Henrician bishop of Bath and Wells; b. place and date unknown; d. St. Botolph's, Aldgate, Jan. 3, 1541. He took his B.A. at Cambridge in 1499 and his M.A. in 1502. He later took a doctor's degree in law at Bologna. He received rapid preferment and in 1519 became archdeacon of Colchester, then dean of Windsor, a judge in Star Chamber, Thomas Wolsey's chaplain, and dean of the king's chapel. In 1521 he was sent as ambassador to Rome and presented Henry VIII's The Defense of the Seven Sacraments, prefaced by an "Oratio" of his own, to Leo X. On Leo's death Clerk was employed to further Wolsey's aspirations to the papal throne, but he could not get enough support. He was unsuccessful again two years later on the death of Adrian VI. In 1523 Clerk was nominated bishop of Bath and Wells. Three years later he was sent to France to attempt to negotiate a marriage between Francis I and Princess Mary Tudor. The following year he was in Rome, and in 1529 he was a counselor for Queen Catherine in the divorce proceedings. His last task was that of appeasing the Duke of Cleves after Henry's farcical marriage with the Duke's daughter, Anne. On his return trip he fell sick at Dunkirk and died a few months later in England.
Bibliography: w. hunt, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 1885–1900; repr. with corrections, 1908–09, 1921–22, 1938) 4:495–496. s. h. cassan, Lives of the Bishops of Bath and Wells, 2 v. (London 1829). p. hughes, The Reformation in England (5th, rev. ed. New York 1963).
[m. m. curtis]