Lord Clarendon and the Puritan Revolution



It is a healthy corrective to nineteenth-century conceptions of ‘The Puritan Revolution’1 to turn to the rich and sonorous pages of Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England. For Clarendon, himself a leading actor in the Civil War, believed that ‘Religion was made a Cloak to cover the most impious designs’ of the Long Parliament, who ‘took none of the points in controversy less to heart, or were less united in, than in what concerned the Church’.2 Forty years ago Sir Charles Firth went so far as to say that Clarendon’s History ‘has the fundamental defect, that it is a history of a religious revolution in which the religious element is omitted’.3 Today we cannot be so cheerfully confident that we know better than contemporaries. Clarendon may have underestimated the religious sincerity of his opponents: but he had no motive for decrying religion as such. He was himself a genuinely pious man who, in his years of exile, wrote Contemplations and Reflections upon the Psalms of David which run to 400 folio pages; and throughout his political career he was especially noted for his devotion to the Church of England and its hierarchy.


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  1. 1.
    John Corbet, Historical Relation of the Military Government of Gloucester (1645), in Bibliotheca Gloucestrensis, I, pp. 9–10, 16. Further confirmatory evidence is quoted in The Good Old Cause (ed. C. Hill and E. Dell), pp. 238–54, 277–9, 288–96, 367–9. See also Sir Edward Peyton, The Divine Catastrophe of… the House of Stuarts (1652), in Secret History of the Court of James I (1811), II, p. 413; and a letter from Whitelocke to Thurloe in Whitelocke’s Journal of the Swedish Embassy (1855), II, p. 131.Google Scholar

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© Christopher Hill 1997

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