Edward Hyde Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

0111206581-Clarendon.jpg Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

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.{$S[A]Hyde, Edward;Clarendon, Edward Hyde, earl of}

Clarendon’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; the daughter was to become the mother of Queens Mary II and Anne, and the sons served in the government and were later instrumental in getting their father’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, Clarendon 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, Clarendon went into exile with the young prince of Wales. He returned with Charles II in 1660 as Lord Chancellor and the new king’s most trusted adviser. He was created earl of Clarendon in 1661.

His decline from favor, largely because of his opposition to court immorality and lax interpretation of constitutional law, led to his being sent into exile 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.