Slavery was supported from day one by the British monarchy


Your article mentions William III’s share in the Royal African Company (RAC), which transported more slaves across the Atlantic than any other company, but misses the bigger picture (The Colston connection: How Prince William’s Kensington Palace home is connected to slavery, 6 April)

The RAC (and its predecessor, the Company of Royal Adventurers) relied on royal patronage from the beginning. Visit the British Library website to view Charles II’s gruesome document that granted a monopoly on the black slave exchange. It used its royally sanctioned monopoly to quickly position England as Europe’s largest slave-trading nation. Many of those transported are named “DoY” for James, Duke of York, Company Governor – and future King. Edward Colston’s transfer of shares to William III after the Glorious Revolution simply maintained traditional royal patronage of slaves.

Britain’s liberals campaigned relentlessly against the company during William’s reign and eventually succeeded in breaking its monopoly – as they too wanted a share of the profits from slavery. Historian William Pettigrew has written a book on the subject, Freedom’s Debt: The Royal African Company and the Politics of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1672-1752.

Although your article rightly draws attention to the role of the monarchy in the history of the slave trade, it misses a key period in this history: Cromwell’s Commonwealth (British kings and queens who supported and profited from slavery, April 6). Cromwell launched the Western Design, a colonial enterprise, which added vast sugar plantations and accompanying slavery to British possessions. Royalty was deeply involved in slavery by granting monopolies, but did they encourage slavery like Cromwell?

If you have questions about this, ask Irish. After the Drogheda Massacre of 1649, Cromwell killed one of the 10 survivors and sent the rest to Barbados as slaves, writing that “it is God’s just judgment upon these barbarous brutes”.

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Marta Lopez

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By Marta Lopez

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