Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pepys on Sir Edward Hyde

Sir Edward Hyde, historian, statesman and grandfather to two queens, was born 400 years ago today. He served in high capacity to Charles I and Charles II, and is generally thought to have written the best contemporary account of the Civil War. Although he didn’t leave behind any diaries himself, he is mentioned frequently by Samuel Pepys. One entry, for example, has Pepys telling a beautifully convoluted story about Hyde’s anger over some trees marked for felling.

Hyde was born in Dinton, Wiltshire, the sixth of nine children, on 18 February 1609 - four centuries ago today. He was educated at Oxford, and inherited the family estate after his two older brothers died. He was called to the bar in 1633, and became a Member of the Parliament in 1640. During the Civil War, he served as an adviser and then Chancellor of the Exchequer to King Charles I. However, eventually, he lost favour in a political capacity, and was put in charge of the King’s son, Prince Charles, who he escorted to exile in Jersey, arriving in 1646. He himself stayed there for two years, though the prince moved on to France.

While in Jersey, Hyde began writing History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England which today is considered to include the best contemporary account of the Civil War. (An early 18th century copy is currently on sale at Abebooks for over £12,000.)

On the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Hyde returned to England with the new king and became even closer to the royal family through the marriage of his daughter, Anne, to Charles’s brother James, the heir-presumptive - their two daughters, Mary II and Queen Anne, would both one day reign the kingdom. Hyde, or the Earl of Clarendon as he had become by then, served as Lord Chancellor from 1660 to 1667, giving his name to the Clarendon Code, which imposed restrictions on religious dissenters. In 1667, though, he lost favour with the king because of failures during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, and was forced to flee to France, where he died in 1674.

The Lord Chancellor is mentioned many times in Pepys’s diary. Here is a fairly long extract, taken from an excellent website called simply The Diary of Samuel Pepys. It tells of Pepys being blamed by Sir Edward Hyde (Earl of Clarendon, the Lord Chancellor) for having allowed his trees to be marked for cutting. Pepys seeks out the Lord Chancellor and protests, saying that he did not know his property was involved, and that he was only carrying out a decision of the Navy Board. (NB: I have added some paragraph breaks to, and ommitted a few sentences from, the full extract for ease of reading.)

Thursday 14 July 1664
‘My mind being doubtful what the business should be, I rose a little after four o’clock, and abroad. Walked to my Lord’s [Sir Edward Mountague, Earl of Sandwich and Pepys’s patron], and nobody up, but the porter rose out of bed to me so I back again to Fleete Streete, and there bought a little book of law; and thence, hearing a psalm sung, I went into St. Dunstan’s, and there heard prayers read, which, it seems, is done there every morning at six o’clock; a thing I never did do at a chappell, but the College Chappell, in all my life.

Thence to my Lord’s again, and my Lord being up, was sent for up, and he and I alone. He did begin with a most solemn profession of the same confidence in and love for me that he ever had, and then told me what a misfortune was fallen upon me and him: in me, by a displeasure which my Lord Chancellor [Sir Edward Hyde] did show to him last night against me, in the highest and most passionate manner that ever any man did speak, even to the not hearing of any thing to be said to him: but he told me, that he did say all that could be said for a man as to my faithfullnesse and duty to his Lordship, and did me the greatest right imaginable.

And what should the business be, but that I should be forward to have the trees in Clarendon Park marked and cut down, which he, it seems, hath bought of my Lord Albemarle; when, God knows! I am the most innocent man in the world in it, and did nothing of myself, nor knew of his concernment therein, but barely obeyed my Lord Treasurer’s warrant for the doing thereof. And said that I did most ungentlemanlike with him, and had justified the rogues in cutting down a tree of his; and that I had sent the veriest Fanatique [Deane - a shipbuilder] that is in England to mark them, on purpose to nose him. All which, I did assure my Lord, was most properly false, and nothing like it true; and told my Lord the whole passage. My Lord do seem most nearly affected; he is partly, I believe, for me, and partly for himself.

So he advised me to wait presently upon my Lord, and clear myself in the most perfect manner I could, with all submission and assurance that I am his creature both in this and all other things; and that I do owne that all I have, is derived through my Lord Sandwich from his Lordship. So, full of horror, I went, and found him busy in tryals of law in his great room; and it being Sitting-day, durst not stay, but went to my Lord and told him so: whereupon he directed me to take him after dinner; and so away I home, leaving my Lord mightily concerned for me. I to the office, and there sat busy all the morning. . .

. . . and I to my Lord Chancellor’s; and there coming out after dinner I accosted him, telling him that I was the unhappy Pepys that had fallen into his high displeasure, and come to desire him to give me leave to make myself better understood to his Lordship, assuring him of my duty and service. He answered me very pleasingly, that he was confident upon the score of my Lord Sandwich’s character of me, but that he had reason to think what he did, and desired me to call upon him some evening: I named to-night, and he accepted of it.

So with my heart light I to White Hall . . . thence I to the Half Moone. . . and thence to my Lord Chancellor’s, and there heard several tryals, wherein I perceive my Lord is a most able and ready man. After all done, he himself called, ‘Come, Mr. Pepys, you and I will take a turn in the garden.’ So he was led down stairs, having the goute, and there walked with me, I think, above an houre, talking most friendly, yet cunningly. I told him clearly how things were; how ignorant I was of his Lordship’s concernment in it; how I did not do nor say one word singly, but what was done was the act of the whole Board. He told me by name that he was more angry with Sir G. Carteret than with me, and also with the whole body of the Board. But thinking who it was of the Board that knew him least, he did place his fear upon me; but he finds that he is indebted to none of his friends there.

I think I did thoroughly appease him, till he thanked me for my desire and pains to satisfy him; and upon my desiring to be directed who I should of his servants advise with about this business, he told me nobody, but would be glad to hear from me himself. He told me he would not direct me in any thing, that it might not be said that the Lord Chancellor did labour to abuse the King; or (as I offered) direct the suspending the Report of the Purveyors but I see what he means, and I will make it my worke to do him service in it.

But, Lord! to see how he is incensed against poor Deane, as a fanatique rogue, and I know not what: and what he did was done in spite to his Lordship, among all his friends and tenants. He did plainly say that he would not direct me in any thing, for he would not put himself into the power of any man to say that he did so and so; but plainly told me as if he would be glad I did something. Lord! to see how we poor wretches dare not do the King good service for fear of the greatness of these men. He named Sir G. Carteret, and Sir J. Minnes, and the rest; and that he was as angry with them all as me. But it was pleasant to think that, while he was talking to me, comes into the garden Sir G. Carteret; and my Lord avoided speaking with him, and made him and many others stay expecting him, while I walked up and down above an houre, I think; and would have me walk with my hat on.

And yet, after all this, there has been so little ground for this his jealousy of me, that I am sometimes afeard that he do this only in policy to bring me to his side by scaring me; or else, which is worse, to try how faithfull I would be to the King; but I rather think the former of the two. I parted with great assurance how I acknowledged all I had to come from his Lordship; which he did not seem to refuse, but with great kindness and respect parted. So I by coach home . . . At my office late, and so home to eat something, being almost starved for want of eating my dinner to-day, and so to bed, my head being full of great and many businesses of import to me.’

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