Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Royal African Company and the African Company

The Royal African Company was a slaving company set up by the Stuart family and London merchants once the former retook the English throne in the English Restoration of 1660. It was led by James, Duke of York, Charles II's brother.

Originally known as the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa, it was chartered by James II. Slaves were branded with the company's initials, RAC, on their chests.

Between 1672 and 1689 it transported around 90,000–100,000 slaves. Its profits made a major contribution to the increase in the financial power of those who controlled London.

In 1698, it lost its monopoly. This was advantageous for merchants in Bristol, even if, like the Bristolian Edward Colston, they had already been involved in the Company. The number of slaves transported on English ships then increased dramatically.

The Royal African Company's arms depicted an elephant and castle.The achievement was:

Arms: An elephant with a castle on his back flying thereof the red ensign, and a canton quarterly of a fleur de lys and a lion passant guardant

Crest: A crown of three leaves and two pearls, issuing therefrom the anchor of the Royal Navy per pale, between two wings Argent charged with a cross Gules, being the crest of London.

Supporters: Two negroes with feather-crowns, keeping in their exterior hands a bundle of arrows points downwards, and dressed in skirts

From 1668 to 1722 the Royal African Company provided gold to the English Mint. Coins made with this gold bear an elephant below the bust of the king and/or queen. This gold also gave the coinage its name - the guinea.

The company continued slaving until 1731, when it abandoned slaving in favour of trafficking in ivory and gold dust. Charles Hayes (1678-1760), mathematician and chronologist was sub-governor of Royal African Company till 1752 when it was dissolved. Its successor was the African Company. (source: Hubert de Vries. National Arms and Emblems: Past and Present)

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