Clarke, George (1661–1736), Williamite secretary at war, was born 7 May 1661 in Pell Mell, London, son of Sir William Clarke, secretary for war, and his wife Dorothy Hilliard (Hyliard) of Hampshire. His father died from wounds received during a naval engagement at Harwich during the Anglo-Dutch war in 1666. His mother married Dr Samuel Barrow, a close friend of her late husband and physician-in-ordinary to Charles II, who educated the young George in Latin and Greek. Entering Brasenose College, Oxford (15 December 1675), he graduated BA (1679), MA (1683), BCL (1686), and DCL (1708), and was a fellow of All Souls from 1680 to his death. He served as judge advocate from 1684.
He replaced Sir Leoline Jenkins as MP for Oxford University in November 1685 and accompanied the group of MAs who went out to meet King James II (qv) when he came to reprimand the fellows of Magdalene College for their refusal to accept his choice of president. Clarke was also present at court when William of Orange (qv) landed at Torbay, but retreated to the safety of Oxford till James's flight. He then presented himself at William's court and secured the commission of judge advocate, a position he held till 1705.
He accompanied William III to Ireland as secretary at war (a position he hoped would lead to his succeeding William Blathway as secretary at war in England; he had to be satisfied with being joint secretary 1692–1702). In Ireland he also carried out the functions of chief secretary until his return to England in December 1691. His published autobiography (1720; later eds. 1727, 1734) and miscellaneous correspondence provide a unique insight into the Jacobite wars from the highest level: William's disregard for his veteran commander Schomberg (qv), his anxiety at the fight between his Blue Guards and the Jacobite horse at the Boyne, and the strains within the Williamite camp caused by William's affront to the 2nd duke of Ormond (qv) as a result of his attempts to appoint his favourite Keppel as Ormond's superior within the army. Clarke himself incurred William's displeasure, possibly as a consequence of his support for Ormond's position: William refused to allow him to return to England after the first siege of Limerick in 1690. Clarke took part at the highest level in the treaty negotiations and noted the eagerness of Patrick Sarsfield (qv) to conclude the peace and his resolve to make ‘himself considerable by bringing over such a body of troops’ to France (HMC, Leyborne-Popham, 281).
MP for Winchelsea 1702–5 and East Hove 1705–8, Clarke was secretary (1702–5) to Prince George of Denmark, consort of Queen Anne. MP for Launceton 1711–13, he was returned for Oxford in 1714. In 1715, because of his close association with the tory interest, he attracted the unwelcome attention of the Hanoverian administration. Although he avoided meeting the duke of Ormond after his flight in 1715, he did meet Bolingbroke and attended Charles Butler (qv), earl of Arran, at his installation as chancellor of Oxford. Nevertheless he remained a fervent critic of the Jacobite cause. An intimate of Alexander Pope and Horace Walpole, he also corresponded with Thomas Carte (qv) and Thomas Sheridan (qv).
He died 26 October 1736 aged 75. His Irish war correspondence in TCD comprises over 1,000 letters relating to army business, pay, food, and ordnance, as well as miscellaneous correspondence with Westminster and some illuminating narratives and newsletters relating to the war. Over sixty of his manuscripts survive in Worcester College, Oxford, many of them dating to the civil war, collected by his father while secretary to George Monck (qv).