CLARKE, MARY ANNE (c. 1776–1852), mistress of Frederick duke of York, second son of George III., was born either in London or at Oxford. Her father, whose name was Thompson, seems to have been a tradesman in rather humble circumstances. She married before she was eighteen, but Mr Clarke, the proprietor of a stonemasonry business, became bankrupt, and she left him. After other liaisons, she became in 1803 the mistress of the duke of York, then commander-in-chief, maintaining a large and expensive establishment in a fashionable district. The duke’s promised allowance was not regularly paid, and to escape her financial difficulties Mrs Clarke trafficked in her protector’s position, receiving money from various promotion-seekers, military, civil and even clerical, in return for her promise to secure them the good services of the duke. Her procedure became a public scandal, and in 1809 Colonel Wardle, M.P., brought eight charges of abuse of military patronage against the duke in the House of Commons, and a committee of inquiry was appointed, before which Mrs Clarke herself gave evidence. The result of the inquiry clearly established the charges as far as she was concerned, and the duke of York was shown to have been aware of what was being done, but to have derived no pecuniary benefit himself. He resigned his appointment as commander-in-chief, and terminated his connexion with Mrs Clarke, who subsequently obtained from him a considerable sum in cash and a pension, as the price for withholding the publication of his numerous letters to her. Mrs Clarke died at Boulogne on the 21st of June 1852.
See Taylor, Authentic Memoirs of Mrs Clarke; Clarke (? pseud.), Life of Mrs M. A. Clarke; Annual Register, vol. li.