Michael Lok was born in Cheapside in London, by his own account in 1532. He was one of the nineteen children, and the youngest of the five surviving sons of Sir William Lok (1480–1550), gentleman usher to Henry VIII and mercer, sheriff and alderman of London, by his second wife, Katherine Cooke (d.1537), daughter of Sir Thomas Cooke of Wiltshire. One of his sisters was the Protestant exile, Rose Lok (1526–1613). His father, Sir William Lok, was the great-great-great-grandfather of the philosopher John Locke (1632–1704).
He was kept at school until 1545, when he was thirteen, at which time he was sent by his father to Flanders and France 'to learn those languages and to know the world' He spent seven years in Flanders 'following the trade of merchandise', which Williamson suggests was his term of apprenticeship to the Company of Merchant Adventurers. In 1552 he went to Spain, following his business as a merchant, and there and at Lisbon saw the trade of the Spanish West Indies, and the East Indies. During 24 years he travelled, and was captain of a ship of one thousand tons trading in the Levant.
In the course of his voyages he met Martin Frobisher, and in 1576 entered into a scheme for a voyage in search of the Northwest Passage, supplying many of the necessaries at his own cost. When the Cathay Company was formed in March 1577, Lok was appointed governor for six years. The venture, however, entirely failed, and in January 1579 he had to petition the Privy Council for relief and assistance. In June 1581 he was again petitioning the Privy Council, from the Fleet Prison, condemned at the suit of William Borough to pay for a ship bought for Frobisher's last voyage, though he claimed the debt was not his; he was also bound for a larger debt of the Cathay Company. In 1614–15 he was still being sued for a debt for stores supplied to Frobisher's ships.
In 1587–8 Lok was in Dublin, and in 1592 went out to Aleppo as consul for the Levant Company for four years. After two years, however, the appointment was summarily cancelled, by the intrigues—as Lok asserted—of one Dorrington, in the employment of Sir John Spenser, alderman of London. He claimed the full amount of his salary for the four years; but in 1599 he was still claiming it. On 29 June 1608 Lok wrote to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury sending him intelligence of the warlike preparations of the king of Spain.
An essay, An conveniens sit Matrimonium inter Puellam et Senem from 1583, might imply that he was meditating a third marriage in his old age. He also translated into English part of Peter Martyr's Historie of the West Indies, which was published in 1612.
Marriages and issue
Lok married firstly, about 1562, Jane Wilkinson, the daughter of William Wilkinson (d.1543), mercer and Sheriff of London in 1538, by Joan North (d.1556), only sister of Edward North, 1st Baron North, and daughter of Roger North (d.1509) and Christian Warcop. Lok's first wife died in 1571, leaving several children, of whom eight are named in her will (dated 9 February 1570–1, proved by Lok 6 April 1571).
Lok married secondly Margery Perient (died c.1583), daughter of George Perient of Shropshire and Hertfordshire, widow of Cæsar Adelmare (d.1569), and mother of Sir Julius Cæsar the judge. In 1579 Lok described himself as having a wife and fifteen children.
Some scholars believe that Lok's name was the inspiration of the name of Shylock, the moneylender from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (c. 1596–99). The prefix shy- indicated "disreputable" or "untrustworthy", as in "shyster." This claim is particularly popular among "Oxfordians" who claim that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was the real author of the plays, as de Vere lost 3,000 pounds invested with Lok; in the play, the amount borrowed from Shylock is 3,000 ducats.
- McDermott 2004.
- Williamson 1914, p. 59.
- Sutton 2005, p. 390.
- Lowe 2004.
- Carter 2004.
- Litzenberger 2004.
- Sutton 2005, pp. 392-4.
- Joan North (c.1498-1556), A Who’s Who of Tudor Women: N, compiled by Kathy Lynn Emerson to update and correct Wives and Daughters: The Women of Sixteenth-Century England (1984) Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- Wijffels 2004.
- Caesar, Julius (1558-1636), of Tottenham, Middlesex and Mitcham, Surrey, History of Parliament Retrieved 12 November 2013.
- Margery Perient has also been identified as the daughter of Martin Perient, Treasurer in Ireland; Hill 1988, p. 271.
- Alford, Stephen (2017). London's Triumph: Merchant Adventurers and the Tudor City. Penguin Books Limited. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-14-197812-3.
- "The Bard a Month Club - The Merchant of Venice: The Merchant of Venice - Thoughts & Discussion (showing 1-2 of 2)". www.goodreads.com.
- "Who Was Shakespeare?". www.ljhammond.com.
- Carter, P.R.N. (2004). "North, Edward, first Baron North (c.1504–1564)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/20300.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Hill, Lamar M. (1988). Bench and Bureaucracy: The Public Career of Sir Julius Caesar, 1580-1636. Stanford University Press. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
- Litzenberger, Caroline (2004). "Wilkinson , Joan (d. 1556)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/47139.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Lowe, Ben (2004). "Throckmorton , Rose (1526–1613)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/67979.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- McDermott, James (2004). "Lok, Michael (c.1532–1620x22)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/16950.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.) The first edition of this text is available at Wikisource: . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Sutton, Anne F. (2005). The Mercery of London: Trade, Goods and People, 1130-1578. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
- Wijffels, Alain (2004). "Caesar, Sir Julius (bap. 1558, d. 1636)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4328.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Williamson, James A. (July 1914). "Michael Lok". Blackwood's Magazine: 58–72.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Lok, Michael". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.