Hudson’s Bay Company Is Chartered Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Responding to the plans of Chouart des Groseilliers and Radisson, the British chartered the Hudson’s Bay Company to exploit the potential fur trade of North America. The company’s political and economic power ensured British dominance in Canada.

Summary of Event

In 1670, England and France were deeply entrenched in the struggle for North America. Although outwardly friendly, King Louis XIV of France and King Charles II Charles II (king of England)[Charles 02 (king of England)];France and of England secretly struggled for dominance. Two French Canadian coureurs de bois (woodrunners) and explorers, Pierre Esprit Radisson Radisson, Pierre Esprit and Médard Chouart des Groseilliers, Chouart des Groseilliers, Médard became pawns in the battle for North America. [kw]Hudson’s Bay Company Is Chartered (May 2, 1670) Trade and commerce;May 2, 1670: Hudson’s Bay Company Is Chartered[2420] Organizations and institutions;May 2, 1670: Hudson’s Bay Company Is Chartered[2420] Expansion and land acquisition;May 2, 1670: Hudson’s Bay Company Is Chartered[2420] Colonization;May 2, 1670: Hudson’s Bay Company Is Chartered[2420] Canada;May 2, 1670: Hudson’s Bay Company Is Chartered[2420] Hudson’s Bay Company[Hudsons Bay Company] Colonization;England of Canada Canada;English colonization of Groseilliers, Médard Chouart des Radisson, Pierre Esprit Rupert, Prince d’Iberville, Pierre Le Moyne Gillam, Zachariah Charles II (king of England)

Radisson and Chouart des Groseilliers, his brother-in-law and partner, were alleged to be the first white explorers to enter Exploration;France of Minnesota Minnesota. They explored Lake Michigan, the Straits of Mackinac, and Green Bay. In 1659-1660, the two men traded for furs in the northern fur areas with the Illinois, Sioux, and Cree tribes. Upon their return to New France (now Quebec), leading a flotilla of sixty fur-laden canoes, they were prosecuted by the French authorities for illegal trading, and their furs were confiscated. Furs, trade in Although they appealed to the French court in 1661, their petitions were ignored. Acting through Colonel George Cartwright, a commissioner sent to Boston by the newly restored British monarchy to help settle British colonial boundaries, the brothers-in-law entreated Charles II and his cousin, Prince Rupert, Rupert, Prince duke of Bavaria, to fund an expedition to Hudson Bay. This area had been located sixty years earlier by Henry Hudson during his fourth voyage, in which he attempted to discover the Northwest Passage to Cathay.

Radisson and Chouart des Groseilliers arrived in England during 1665, the year of the Great Plague. The British referred to them as Mr. Radishes and Mr. Gooseberry (groseilliers means gooseberry bushes in French). Fascinated by the adventurers’ idea that the Bay of the North could be approached by sea rather than the normal Saint Lawrence River route by canoe (information given to the explorers by the Cree), King Charles II and Prince Rupert envisioned rich fur harvests. In 1667, Sir George Carteret invested the first £20 in the new venture.

It took until June 5, 1668, to equip two decrepit but serviceable ships—the Eaglet, captained by William Stannard, with Radisson on board, and the Nonsuch, commanded by Captain Zachariah Gillam, Gillam, Zachariah with Chouart des Groseilliers on board—with the necessities for an exploratory journey to Hudson Bay. When they finally did set sail, the Eaglet was forced to return to England on August 5; the Nonsuch continued to Hudson Bay, where, on the east coast of James Bay, on a stream he called the Rupert River, Chouart des Groseilliers established Fort Charles, a trading station. The party wintered with the help of friendly Cree Crees Indians, with whom Captain Gillam signed a treaty of amity and traded muskets, hatchets, steel knives, needles, and trinkets for pelts.

Chouart des Groseilliers left Hudson Bay in June, 1669, and returned to the court of Charles in October with a shipload of luxurious furs: ermine, lynx, and beaver. For the British monarchy, this shipment represented an alternative source to the Baltic fur Trade;furs market. At that time, Baltic furs were used by England in trade with Russia in exchange for commodities vital to the shipbuilding industry, including hemp and tar. Charles now realized that fur, rather than gold, was the real treasure of the New World.

On May 2, 1670, Charles granted a royal charter, composed on five sheepskin parchment sheets, under the Great Seal of England to his privy councillor, Prince Rupert. The charter granted the newly established “Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into the Hudson’s Bay” (commonly known as the Hudson’s Bay Company) title to all land and a trade monopoly within the drainage basin of Hudson Bay: “all those Seas Streightes Bayes Rivers Lakes Creekes and Soundes in whatsoever Latitude they shall be that lye within the entrance of the Streightes commonly called Hudsons Streightes together with all the Landes and Territoryes.” The area was to be called Rupert’s Land, with the company maintaining the mineral and fishing rights and the right of exclusive trade. Traders encroaching on this expanse of land would be imprisoned and forfeit their ships and merchandise, with one-half the value going to the company, the other half to the British crown. The charter also included in its right of exclusive trade all lands accessed by the waterways of Rupert’s Land.

Other founding adventurers, whose investment shares were priced at £300, included Anthony Ashley Cooper, the first earl of Shaftesbury Shaftesbury, first earl of ; Robert Boyle, Boyle, Robert chemist and founding member of the Royal Society; Robert Vyner, the king’s banker; Francis Millington, customs commissioner; John Fenn, paymaster of the Admiralty; Sir George Carteret, financier; John Portman, banker and goldsmith; Sir John Griffith, city magnate; James Hayes, private secretary to Prince Rupert; John Kirke, merchant; Kirke’s brother-in-law, Sir Edgar Hungerford; Henry Bennet, first baron Arlington (soon to be first earl) Arlington, first earl of ; Sir John Robinson, lieutenant of the Tower of London; and William Pretyman, merchant to India. Lady Margaret Drax, a colonial widow advised by Hayes, became the first female stockholder.

The charter granted the company complete judicial power, including the right to sue and be sued, to hold land and dispose of it, and, if necessary, to wage war. The company was to be controlled by a governor and an elected committee of seven. Charles named Prince Rupert the first governor of Rupert’s Land, a position he maintained until his death in 1682. The only provision mandated upon the company was the payment of two elk and two black beavers should the British monarch, or his successors, ever decide to set foot on Rupert’s Land.


Charles had no idea of the expanse of Rupert’s Land, which spread over nearly 40 percent of modern Canada: It included Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, southern Alberta, the northern area of the Laurentian Mountains, and the region to the south past the forty-ninth parallel and west through the Red River Valley to the Rocky Mountain divide. The area covered by all streams draining into Hudson Bay encompasses 1.5 million square miles (3.9 million square kilometers).

The desire for ermine, lynx, and beaver, used for the immensely fashionable beaver pelt hats and as insignias of rank and wealth, grew. Soon, trading posts, or bay posts as they were called, lined Hudson Bay, James Bay, the Arctic Ocean, and the interior. As trade escalated, the beaver skin became the monetary unit, the “coin of the realm,” with a single skin worth five pounds of sugar and ten skins worth a gun. The Hudson’s Bay Company outfitted the indigenous peoples of Canada and used them to trap.

Intermittent problems with France continued. In 1697, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville Iberville, Pierre Le Moyne d’ raided Hudson Bay and almost drove the English out. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht Utrecht, Treaty of (1713) sanctioned the British possession of Hudson Bay, but this new land became the site of a ruthless fur trade, which became most vicious from 1789 to 1821, after the rival North West Company arrived. During this era, John Jacob Astor made his fortune by forming the American Fur Company. The Hudson’s Bay Company maintained domination over Rupert’s Land until the Deed of Surrender in 1869, at which time it sold its land to the new Dominion of Canada in exchange for £300,000 and western farmland. Ultimately, the company sold all its land, preserving some mineral rights; after World War I, it cultivated interests in retail department stores, real-estate investment, and petroleum and natural gas production.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fournier, Martin. Pierre-Esprit Radisson: Merchant, Adventurer, 1636-1710. Translated by Mary Ricard. Sillery, Que.: Sepentrion, 2002. Comprehensive treatment of Radisson’s life, including his involvement with the Hudson’s Bay Company. Refutes historians’ claims that Radisson and Groseilliers were disloyal to their English business partners, maintaining they remained with the Hudson’s Bay Company until political turmoil forced the two Frenchmen to leave England.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Newman, Peter C. Company of Adventurers. New York: Viking, 1985. A concise study of Hudson Bay. Includes a comprehensive bibliography and maps.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Newman, Peter C. Empire of the Bay. Toronto: Madison Press, 1989. Oversized book filled with colorful illustrations, including photographs, depicting the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Includes a comprehensive chronology.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Nute, Grace Lee. Caesars of the Wilderness: Médard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers, and Pierre Esprit Radisson, 1618-1710. 1943. Reprint. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1978. A comprehensive biography of both Chouart des Groseilliers and Radisson, covering the discovery and exploration of New France and the development of the fur trade. Extensive bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ray, Arthur J. The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990. Covers the history and economic conditions of Hudson’s Bay Company, the fur trade, and the natives of North America. Plates, illustrations, many bibliographical references.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rich, Edwin Ernest. Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670-1870. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1961. Extensive and approachable, with illustrations of key players, a map, and a foreword by Sir Winston Churchill.

Champlain’s Voyages

Hudson Explores Hudson Bay

Company of New France Is Chartered

Beaver Wars

Westward Migration of Native Americans

Founding of Montreal

Explorations of Radisson and Chouart des Groseilliers

British Conquest of New Netherland

French Explore the Mississippi Valley

La Salle’s Expeditions

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Robert Boyle; Samuel de Champlain; Charles II (of England); Henry Hudson; Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville; Louis XIV; Pierre Esprit Radisson; Prince Rupert; First Earl of Shaftesbury. Hudson’s Bay Company[Hudsons Bay Company] Colonization;England of Canada Canada;English colonization of

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