The Fall of Clarendon by E.M. Ward

I recently visited Bury Art Gallery. Some of the rooms were given over to modern installations which I did not understand, nor waste much time in attempting to do so. A couple of their rooms are dedicated to the classic, traditional art which the trendy curators, with their skinny jeans and hipster beards, no doubt find rather mundane and cliched.

One classic is entitled The Fall of Clarendon by E.M. Ward. ‘Clarendon’ refers to the Earl of Clarendon, one Edward Hyde. He had been a stalwart supporter of Charles I in the civil wars and transferred his loyalty to the dead king’s son after the execution. When Charles II came back in 1660, Hyde was made a lord and chief minister.

So what? His name was given to the series of laws passed against non-Anglicans such as Presbyterians, Baptists and Congregationalists. One said that such ministers could not go within five miles of any town (1665); another that meetings (‘conventicles’) of more than five persons not of the same household were illegal (1664) and that preaching was to be limited in the Church of England, insisting that only the official Prayer Book should be used (1662). 2000 of the Church’s best puritan clergy were dismissed as a result, often to lives of wandering and poverty.

Although some say he was not personally responsible for these laws, they went out in his name and he led the government that introduced them. This painting is therefore all the more delicious. Like Haman, Herod Antipas and Jezebel, God permitted his immediate judgement this side of death as a vindication of the poor people of God whom he had harried.

‘Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.’

Proverbs 16:18

Notice the courtiers and bright young things sniggering behind his back. A few days before, they would have feared him.

A man who might pass as his twin consorts with a cleric, perhaps one whom Clardenon's laws had made redundant.

The King's back is firmly turned against the disgraced former minister.


'But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler', Psalm 82:7 (NIV)