CLARKE, George (1661-1736), of All Souls College, Oxford.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



23 Nov. 1685
29 May 1711
1734 - 22 Oct. 1736

Family and Education

b. 7 May 1661, o.s. of Sir William Clarke, sec. at war, of Pall Mall, Westminster by Dorothy, da. and coh. of Thomas Hilyard alias Hall of Hebburn, co. Dur. educ. Jermyn Street academy (Mr Gordon) to 1672; privately 1672-5; Brasenose, Oxf. 1675, BA 1679, MA 1683, BCL 1686, DCL 1708; I. Temple 1676. unm. suc. fa. 1666.1

Offices Held

Fellow of All Souls, Oxford 1680-d.; judge-advocate-gen. 1682-1705; sec. at war [I] 1690-2; jt. sec. at war 1693-1702; jt. sec. of Admiralty 1702-5; ld. of Admiralty 1710-14.2


Clarke’s father, a Londoner of obscure parentage, joined the army secretariat under John Rushworth about 1646. An efficient secretary and an outstanding record-keeper, he served George Monck from 1654 until he died of wounds received on board his flagship in the Four Days’ battle, leaving Clarke, ‘that sweet child’, to the care of his mother and his friend, Samuel Barrow, who became her second husband. A private bill became necessary to settle the estate, which was steered through committee by their neighbour, Sir Cyril Wyche. Clarke continued to enjoy the happiest of homes, and grew up a cultivated and sociable man, with a wide circle of friends in the literary and political worlds. He was elected fellow of All Souls in 1680, and succeeded his step-father as judge-advocate-general, an agreeable post as ‘there were not very frequent occasions for courts martial’. He intended to join the royal army in the west in 1685, but was detained in London on the King’s orders, though he did take part in the trial of some soldiers who had deserted to Monmouth. He was returned for Oxford University on the Duke of Ormonde’s recommendation at a contested by-election in November. ‘The potmen and juniors carry all before them’, commented Wood; but Parliament had already been prorogued, and he never took his seat. He spent the remainder of the reign successfully avoiding the questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, but he attended James II at Salisbury during the Revolution, of which he left a graphic account?3

Clarke’s commission was confirmed by the new regime, and he held office till 1705, when he was dismissed for voting against John Smith as Speaker. A lord of the Admiralty in Queen Anne’s last administration, he was removed on the Hanoverian succession. He represented the University again as a Hanover Tory from 1717 till his death on 22 Oct. 1736. He was buried in the chapel of All Souls, to which he was a generous benefactor, though he bequeathed much of his wealth and his important collection of manuscripts to the new foundation of Worcester.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Leonard Naylor


This biography is based on Clarke’s own account of his life in HMC Popham, 259-89.

  • 1. C. J. Feret, Fulham Old and New, i. 170.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1682, p. 69.
  • 3. G. E. Aylmer, State’s Servants, 261-2; PCC 95 Mico; CJ, ix. 225; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxvi), 171.
  • 4. Feiling, Tory Party, 389.