Company of Merchant Adventurers to New Lands
The Company of Merchant Adventurers (in full: The Mystery, Company, and Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of Regions, Dominions, Islands, and Places Unknown) was founded in London, possibly in 1551 by Richard Chancellor, Sebastian Cabot and Sir Hugh Willoughby. Some 240 adventurers purchased shares at 25 Pounds each and they received a royal charter for their company from King Edward in 1553, with Sebastian Cabot appointed its Governor. [An adventurer is a business investor who ventures capital.] The purpose of the Company was to seek a new, northern trade route to Cathay (China) and the Spice Islands (the Moluccas, now part of Indonesia).
The first expedition of the Company was led by Willoughby seeking the Northeast Passage to China. Three ships were outfitted and crewed for the expedition, which departed London's Deptford Docks on 11 May 1553. Willoughby was aboard the Bona Esperanza (120 tons), with Richard Chancellor in command of the Edward Bonaventure (60 tons) and Bona Confidentia (90 tons). The ships became separated in a storm in the North Sea: the Bona Confidentia and Bona Esperanza rejoined, rounded North Cape and sailed east to Novaya Zemlya. The Edward Bonaventure likewise sailed around North Cape and along the Kola Peninsula, entering the White Sea in August. On 24 August 1553, Chancellor cast anchor near the mouth of the Dvina River and was met by local Russians.
While his crew wintered over near present day Arkhangelsk, Chancellor travelled overland to Moscow, where he was received by Czar Ivan the Terrible. Willoughby's two ships, turned back from Novaya Zemlya in September and attempted to winter over on the coast of Lapland. Every crew member soon died from cold and hunger.
Chancellor returned to the White Sea in March 1554 and arrived back in London in the fall, bearing a letter from Czar Ivan to the English king, welcoming trade between the two Christian nations. This led to the Company being rechartered as the Muscovy Company, also called the Russia Company, by Mary I of England in 1555. The Company's privileges were confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1566 as the Fellowship of English Merchants for the discovery of New Trades.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, p.483
- The Trade Route around the North Cape to the White Sea
- Olson, James (1996). Historical Dictionary of the British Empire: K-Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 769.