Sir John Hayward (c. 1560 - June 27, 1627), English historian, was born at or near Felixstowe, Suffolk, where he was educated, and afterwards proceeded to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he took the degrees of B.A., M.A. and LL.D.
In 1599 he published The First Part of the Life and Raigne of King Henrie IV dedicated to Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. This was reprinted in 1642. Queen Elizabeth and her advisers disliked the tone of the book and its dedication, and the queen ordered Francis Bacon to search for places in it that might be drawn within case of treason. Bacon reported for treason "surely I find none, but for felony very many", explaining that many of the sentences were stolen from Tacitus; but nevertheless Hayward was put in prison, where he remained until about 1600.
On the accession of James I in 1603 he courted the new kings' favor by publishing two pamphlets, An Answer to the first part of a certaine conference concerning succession, and A Treatise of Union of England and Scotland. The former pamphlet, an argument in favor of the divine right of kings, was reprinted in 1683 as The Right of Succession by the friends of the Duke of York during the struggle over the Exclusion Bill. In 1610 Hayward was appointed one of the historiographers of the college which James founded at Chelsea; in 1613 he published his Lives of the Three Norman Kings of England, written at the request of James's son, Prince Henry; in 1616 he became a member of the College of Advocates; and in 1619 he was knighted.
He died in London on the 27th of June 1627. Among his manuscripts was found The Life and Raigne of King Edward VI, first published in 1630, and Certain Yeres of Queen Elizabeth's Raigne, the beginning of which was printed in an edition of his Edward VI, published in 1636, but which was first published in a complete form in 1840 for the Camden Society under the editorship of John Bruce, who prefixed an introduction on the life and writings of the author.
Hayward was conscientious and diligent in obtaining information, and although his reasoning on questions of morality is often childish, his descriptions are generally graphic and vigorous. Notwithstanding his imprisonment under Elizabeth, his portrait of the qualities of the queen's mind and person is flattering rather than detractive. He also wrote several works of a devotional character.