First name
Social status

Text source

Richard Clerk was the brother of John Clerk [SSNE 4159] and had already seen military service in the Netherlands when he immigrated to Sweden in the early 1600s. He was a master shipwright at Stegeborg wharf between 1606-8. In 1610 he became a captain in Jakob Snakenborg's fleet, and already by October he was an admiral of a fleet of 5 ships in Riga waters. From 1611 he was a permanent 'sub admiral', and in the spring of 1611 he furnished the Nykoping fleet. In 1612 he was again an admiral over 11 ships on an 8 day campaign to Gotland where he apparently caused some damage, although never directly engaged any Danish ships. Clerck twice landed on Gotland, capturing animals, 9 prisoners and a Lubeck ship loaded with stones. As the vessel was old it was returned to its owner. In June that year Axel Oxenstierna wrote to King Gustav II Adolf describing how days of shooting had been heard at sea. Clerck was also admiral of a fleet of 11 ships travelling in convoy to Danzig later in 1612. The next year he was admiral of a transport fleet to Finland, Narva and Nyen. In 1614 he was the admiral of a fleet going to Reval to collect King Gustav II Adolf and return him to Stockholm. He held the monopoly over riggings for the Swedish navy between 1615-25. In 1616 it was apparently with great difficulty that Clerck was supplied with the necessary 2500 dalers he needed to undertake the furbishment of the ship Nyckeln for the king's use. He was also holm admiral - that is admiral of the Stockholm shipyard - in Stockholm 29/7/1619-1625. He had two sons, Johan and Richard. There is a reference to Admiral Richard Clerk in the navy in 1622. An incident is related where Capt Alexander Forrat and James Muir were accused of the murder of one James Logan. Logan was a relative of Muirs and newly taken on in Swedish service as a Fanrik. On the 30th of April 1622, Logan arrived at the house of Admiral Richard Clerk, where he met in with Muir, Forrat and Stewart. They went on to the house of Gerdt Spechts where they had a beer. There a dispute arose between Forrat and Logan over money. A fight broke out in which Forrat punched Logan, who promptly pulled a knife and put it to Captain Forrat's throat. Muir got involved and in the moments that followed, John Clerk was wounded and Logan killed. In the trial that followed Forrat was found guilty of starting the fight, fined and ordered to take any additional punishment imposed by the king. Muir was sentenced to death for killing a relative, though the text does not say whether the sentence was carried out. Clerk died around 13 March 1625 and in a letter to James Spens [SSNE 1642] Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna described him as "Bonus senex noster" whose death "non sine dolore Regis ac omnium bonorum, qui eius servitio ac conversatione honesta aliquandiu adhuc frui cupivissent." In February 1627, Montrose council commissioned James Wood to receive from Admiral Clerk’s executors such sums and other things he ‘had left to the hospitell’. Later on in April 1627, the council commissioned Wood to receive from ‘captan clark that qlk wes left be admiraill clark to the hospitell’. On both dates, Montrose also approached John Findlay [SSNE 5725] for his contribution to the hospital.


In some sources it is said that a Scottish shipbuilder called Jacob Clerck had been accused by Christian IV of building ships illegally in Norway in 1605-1606. Thereafter, in June 1606 a Jacob/James Clerck turned up in Swedish service in a shipbuilding capacity, indeed as a master shipwright, and the two were probably the same individual. After 1611 Jacob is said to have changed his name to Richard Clerck and is, or is conflated with the above man.


Biografiska Anteckningar om Officerare vid Orlogsflottan 1600-1699, p.108; Svenska Adelns Attartavlor vol 1; A. Zettersten, Svenska Flottans Historia Aren 1522-1634 (Stockholm, 1890), pp.257-258; R.C. Anderson, Naval Wars in the Baltic 1522-1850, (London, 1969), 33; M. Roberts, Gustavus Adolphus, A History of Sweden 1611-1632 (2 vols., London, 1958), II, pp.288-9. For Norwegian and Danish references see Danish Rigsarkiv, TKUA England A 1, 2. James VI to Christian IV, 4 April 1606; O. G. Lundh, Norske Rigs Registranter, IV, (Oslo, 1870), pp.79 and 123. Christian IV to Laurits Krus, 24 July 1604 and Christian IV to Styring Boel, 3 August 1605; Rikskansleren Axel Oxenstiernas skrifter och brefvexling, first series, II, pp.49, 54, 63, 294, 295, 296; ibid., III, p.48; Svenska Sjoofficerare vol II, p.256; Restenneth Priory, Angus Archives, Montrose town council minutes, 1617-1639, 14 February 1627 and 16 April 1627 We thank Thomas Brochard for this last reference.


From the Rotterdam Notarial Archive:


Aktesoort machtiging  
Datum 05/09/1611  
Archief ONA Rotterdam   
Inventarisnummer 48   
Aktenummer/Blz. 62/103   
Notaris Jacob Duyfhuysen  
Bij bestellengewenste vorm  papierdigitale scan per e-mail  
Inhoud Dirck van der Wolff
brouwer,Arent Kivit brouwer, alsmede, Pieter Bisschop
ontvanger, machtigen NN van Dijck gecommitteerde van de koning van Sweden om hun belangen te behartigen in zake vorderingen op Ritchert Clercq van Monros, dienende de koning van Sweden.

Service record

Arrived 1606-01-01, as SHIP'S MASTER
Departed 1609-12-31, as SHIPS MASTER
Capacity OFFICER, purpose NAVAL
Arrived 1610-01-01, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1625-12-31, as HOLM ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL