First name
Social status

Text source

John Clerk (known in Sweden as Hans and Johan) was possibly a brother of Richard Clerk, the elder, [SSNE 4137] and likewise little is known of his early life.

John Clerk first appears in the Swedish navy as a captain on 31/5/1617. He served as a private member in the staff of the vice-admiral's ship Vasa in 1620. He also served on the Jupiter which transported King Gustav II Adolf to Germany in May 1620. Two years later he went with two troop ships to Riga. Captain Clerk took over the late holmadmiral (possibly his brother?) Richard Clerk's [SSNE 4137] monopoly of tackling, although he was later pulled up for not undertaking this duty properly. 

In January 1626 Clerk was contracted by Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna to prepare the fleet for embarkation to Poland. That year he became "over captain" and between 1626-8 he was in charge of rigging for the navy in Stockholm. Indeed he sold the rigging for the ill-fated royal warship Vasa which sank in 1628. By 1630, Clerk became a vice admiral and was sent to Holland to collect five ships. From 1631-44 he served as holm admiral in Stockholm. His successful career has led to his description as one of the driving forces in the Swedish admiralty at this period. In 1637 he was one of the Swedish navy's lieutenant admirals along with Simon Stewart [SSNE 1644]. He died May 1644. His son, or nephew - it is unclear - Richard [SSNE 4138] was also in the navy. His daughter Elizabeth [SSNE 2836] was twice married: first to James Drummond [SSNE 1622], then to James Sinclair [SSNE 3441]. 

He owned property on Norrmalm: a farm at Repslagarbanan and a garden at Ladugårdslandet, both of which were destroyed in the major fire of 1640. Admiral Clerk (along with fellow admiral Clas Fleming) was also in charge of the building of Admiralitetshuset, just outside Skeppsholmen.

There is a reference to a John Clerk in the navy in 1622. 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 Muir's and newly taken on in Swedish service as an ensign (fänrik). On the 30th of April 1622, Logan arrived at the house of Admiral Richard Clerk [SSNE 4137] for dinner, where he met in with Muir, Forrat 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. 

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

Other Sources: Swedish Riksarkiv, Axel Oxenstierna, Kontraktsböcker; Biografiska Anteckningar om Officerare vid Orlogsflottan 1600-1699, p.106; Svenska Sjoofficerare vol II, p.256; Svenska Adelns Ättartavlor vol 1; J. Kleberg, Amiralitetskollegium - Marinförvaltningen Biografiska Anteckningar 1634-1934 (Stockholm, 1934), p.15; A. Norberg, Polen i Svensk Politik, (Norrtalje, 1974), p.275; E. Wendt, Amiralitetskollegiets Historia part 1 1634-1695 (Stockholm, 1950), pp.19, 25, 63; A. Zettersten, Svenska Flottans Historia Åren 1522-1634 (Stockholm, 1890), p.258; A. Zettersten, Svenska Flottans Historia Aren 1635-1680, (Norrtelje, 1903), p.598; F. Bedoire, Stormaktstidens Norrmalm folk hus och gator, (Stockholm, 2023), p.85, 237, 265, 270.


Service record

Arrived 1617-01-01, as CAPTAIN
Departed 1644-05-31, as HOLM ADMIRAL
Capacity ADMIRAL, purpose NAVAL