CLARKE, Edward (-d.1628), of Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

4th s. of William Clarke of Barrow Minchin, Som. educ. M. Temple 1607.1 unm. d. Oct. 1628.2 sig. Ed[ward] Clark.

Offices Held

Clerk of the PC extraordinary 1620-at least 1623;3 groom of the bedchamber c.1620-5;4 member, embassy to Denmark 1627; agent to La Rochelle 1627-8.5

Freeman, Hythe, Kent 1625.6


Clarke was identified as a Somerset man by Sir Robert Phelips* in 1625, but although an ‘Edward Clarke, 4th son of William Clarke of Barrow Minchin’ was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1607, his background and early career are obscure.7 An Edward Clarke, perhaps a namesake, was granted a clerkship of the Privy Council on 28 July 1603, but he does not appear to have held the post for long.8 In 1620 Clarke was sworn in to replace William Beecher* as clerk extraordinary of the Privy Council. At around the same time he was introduced at Court by the royal favourite, George Villiers, marquess of Buckingham, who also had him sworn in as a groom of the bedchamber.9 Clarke, however, had a deformed hand, causing James I to object that he had been given a groom of the bedchamber ‘who could not truss his points’. Despite his disability, Clarke was subsequently much employed on foreign service, acting in 1623 as courier between London and Madrid. He evidently performed this task well, for on 3 May Sir Edward Conway I* wrote to Buckingham that Clarke had given the king ‘very good satisfaction, and hath borne himself in all things with great discretion and industry’.10 Although he may never have held any official post in Buckingham’s household, Clarke was certainly one of the favourite’s followers, as he appears in the latter’s privy purse accounts as the recipient of sums won at cards.11

Clarke was sent to France in January 1625 to obtain transit rights for Count Mansfeld’s expeditionary force to the Palatinate, though he repeatedly warned Buckingham that the mercenary leader ‘promises much but can perform little’, and should not be relied upon without much greater financial support.12 While he was away Clarke apparently lost the initiative in his courtship of Venetia Stanley, who shortly afterwards married Sir Kenelm Digby; it was later said of Clarke, who remained a bachelor, that ‘he was so hard to please in the choice of a wife that of many advantageous overtures which had been made unto him he would accept of none’.13

At the general election in 1625 Clarke was nominated by Conway for Yarmouth and by Buckingham at Hythe; returned for both boroughs, he plumped for the latter on 29 June.14 His only speech was a disaster. On 6 Aug. he condemned critics of Buckingham, calling their speeches ‘bitter invectives and unseasonable, not fit for this time, and that against the officers of state in this kingdom’. He was interrupted by demands for an explanation, to which he responded that ‘he held that to be an invective when a man is termed by another to be incapable of his years to execute his place, as was said of my lord admiral’. Attempting to pursue his speech he was again interrupted, and obliged to withdraw from the House on the motion of John Pym. Various penalties were proposed for his outspokenness, but eventually it was resolved merely to suspend him from membership and commit him to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms.15 After apologizing at the bar, he was readmitted two days later.16 On the death of (Sir) Charles Glemham* a few weeks after the Parliament ended Clarke was mentioned as a competitor for the mastership of the Household, but he lost out to (Sir) Roger Palmer*.17 Instead he was dispatched to The Hague in November 1625 with further diplomatic instructions.18

Buckingham nominated Clarke for Bridport in Dorset at the next general election, but the corporation claimed not to have received the favourite’s letter until two days after they had already chosen the earl of Bristol’s stepson, Sir Lewis Dyve*.19 Clarke does not seem to have attempted to find another seat, although his activities in Madrid three years earlier were subjected to some scrutiny during the impeachment proceedings against Buckingham.20 In the summer of 1626 Clarke was granted a pension of £500 a year as a former groom of the bedchamber, but it was seldom, if ever, paid.21 Buckingham and Conway proposed in August 1626 to send him to France with promises of aid to the Protestants, to ‘keep up the hopes of the reformed party’.22 He spent most of the next two years abroad on various businesses, including an embassy to Denmark in August 1627, and continued to act as the king’s semi-official agent in negotiations with the Huguenots in France. He accompanied the fleet to La Rochelle in the spring of 1628, despite having warned Buckingham on 9 Apr. that ‘the king’s ships are here in equipage scarce fit for a merchant’s voyage’, and the men ‘so disaffected to the service that they are more apt to run into a mutiny at sea than perform their duties’.23 The objective was to relieve the Protestants of La Rochelle, which city had been barricaded by the French king’s forces, but the expedition commander, Buckingham’s brother-in-law, the earl of Denbigh, was persuaded by the Council of War, whose members included Clarke, that to ‘hazard the fleet to break through the chain’ was a lost cause. On their return to Plymouth in May, Clarke bore the brunt of Charles and Buckingham’s angry disappointment, and was made a scapegoat for the failure of the expedition.24 Confined to his rooms, he felt ‘mightily dejected, apprehending the cloud will fall on him’. None of his friends at Court visited him and he was denied access to Buckingham, despite appealing to Conway to intercede.25 He died intestate a few months later; his brother, Thomas, took out letters of administration on 27 Oct. 1628.26 Another brother, Valentine, one of the grooms of the queen’s privy chamber, was still trying ten years later to recover £1,200 owed on Clarke’s pension.27

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. M. Temple Admiss.
  • 2. PROB 6/13, f. 52.
  • 3. APC, 1619-21, p. 276; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 495.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 366, 569; 1627-8, p. 77.
  • 5. SP75/8, ff. 232-4; SP82/6, f. 100; APC, 1627, p. 476.
  • 6. G. Wilks, Barons of Cinque Ports, 75.
  • 7. Procs. 1625, p. 418; J. Collinson, Som. ii. 311.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 25; Chamberlain Letters, i. 35.
  • 9. Harl. 1580, f. 288.
  • 10. Ibid. ff. 299, 314; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 495, 499, 511; Cabala sive Scrinia Sacra, 199.
  • 11. Add. 12528, f. 38v.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 457, 459, 461.
  • 13. Harl. 6758, f. 163v; K. Digby, Loose Fantasies ed. V. Gabrieli, 113.
  • 14. Add. 5669, f. 67v; Wilks, 76; Procs. 1625, p. 269.
  • 15. Procs. 1625, pp. 413, 415, 418.
  • 16. Ibid. 422, 424, 711.
  • 17. C115/108/8632.
  • 18. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 154, 479.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 237.
  • 20. Procs. 1626, i. 331, 340, 366, 372; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 164, 169.
  • 21. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 366, 569; 1627-8, p. 77.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 416; Harl. 1580, f. 271.
  • 23. SP16/100/64.
  • 24. SP16/204/47; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 173; CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 91, 120, 134; Lockyer, 430, 437.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 134, 163, CSP Ven. 1628-9, p. 132.
  • 26. PROB 6/13, f. 52.
  • 27. CSP Dom. 1637, pp. 535-6; 1637-8, p. 123.