CLERKE, BARTHOLOMEW, LL.D. (1537?–1590), civilian, was grandson of Richard Clerke, gentleman, of Livermere in Suffolk, and son of John Clerke of Wells, Somersetshire, by Anne, daughter and heiress of Henry Grantoft, gentleman, of Huntingdonshire. He was born about 1537 in the parts of Surrey which adjoin London. He received his education at Eton, whence he was elected to King's College, Cambridge, being admitted scholar on 23 Aug. 1554 and fellow on 24 Aug. 1557. He proceeded B.A. in 1558-9, and commenced M.A. in 1562. He also studied at Paris, where he was much admired for his oratory, and he was promised a salary of three hundred crowns if he would read a public lecture at Angers, but this offer he declined. About 1563 he was professor of rhetoric at Cambridge. When Queen Elizabeth visited that university in August 1564, he took a part in the philosophy act which was kept in her majesty's presence, and made an oration to her when she visited King's College. He was one of the proctors of the university for the academical year beginning in October 1564. On the death of Roger Ascham he was recommended to succeed him as Latin secretary to the queen by Sir William Cecil, the Earl of Leicester, and Dr. Walter Haddon. The office had, however, been previously promised by her majesty to another person. About the same time he was accused of unsoundness in religion, but this charge he confuted. In 1569 he was again elected proctor of the university. On this occasion he was publicly charged with unsoundness in religion and reproached for having been rejected at court. Thereupon the Earl of Leicester, by a letter to the vice-chancellor and regents of the university, dated 11 May 1569, fully vindicated Clerke's reputation, highly commended his learning, and stated that the queen had conceived a right good opinion of his towardness.
To the parliament which assembled on 2 April 1571 he was returned as one of the members for the borough of Bramber in Sussex (Willis, Notitia Parliamentaria, iii. pt. ii. p. 85), and on the 19th of that month he took part in a debate on the bill against usury, his speech containing quotations from Aristotle, Plato, St. Augustine, and the psalmist. In that year he accompanied Lord Buckhurst to Paris when that nobleman was sent as ambassador to the French court to congratulate Charles IX on his marriage. He resided with his lordship for some time after his return to England, and he was also held in great esteem by Edward Vere, earl of Oxford, to whom he seems to have been tutor (Strype, Life of Parker, p. 384). It was in 1571 that Dr. Nicholas Sanders printed his book, ' De visibili Ecclesiæ Monarchia.' Burghley and Archbishop Parker thought it ought to receive a substantial answer by some person well skilled in the civil law, and they could find no one equal to such an undertaking except Clerke. Burghley desired some public testimony from the university respecting Clerke's conduct. Accordingly the vice-chancellor and Dr. Whitgift, master of Trinity College, testified on 6 Dec. 1572 to his good reputation for learning. While engaged in refuting Sanders, Clerke was accommodated with a room in the Arches by favour of Archbishop Parker, who himself assisted in preparing the reply, which was carefully scrutinised and corrected by the lord treasurer himself before it was sent to the press (Strype, Whitgift, p. 47, and Parker, p. 381; also Parker Correspondence, pp. 411-14). On 14 Jan. 1572-3 Clerke became a member of the College of Advocates at Doctors' Commons, and on 3 May 1573 he was constituted dean of the arches (Coote, English Civilians, p. 50). The queen, at the instigation, it is supposed, of the Earl of Leicester and the puritans, commanded the archbishop to remove Clerke on the pretence that he was too young to hold such a post. He firmly resisted this arbitrary attempt to remove him, and as his cause was warmly espoused by the primate he succeeded in retaining his office (Strype, Parker, p. 387, Append, p. 123; Parker Correspondence, pp. 417-32).
In November 1573 he occurs in a commission from the archbishop to visit the church, city, and diocese of Canterbury. About the same time he was appointed a master in chancery. His name occurs in the high commission for causes ecclesiastical on 23 April 1576, and he became archdeacon of Wells about the beginning of 1582. In December 1585 he and Henry Killegrew were sent to Flanders to co-operate with the Earl of Leicester, being appointed members of the council of state. On 10 March 1585-6 Clerke delivered an oration in Leicester's name, on his arrival in Amsterdam, and in October following he was despatched to England by Leicester on a special mission to the queen. In 1587 he was again sent to the Low Countries, with his friend Lord Buckhurst and Sir John Norris, in order to allay the discontent which had been excited by the Earl of Leicester's proceedings in Holland, and to open the way for a peace with Spain.
It is said that Clerke was a member of the old Society of Antiquaries (Archaeologia, i. introd. p. xx). For several years his ordinary residence was at Mitcham in Surrey,