The very name smacks of romance and derring-do, exciting battles on the high seas, stalwart men, and brave deeds. But there is another, ugly side to this coin.
The literal coin was gold—the one that gave English currency the name guinea. The precious metal was brought to London by The Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa (its full name, later called just Royal African Company).
The Stuart family, along with some London merchants, chartered the group in 1660, just after Charles II was restored to the English throne. He put his younger brother James, the Duke of York, in charge. (James was also Duke of Albany. See my post last week about the city of that name—here: http://murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com/search?q=James+II )
James and his cohorts had as their goal the exploitation of African gold fields, which had been discovered during the British interregnum. With the help of the King’s army and navy they soon set up forts on the West African coast, where they had the “right” to enforce martial law. They divided their profits 50-50 with the King.
Here comes the ugly part: By 1672, they were taking not only gold and silver, but human beings as slaves. Throughout the 1680’s they transported 5,000 slaves per year, most of them to the Caribbean and the American South. For the first half of that infamous decade, they branded their human captives DY for the Duke of York.
After James ascended to the throne in 1685, they changed their branding irons to read RAC for Royal African Company. Around one hundred thousand Africans got this “royal treatment” between 1672 and 1689. The profits from this trade were a major contributor to the financial power of England.
In 1731, the RAC gave up the devil’s work and switched its trade to ivory and gold dust. It was dissolved in 1752 and folded into the African Company of Merchants—a name that carries no gloss of romance and adventure.
Annamaria - Monday