Royal African Company

Royal African Company


The Royal African Company documents are a few among many documents that show royal support for slavery after 1660.


The next documents are a few among many, many such documents that show royal support for slavery after 1660. I include just one meeting of the Royal African Company – formed first in 1660 and then incorporated in 1663 as the Royal Adventurers into Africa.

It was headed by the king’s brother and had the explicit support of Charles II, who supported war with the Dutch (I have found private notes in his hand) to gain access to forts off the African coast. Note references to “ships of force” to maintain the trade in this meeting. The King’s support of the slave trade was also open.

Holly Brewer

Further Reading


The “Rump” Parliament


The English Civil Wars

  • Cust, Richard, and Ann Hughes. The English Civil War. Arnold Readers in History. London: Arnold, 1997.
  • Ashley, Maurice. The English Civil War. Rev. and Reillustrated ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.
  • Ashton, Robert, and Raymond Howard Parry. The English Civil War and After, 1642-1658. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970.
  • Hibbert, Christopher. Cavaliers & Roundheads: The English Civil War, 1642-1649. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1993.
  • Charter: Source: British National Archives T 70/100
  • Transcription credit: Holly Brewer, Lauren Michalak, Hannah Nolan.
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Content Warning

Please be aware that many of the works in this project contain racist and offensive language and descriptions of punishment and enslavement that may be difficult to read. However, this language and these descriptions reveal the horrors of slavery. Please take care when transcribing these materials, and see our Ethics Statement and About page.


Warrant to prepare a bill for the King’s signature, containing a grant to the Royal African Company

Date:  January 10, 1663

CO 1/17, No. 2, UK National Archives: Item 408, Vol 5 (1661-1668), p.120-122


Whereas all the regions know by the names of Guinny, Binny, Angola, and South Barbary, and all the parts of Africa to them belonging, and the sole trade thereof, are the undoubted right of us, our heirs and successors; and whereas his Majesty has by Letters Patent, bearing date 18th December 1660, granted all said regions, that is to say, from Cape Blanco to Cape de Bona Esperanza, to James Duke of York and Albany and others for the term of (1,000) years, for the sole use of the Company of Royal Adventurers in Africa, by said Letters Patent incorporated; his Majesty, in consideration of the surrender of said Letters Patent, and tendering the advancement of said Royal Company, by these presents grants to (our Royal Consort Queen Katherine, Mary the Queen our mother, our dearest brother James Duke of York, our dearest sister Henrietta Maria, Duchess of Orleans, Prince Rupert, George Duke of Buckingham, Mary Duchess of Richmond, Edward Earl of Manchester, Phillip Earl of Pembroke, Henry Earl of St. Albans, John Earl of Bath, Edward Earl of Sandwich, Charles Earl of Carlisle, Earl of Lauderdale, George Lord Berkley, William Lord Craven, Lord Lucas, Charles Lord Gerrard, William Lord Croft, John Lord Berkeley, Thomas Grey, Esq., Sir George Carteret, Kt., Sir Charles Sidley, Kt., Sir Ellis Leighton, Kt., Edward Gregory, Gent., Sir Edward Turner, Kt., Sir Anthony de Merces, William Legg, Esq., Richard Nicholl, Esq., Sir William Davison, Kt., William Cutler, Sir James Modyford, Kt., Thomas Cullen, Gent., George Cock, Gent., Charles Porter, Gent., Sir John Colleton, Kt., John Duckworth, Gent., Sir John Robinson, Kt., Sir Nicholas Crispe, Kt., Sir Richard Ford, Kt., Sir William Ryder, Kt., John Bence, Sir George Smith, Kt., Sir John Shaw, Kt., Sir Martin Noell, Kt., Abraham Bigg, Gent., Thomas Povey, Esq., Edward Backwell, Esq., Matthew Wren, Gent., Tobias Ruscat, Gent., Martin Noell, Jun., Gent., Henry Johnson, Gent., James Congett, Gent., John Ashburnham, Gent., Edward Noell, Esq., James Noell Gent., Francis Meynell, Gent., John Cooper, Gent., Sir Andrew Riccard, William Herbert, Esq., Sir John Jacob, Sir John Harrison, Sir John Wolstenholme, Sir William Wake, Silas, Titus, and Peter Proby) (these names, as well as the date and term of years are omitted in this draft, but are in the Patent), and their successors, all the regions and dominions, extending from the Port of Sallee in South Barbary, and extending to Cape de Bona Esperanza, during the term of (1,000) years; rendering to his Majesty and his successors two elephants, whensoever he or any of them shall land in said regions. Nevertheless this grant is for the sole benefit of the Company of Royal Adventurers into Africa by these presents incorporated. For the furtherance of the trade, and encouragement in the discovery of the golden mines, and settling of plantations, the society shall be one body corporate, and use a common seal, engraven with, on the one side an elephant supported by two blackamores, and on the other the image of our Royal person. With power to the Company to meet on or before 25th March next, and to choose a governor, sub-governor, deputy governor, and 24 or 36 assistants, who shall have the management of all the affairs of said Company, and continue in office for the space of one year, but shall be removable for any misdemeanor by the major part of the generality. Every governor, sub-governor, deputy governor, and assistant to take his oath for the faithful discharge of his trust, unless the governor be of the Royal family. With power to hold courts, make laws not repugnant to the laws of this realm, and inflict punishment by imprisonment or fine; to set to sea ships with ordnance and ammunition, and to have all mines of gold and silver, and the sole privilege of trade into and from said parts of Africa, on payment of customs and other duties on goods. All his Majesty’s subjects of what degree soever are hereby forbidden to visit or traffic in the places aforesaid, or to import any red-wood, elephants’ teeth, negro slaves, hides, wax, gums, grains, or other commodities of that country, unless with license of said Company, under pain of imprisonment and loss of ships and goods. Also, all factors, masters, and mariners of the Company are forbidden to trade, and power is given to the Company to seize ships, slaves, goods, and merchandize so trading contrary to these presents; the moiety to be to the use of the Company, and the other moiety to the use of his Majesty, his heirs and successors. With power to the Company to have the government of all plantations by them settled in those parts of Africa, and authority to appoint governors, raise forces, and execute martial law; the sovereign right to his Majesty and successors being always reserved. His Majesty, his heirs and successors to have two-thirds of all gold mines found in places aforesaid, paying two-thirds of all charges incident to working and transportation of same, the Company to have the other third and to pay the other third of charges. Draft with corrections and omissions which have been supplied from the Patent Roll, 14 Chas. II., part 27, which is dated 10 Jan. 1663. 16 pp.

Minute Book of the Court of Assistants of the Royal African Company of England, No. 1 


Date: March 1663/4

Present:  The Governor (James, Duke of York, brother to Charles II); Sub Governor,  plus 30 others.

“Resolved that what Cargoes shall hereafter be sent to the Coast of Africa shall be laden aboard sufficient shippes of force.

And that it be referred to the Company to consider what Cargos and store speedily they shall be sent what ships of force for the future shall be dispatched and what provisions shal be made for the supply of those ships that and show already upon the coast and their opinion thereupon be presented to the Court of Assistants.

That a Committee be chosen to gather and extract a summary of all abuses offered by the Dutch to our nation, and that the [ ? ]  of the Dutch be prosecuted  . . . (p. 18)


Date: 29th March 1663/4

“That a narrative be prepared for the Comm[itte]e of Parliament . . .that ye narrative consist of the Importance of the the trade to the plantations the commodities wee carry out & bring in,  . . . and since to the countenance wee have had from the King, all represented in the plainest style,  .. . Ellis Leighton draw a rough draught . . .” (p. 2)

EARLY ACCESS:  Transcription is under editorial review and may contain errors.
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