First name
Social status

Text source


Richard Clerk, usually termed the elder (d. äldre in Swedish), 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.

Admiral Richard Clerck the elder held several properties in Stockholm. The first of these to be identified is the empty plot on Östermalm that Richard Clerck the elder purchased from Jesper Matsson Krus (the Lord High Treasurer) for 100 riksdaler in March 1618. Here the admiral had at least two buildings constructed, between Regeringsgatan and Västra Trädgårdsgatan, unfortunately all torn down in 1971. In 1624, a year before his death, Richard Clerck extended his property by obtaining the plot directly below his, probably what is now Regeringsgatan 30.


There is a reference to Admiral Richard Clerk in the navy on 30 April1622. An incident is related where Capt Alexander Forrat [SSNE 4146] and James Muir [SSNE 1713] were accused of the murder of one James Logan [SSNE 49]. 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 for dinner. Here they met in with Muir, Forrat, John Clerk [SSNE 4159] and Simon Stewart [SSNE 1644]. 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. Richard Clerck had two sons, Johan and Richard. 


In some sources it is said that a Scottish shipbuilder called Jacob Clerck [SSNE 6578]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; Stockholmsstads tänke böcker 1620-1621, (Stockholm,), p.202, p.203, 206, and 207-208; Stockholms Stadsmuseum, Kvarteret Spektern (Stockholm, 1971); A. Tidner, Palats och Kåkar i gamla Stockholm, (Stockholm, 1917), p.322; F.U. Wrangel, Stockholmiana I-IV, (Stockholm, 1912), p.105; F. Bedoire, Stormaktstidens Norrmalm, (Stockholm, 2023), p. 264; 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.

The James Logan murder is recorded in Stockholms Tänkeböcker från år 1592: Del XIII, 1622-1623 (Stockholm, 1978), pp. 26-31, 4th May 1622. 



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