais. Clarendon sent a vindication to the Lords, which both houses of Parliament ordered to be burned by the common hangman. After being almost murdered by some English sailors at Evreux, he lived in exile for six years, sending humble appeals to be allowed to pass his remaining years on English soil. He died in Rouen, Dec. 9, 1674, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

In a generally profligate court he was almost the only moral man, and was distinguished for his unswerving fidelity to the Episcopal church and his determined maintenance of what be considered the true and ideal English constitution. He was a ready debater and pleasing speaker, but it is for his literary productions that he is best remembered. The first edition of his great History of the Rebellion (Oxford, 1702-04) was not printed from the original manuscript, and some passages were slightly altered by the editors. A complete edition, by Dr. Bandinel, first appeared in 1826; while the best edition, in 6 vols., was published at Oxford in 1888. He wrote also a Life of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, with a Continuation of the History of the Grand Rebellion from the Restoration, to his Banishment in 1667 (1759); and a History of the Rebellion arid Civil War in Ireland (1720). Consult: Agar-Ellis, Historical Inquiry Respecting the Character of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (London, 1827): Lister, Life and Administration of Edward Hyde, First Earl of Clarendon (London, 1837-38); Lewis, Lives of the Friends and Contemporaries of Clarendon (3 vols., London, 1852); Campbell, Lives of the Lords Chancellors, vol. iii (London, 1869); Oldmixon, Clarendon and Whitelocke Compared (2d ed., London, 1787) ; Craik, Life of Edward, Earl of Clarendon (New York, 1911); Firth, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (Oxford, 1909): and the histories of Green, Ranke, and Gardiner.

The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol. V (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 396-397.