1625, the Muscovia Company seek help in their disputes with the Dutch about fishing in Greenland

The Muscovia Company trading to Greenland. SP 14/181 f. 87 (1625)

To the right honourable the lordes, and others of his majesties most honourable privie councell

The humble peticion of the Muscovia Company trading Greenland.

Shewinge. That wheras upon their former peticion wherin they complained against the Hollanders aswell for the non payment of twenty two thousand pounds ordered by his majestie long since to bee paid your peticioners for depredacions sustained by the Hollanders in Greenland (alias Kinge James his New Land) as also for the Hollanders intrusions into those his majesties countryes and their enterrupting the peticioners in their fishing there, havinge had this last yeare a great fleete, wherof (as the peticioners are informed) some of them were sett out by Sir William Courten and his brother dwelling at Middleborow, your lordships were therupon pleased to acquaint his majesty with the contents of their said peticion.

And forasmuch as the Hollanders have hitherto delayed the payment of the said 22000 pounds or any part therof and doe pretend as much priviledge to the fishinge in those partes as your peticioners by vertue of a commission graunted them from the Prince of Orange, declaringe nevertheless that when the said prince shall forbeare to authorise them, they will forbeare to frequent those countryes.

The peticioners are againe become humble sutors unto your lordships, that some speedy course may bee taken for the satisfaccion of their former losses either by graunting them letteres of mart or otherwise as to your lordships shall seeme fittinge. And that his majesty wilbe gratiously pleased to write his letteres to the Prince of Orange to forbeare to authorise his people by commission to frequent those countryes or to graunt them proteccion by shipps of warr for their defence against your peticioners, and that upon the Prince of Orange his answere thereunto, some course may bee taken for the quiett maintenance of his majesties right and the peticioners encouragment in their said trade of fishinge; and etc

Report by Keith Baldwin

The Muscovia Company or Muscovy Company was also known as the Russian Company. Founded in 1555, it was the first chartered joint stock company and was granted sole rights to trade with Russia which only ceased in 1698. Its business interests were varied and few opportunities were ignored.[1]

They started whaling in 1611 and in 1614 King James I granted them exclusive rights to the fishery. They appear to have aggressively defended this right against all-comers, though at times the Dutch and Danish bore the upper hand.[2] By 1620 the Company decided to grant licences rather than pursue the ventures themselves. A more complete history is related in Early Dutch & English Voyages to Spitzbergen in the Seventeenth Century.[3] Note that, confusingly, the King James’s New Lands & Greenland referred to in the petition are actually Spitzbergen.[4]

There are further petitions and related documents about the Muscovia Company in Greenland. In 1652, they petitioned the council to settle the disputes.[5]


[1] Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscovy_Company

[2] The Origin and Early History of the Russia or Muscovy Company (1830), pp. 7, 26, 33. 35, 38.

[3] Early Dutch & English Voyages to Spitzbergen in the Seventeenth Century (1903), ‘Introduction to the Troubles at Spitsburgen in 1618’.

[4] http://www.portcities.org.uk/london/server/show/ConNarrative.129/chapterId/2633/The-London-whaling-trade.html

[5] ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1650s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/petitions/state-papers/1650s#h2-0009. See also ‘Charles I – volume 522: December 1625’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1625-49 Addenda, ed. William Douglas Hamilton and Sophie Crawford Lomas (London, 1897), pp. 71-93, British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/addenda/1625-49/pp71-93; ‘Charles I – volume 282: January 1635’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1634-5, ed. John Bruce (London, 1864), pp. 448-489, British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1634-5/pp448-489.


This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, 1600-1625’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.