From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr
A Queen Elizabeth and a King Charles – how the names resemble each other, only numbering is different:
The slave trade to overseas had been initiated under the reign of the English Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603). Under King Charles II (1630-1685), human trafficking really took off. The Royal African Company, founded in 1660 by the royal house and London merchants, was led by Charles’ brother, the Duke of York, who ascended the throne as James II in 1685. This company was wholly owned by the English Crown and was the largest slave trading company in the world; more slaves crossed the Atlantic through this organization than through any other company.
The Royal African Company had agents in Virginia, among other places, who received the incoming “cargo” and arranged for its onward sale – first in the British colonies, then in the founded USA. This country, declared the land of the free, also owes most of its wealth to slave labor, especially from the tobacco and cotton fields.
The wealth of today’s House of Windsor is based on the slave trade of their ancestors. But also, English cities – for example Bristol – profited decisively from the “triangular trade”: The ships transported English goods to West Africa, took slaves there in iron arm and leg shackles, shipped them to America, and from there brought sugar, tobacco, cotton back to England.
In the nearly 60 years from 1672 to 1731 alone, the Royal African Company brought 90,000 to 100,00 slaves per year to the Americas, according to conservative estimates by historians. About 15 percent of them did not survive the Atlantic crossing because of inhumane conditions.
A story of infinite human suffering that few want to be reminded of today, and certainly not when they mourn their queen – who, like her ancestors, had risen to her extraordinary position not through any special achievements but through noble birth and, of course, “the grace of God.” She was undoubtedly a person to like, but most Britons block out the historical facts from their consciousness, even if mourning ceremonies cost millions, while the common people become more and more impoverished. It has always been like this, and it will never change.