Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon - Biography - Political Career

Political Career

In April 1640, Hyde was elected Member of Parliament for both Shaftesbury and Wootton Bassett in the Short Parliament and chose to sit for Wootton Bassett. In November 1640 he was elected MP for Saltash in the Long Parliament, He was at first a moderate critic of King Charles I, but gradually moved over towards the royalist side, championing the Church of England and opposing the execution of the Earl of Strafford, Charles's primary advisor. Following the Grand Remonstrance of 1641, Hyde became an informal advisor to the King. He was disabled from sitting in parliament in 1642. Despite his own previous opposition to the King he found it hard to forgive anyone, even a close friend,who fought for Parliament, and severed many close ties as a result. With the possible exception of John Pym, he detested the Parliamentary leaders, describing Oliver Cromwell as "a brave bad man" and John Hampden as a hypocrite, while Oliver St. John's "foxes and wolves" speech in favour of the attainder of Strafford he considered the depth of barbarism. His view of the conflict was undoubtedly coloured by his best friend Falkland's death at the First Battle of Newbury.

During the Civil War, Hyde served in the King's council as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was one of the more moderate figures in the royalist camp. By 1645 his moderation, and the enmity of Henrietta Maria, had alienated him from the King, and he was made guardian to the Prince of Wales, with whom he fled to Jersey in 1646. Despite their differences, he was horrified by the execution of the King, whom he always remembered with reverence. In his opinion the fatal flaw of Charles I, and all the Stuart monarchs, was to let their own judgement, which was usually sound, be corrupted by the advice of their favourites, which was always disastrous.

Hyde was not closely involved with Charles II's attempts to regain the throne in 1649 to 1651. It was during this period that Hyde began to write his great history of the Civil War. Hyde rejoined the exiled king in the latter year, was sent by him on an unsuccessful diplomatic mission to the Court of Spain and soon became his chief advisor; Charles named him Lord Chancellor in 1658. On the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, he returned to England with the King and became even closer to the royal family through the marriage of his daughter, Anne, to the king's brother James, Duke of York, the heir-presumptive (who, after the death of his first wife, would succeed to the throne as James II of England & VII of Scotland). Their two daughters, Mary II and Queen Anne would each one day reign in their own right. Contemporaries naturally assumed that Hyde had arranged the marriage, but later historians give far more weight to his repeated claims that it came as an unwelcome shock to him. He may well have hoped to arrange a suitable alliance for James with a foreign princess, and he was painfully aware that no one regarded his daughter as a suitable royal match. On a personal level he seems to have disliked James, whose impulsive attempt to repudiate the marriage can hardly have endeared him to his father-in-law. Above all, as Cardinal Mazarin remarked, the marriage was certain to damage Hyde's reputation as a politician, whether he was responsible for it or not.

Read more about this topic:  Edward Hyde, 1st Earl Of Clarendon, Biography

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