History

Explore presents the Hudson’s Bay Company - Part 4(1): The Royal Charter

Episode 17

Written on animal skin 350 years ago, the Royal Charter that created the Hudson’s Bay Company is both an incredible and problematic document

  • Published Jun 11, 2020
  • Updated Apr 13, 2022
The signing of the HBC Royal Charter by Britain's King Charles II on May 2, 1670. (Image courtesy HBC Heritage)
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“CHARLES THE SECOND, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. To ALL to whom these Presents shall come, greeting.” 

With that opening line, a Royal Charter granted all of the land in the watershed of Hudson’s Bay, a massive area of present day Canada and the northern United States, to the Hudson’s Bay Company, or as it was known then, “The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England, trading into Hudson’s Bay.”

As an historic document, “it is both incredible and problematic,” says Amelia Fay, Curator of the HBC Collection at the Manitoba Museum and Archives. Incredible because of the impact it had as one of the primary drivers in the creation of what is now Canada. Problematic because in doing so. it gave away lands of the Indigenous Peoples who had lived on them for millennia, without their consent.
 
Fay takes us through the importance of the Royal Charter, written on animal skin 350 years ago, on May 2, 1670, in this first of three episodes inside the HBC Collection. It is a collection that author and historian Peter C. Newman once described as second only to the Vatican’s in terms of its contents.
 
The HBC Charter is currently on loan from the Hudson’s Bay Company to the Manitoba Archives as part of events marking the 350th Anniversary of the HBC. To learn more about the charter visit HBC Heritage

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