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CLARENDON, 1st EARL OF

himself and of the crown.[1] He could not believe his dismissal was really intended, but on the 30th of August he was deprived of the great seal, for which the king received the thanks of the parliament on the 16th of October. On the 12th of November his impeachment, consisting of various charges of arbitrary government, corruption and maladministration, was brought up to the Lords, but the latter refused to order his committal, on the ground that the Commons had only accused him of treason in general without specifying any particular charge. Clarendon wrote humbly to the king asking for pardon, and that the prosecution might be prevented, but Charles had openly taken part against him, and, though desiring his escape, would not order or assist his departure for fear of the Commons. Through the bishop of Hereford, however, on the 29th of November he pressed Clarendon to fly, promising that he should not during his absence suffer in his honour or fortune. Clarendon embarked the same night for Calais, where he arrived on the 2nd of December. The Lords immediately passed an act for his banishment and ordered the petition forwarded by him to parliament to be burnt.

The rest of Clarendon’s life was passed in exile. He left Calais for Rouen on the 25th of December, returning on the 21st of January 1668, visiting the baths of Bourbon in April, thence to Avignon in June, residing from July 1668 till June 1671 at Montpellier, whence he proceeded to Moulins and to Rouen again in May 1674. His sudden banishment entailed great personal hardships. His health at the time of his flight was much impaired, and on arriving at Calais he fell dangerously ill; and Louis XIV., anxious at this time to gain popularity in England, sent him peremptory and repeated orders to quit France. He suffered severely from gout, and during the greater part of his exile could not walk without the aid of two men. At Evreux, on the 23rd of April 1668, he was the victim of a murderous assault by English sailors, who attributed to him the non-payment of their wages, and who were on the point of despatching him when he was rescued by the guard. For some time he was not allowed to see any of his children; even correspondence with him was rendered treasonable by the Act of Banishment; and it was not apparently till 1671, 1673 and 1674 that he received visits from his sons, the younger, Lawrence Hyde, being present with him at his death.

Clarendon bore his troubles with great dignity and fortitude. He found consolation in religious duties, and devoted a portion of every day to the composition of his Contemplations on the Psalms, and of his moral essays. Removed effectually from the public scene, and from all share in present politics, he turned his attention once more to the past and finished his History and his Autobiography. Soon after reaching Calais he had written, on the 17th of December 1667, to the university of Oxford, desiring as his last request that the university should believe in his innocence and remember him, though there could be no further mention of him in their public devotions, in their private prayers.[2] In 1668 he wrote to the duke and duchess of York to remonstrate on the report that they had turned Roman Catholic, to the former urging “You cannot be without zeal for the Church to which your blessed father made himself a sacrifice,” adding that such a change would bring a great storm against the Romanists. He entertained to the last hopes of obtaining leave to return to England. He asked for permission in June 1671 and in August 1674. In the dedication of his Brief View of Mr Hobbes’s Book Leviathan he repeats “the hope which sustains my weak, decayed spirits that your Majesty will at some time call to your remembrance my long and incorrupted fidelity to your person and your service”; but his petitions were not even answered or noticed. He died at Rouen on the 9th of December 1674. He was buried in Westminster Abbey at the foot of the steps at the entrance to Henry VII.’s chapel. He left two sons, Henry, 2nd earl of Clarendon, and Lawrence, earl of Rochester, his daughter Anne, duchess of York, and a third son, Edward, having predeceased him. His male descendants became extinct on the death of the 4th earl of Clarendon and 2nd earl of Rochester in 1753, the title of Clarendon being revived in 1776 in the person of Thomas Villiers, who had married the granddaughter and heir of the last earl.

As a statesman Clarendon had obvious limitations and failings. He brought to the consideration of political questions an essentially legal but also a narrow mind, conceiving the law, “that great and admirable mystery,” and the constitution as fixed, unchangeable and sufficient for all time, in contrast to Pym, who regarded them as living organisms capable of continual development and evolution; and he was incapable of comprehending and governing the new conditions and forces created by the civil wars. His character, however, and therefore to some extent his career, bear the indelible marks of greatness. He left the popular cause at the moment of its triumph and showed in so doing a strict consistency. In a court degraded by licence and self-indulgence, he maintained his self-respect and personal dignity regardless of consequences, and in an age of almost universal corruption and self-seeking he preserved a noble integrity and patriotism. At the Restoration he showed great moderation in accepting rewards. He refused a grant of 10,000 acres in the Fens from the king on the ground that it would create an evil precedent, and amused Charles and James by his indignation at the offer of a present of £10,000 from the French minister Fouquet, the only present he accepted from Louis XIV. being a set of books printed at the Louvre. His income, however, as lord chancellor was very large, and Clarendon maintained considerable state, considering it due to the dignity of the monarchy that the high officers should carry the external marks of greatness. The house built by him in St James’s was one of the most magnificent ever seen in England, and was filled with a collection of portraits, chiefly those of contemporary statesmen and men of letters. It cost Clarendon £50,000, involved him deeply in debt and was considered one of the chief causes of the “gust of envy” that caused his fall.[3] He is described as “a fair, ruddy, fat, middle-statured, handsome man,” and his appearance was stately and dignified. He expected deference from his inferiors, and one of the chief charges which he brought against the party of the young politicians was the want of respect with which they treated himself and the lord treasurer. His industry and devotion to public business, of which proofs still remain in the enormous mass of his state papers and correspondence, were exemplary, and were rendered all the more conspicuous by the negligence, inferiority in business, and frivolity of his successors. As lord chancellor Clarendon made no great impression in the court of chancery. His early legal training had long been interrupted, and his political preoccupations probably rendered necessary the delegation of many of his judicial duties to others. According to Speaker Onslow his decrees were always made with the aid of two judges. Burnet praises him, however, as “a very good chancellor, only a little too rough but very impartial in the administration of justice,” and Pepys, who saw him presiding in his court, perceived him to be “a most able and ready man.”[4] According to Evelyn, “though no considerable lawyer” he was “one who kept up the fame and substance of things in the nation with . . . solemnity.” He made good appointments to the bench and issued some important orders for the reform of abuses in his court.[5] As chancellor of Oxford University, to which office he was elected on the 27th of October 1660, Clarendon promoted the restoration of order and various educational reforms. In 1753 his manuscripts were left to the university by his great-grandson Lord Cornbury, and in 1868 the money gained by publication was spent in erecting the Clarendon Laboratory, the profits of the History having provided in 1713 a building for the university press adjoining the Sheldonian theatre, known since the removal of the press to its present quarters as the Clarendon Building.

Clarendon had risen to high office largely through his literary and oratorical gifts. His eloquence was greatly admired by

  1. Continuation, 1137.
  2. Clarendon St. Pap. iii. Suppl. xxxvii.
  3. Evelyn witnessed its demolition in 1683—Diary, May 19th, Sept. 18th; Lives from the Clarendon Gallery, by Lady Th. Lewis, i. 40.
  4. Diary, July 14th, 1664.
  5. Lister, ii. 528.