ABSTRACT

There has seldom been a more propitious scholarly environment for a major new study of Edward Hyde, first Earl of Clarendon (1609–1674). Interest in royalists and royalism has risen appreciably in the last twenty years, evidenced in a range of studies exploring such themes as royalist political theory, exile, women, literature and drama. 1 The pendulum needed to swing. For most of the twentieth century, academic research leaned heavily towards the radicals, revolutionaries and sectaries of the mid-seventeenth century. It was to some extent an understandable imbalance, yielding many valuable insights into a unique epoch in British constitutional affairs, social history and letters. But that it was an imbalance is now conceded by a wide spectrum of modern intellectual and literary historians, commentators more receptive to Paul Hardacre’s long-ignored yet incontestable dictum that ‘a full understanding of a revolutionary era demands a study of the conservatives as well as the revolutionaries’. 2 Clarendon’s centrality to the Caroline court – Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Chancellor – has afforded him a measure of immunity from this neglect. After a hiatus following Brian Wormald’s influential study of 1951, a clutch of new biographies emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. 3 Since then, a number of scholarly articles have been published as well as an important selection from the History of the Rebellion. 4 But this still represents a modest return for a statesman one nineteenth-century critic considered ‘central to the thirty most interesting years in English history’, on whom ‘more praise and censure have been lavished […] than on any other public man in England’. 5 Where Clarendon features at all on the early modern historiographical landscape, it is usually within broader publications on history and constitutional politics rather than discrete studies. 6 Hitherto he has seldom been placed, at least in a sustained way, under the microscope of the new royalist scholarship.