in Canada almost from the time
the first settlers arrived with first
the French and then the English
competing for the finest pelts. A
major player in this industry was
the Hudson's Bay Company. And
while its operations are much
reduced these days it bears the
distinction of having outlived all
of its rivals. But if a certain prince
had not seen the potential of the north-western corner of
North America it might not have ever got off the ground in the
Two Adventurers walk into the bush...
typical examples of the entrepreneurial French traders,
known as coureurs de bois, who plied the rivers of New
France in search of furs. Possessing an independent streak
and the good sense to listen to their First Nation trading
learn that the best fur country lay
north and west of Lake Superior.
The men sought permission to set
up a trading post on the coast of
Hudson's Bay to reduce the cost
of trading for the valuable furs.
The governor (Marquis d'Argenson)
perhaps fearing the fur trade would
shift away from the St. Lawrence
River, refused to give the men
permission to scout the area.
They went there anyways.
They left in 1659 and returned a year later with a load of
premium furs proving the value of the territory. For their
trouble they were arrested for trading without a licence, fined,
and had their furs confiscated. Both men were soon to seek
more appreciative business partners.
English Gold is as good as French Gold
funding for an exploratory expedition in 1663. Unfortunately,
sea ice prevented the ship from reaching the bay. English
commissioner Colonel George Cartwright was stationed in
Boston and learned about the expedition. He arranged for
Radisson and Groseilliers to go to England to raise financing.
They arrived during the Great Plague of London.
Prince Rupert Invests
determination was about to be rewarded. After receiving an
audience with Prince Rupert, he sponsors the two men (with
an initial investment of £270) and introduces them to his
cousin, King Charles II.
with two ships, Eaglet and Nonsuch,
acquired for the purpose. The Eaglet
was forced to turn back off the coast
of Ireland (with Radisson on board).
The Nonsuch (with Groseilliers) made
it to James Bay (the southern section
of Hudson's Bay) and established
Charles Fort beside the Rupert River.
After a successful winter trading for
furs the ship returned in 1669. The
cargo of furs was worth £1,233. Thus
proven that the fur trade around the Hudson's Bay was going
to be profitable a more formal arrangement was quick to be
One Company to Rule Them All
established The Governor and Company of Adventurers of
England Trading into Hudson's Bay (they got somewhat
better at naming things later on). Prince Rupert would serve
as the company's first governor (1670-82). The company was
granted a monopoly on the fur trade along all rivers draining
into Hudson's Bay.
Prince Rupert died in November of 1682 while still serving as
the company's governor. The company would gain a second
governor of royal blood in the new year with James Stuart,
Duke of York being appointed. He would resign in 1685 when
he became King James II.
The monopoly would last 200 years. Unlike other such
enterprises the Hudson's Bay managed to successfully
transition to being a retail operation in the 1800s as its
monopolies and territories were ceded to the fledgling
Dominion of Canada.
charter establishing the
company a rent of "two Elks
and two Black beavers" was
to be paid yearly to the king or
his heirs whenever they were
in the company's territories.
This is interesting as at the
time neither the king nor his
heirs had ever been to the
Hudson's Bay but seemed to
think it might happen one
day. As it happens this rent
has been paid four times in the company's long history (being
either in pelts or live animals). The rent was collected on the
1927 - Edward, Prince of Wales
1939 - King George VI
1959 - Queen Elizabeth II
1970 - Queen Elizabeth II
The rent was collected in areas around Winnipeg in public
ceremonies. In 1970 the charter was amended and the rent
A Kisaragi Colour