CLERKE, Sir Francis (c.1624-86), of Rochester and Ulcombe, Kent.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1624, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Henry Clerke†, serjeant-at-law, of Rochester by Grace, da. and h. of George Morgan of Crow Lane House, Rochester; bro. of John Clerke. educ. M. Temple, entered 1641, called 1656; Univ. Coll. Oxf. matric. 1 July 1642, aged 18. m. (1) 17 Oct. 1646, Mary (d. bef. 1663), da. of Sir Robert Darell of Calehill, Kent, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) Elizabeth, da. and h. of John Cage of Brightwell Court, Bucks., wid. of John Hastings of Woodlands, Dorset, 1s.; (3) lic. 6 Dec. 1670, Elizabeth, da. of John Turner of Canterbury, Kent, wid. of Nathaniel Hardy, DD, dean of Rochester, s.p. suc. fa. 1648; kntd. 28 May 1660.1
J.p. Kent July 1660-d.; commr. for assessment, Kent Aug. 1660-80, Rochester 1663-4; sewers, Medway marshes Dec. 1660; warden, Rochester bridge 1661, 1669, 1676, 1683, asst. 1661-84; commr. for corporations, Kent 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662; sub-commr. for prizes, Dover 1665-7; receiver of hearth-tax, Kent 1664-7, dep. lt. 1665-8, 1680-d., commr. for recusants 1675; freeman, Maidstone 1683-d.2
Gent. of privy chamber by June 1660-d.3
Clerke’s father, a second cousin of George Clerke, had represented Rochester in 1621, 1625 and 1626, and his elder brother John had been returned for the city to the Short Parliament. Clerke raised a regiment for the King during the Kentish rising of 1648, and was fined £200. In 1656 his name appeared on lists of royalist suspects. At that time he was living mostly in London, first in Gray’s Inn and then in the Middle Temple, but he made frequent trips to Ulcombe. Charles II, on his return to England, spent the night of 28 May 1660 with the Dukes of York and Gloucester at Clerke’s house in Rochester, on which occasion he was knighted. He later claimed that he gave the royal brothers ‘the first dish of meat they had from any private person’.4
Returned for Rochester in 1661 on his family interest, Clerke was a moderately active Member, being named to 154 committees and acting as teller on four occasions. In the first session of the Cavalier Parliament he was appointed to the committees on the bills for the confirmation of public acts, for restoring the bishops to the House of Lords, for preventing mischiefs from schismatics, and for pains and penalties. He was teller for the Lindsey level bill in 1662 and for the bill to regulate the manufacture of tobacco pipes in 1665. At Oxford he was named to the committee for the five mile bill, and, together with the Hon. William Coventry and William Prynne, presented to the King an address for the relief of sick and maimed prisoners. As one of the Members who had usually voted for supply, he figures in both lists of court supporters in 1669-71. Together with Sir Thomas Peyton, he was accused in the House on 17 Mar. 1670 of irregularities as a prize commissioner during the second Dutch war; but the matter was dropped after full debate. He was teller for the amendment to except existing holders of pluralities from paying £10 for a dispensation, and on 8 Dec. was appointed to the committee for the conventicles bill. He was named to the committees for the habeas corpus amendment bill in 1674 and for the appropriation bill in the spring session of 1675. He received the government whip in the autumn and was named as a member of the court party on the working lists and in Wiseman’s account. His only speech was on 15 Feb. 1677, when Sir John Holland accused William Ashburnham of misrepresenting one of his speeches to the King, and cited Clerke as a witness, but he said that he remembered nothing of the matter. He was named to the committee for the bill to ensure the Protestant education of the royal children. Shaftesbury listed Clerke as ‘doubly vile’, and his name is on the government list of 1678. While he was not named as a member of the ‘unanimous club’, in Flagellum Parliamentarium he was called ‘a cheating commissioner of the prize office, and gave £600 to be so’, and in A Seasonable Argumenthe appears as ‘a constant receiver of all public money and constant diner at court tables’.5
At the first general election of 1679, Clerke was defeated by Sir John Banks, also a government supporter, but one who ‘hath the better way of guinea kissing’. In August it was reported that ‘every one confesseth Sir Francis Clerke to be wiser by much than all the other candidates, but his fault, as they call it, is that he votes for the Court’, and there is no evidence that he went to the poll. He regained his seat in 1681, but left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament. He was reelected in 1685, and became a very active Member of James II’s Parliament. He was appointed to 19 committees, including those to calculate the yield of a tax on new buildings and to consider the bill to provide Rochester and Chatham with fresh water. He died suddenly on 25 Feb. 1686. His son Francis was returned for Rochester in 1690.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Basil Duke Henning
- 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. liv), 36; Little Chart Reg. 114; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 54; Lipscomb, Bucks. iii. 29; F. F. Smith, Hist. Rochester, 108, 112.
- 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 687; ii. 52; iii. 23; C181/7/70; Twysden Ltcy. Pprs. (Kent Recs. x), 24; Arch. Cant. xvii. 173; Eg. 2985, f. 66; CSP Dom. 1666-7, p. 246; Smith, 119; K. C. Martin, Maidstone Recs. 161.
- 3. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 166, 197.
- 4. Arch. Cant. xv. 112; xxiii. 77; CSP Dom. 1682, p. 19.
- 5. CJ, viii. 394, 584; ix. 141, 178, 383; Grey, iv. 76.
- 6. BL, M636/33, John Verney to Sir Ralph Verney, 4 Aug. 1679; CJ, ix. 570.