The treatment of Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart des Grosseilliers by the French following their first explorations into Canada's interior were nothing short of atrocious. Despite the fact that they returned with canoes full of furs and with valuable information which could be of great benefit to France and New France, the brothers-in-law were fined for illegal trading, imprisoned for leaving the colony without permission, and had all their furs confiscated. It is no wonder, then, that they secretly sailed to England in 1665 to offer their services to the King.
Radisson and des Grosseilliers were eagerly greeted in England. The merchants were excited by the prospects of trading furs in the Hudson Bay area and Radisson and des Grosseilliers (affectionately called 'Gooseberry' by the English, which is the English translation of 'Grosseilliers') soon found themselves in the presence of King Charles II. Permission was granted to explore the trading prospects of Hudson Bay and, by 1669, Radisson and des Grosseilliers were ready to set sail under their new flag.
During the crossing, the ships were hit by a storm. The Eaglet, carrying Radisson, suffered serious damage and was forced to return to England for repairs. The Nonsuch, with des Grosseilliers aboard, continued on into Hudson Strait and then further into Hudson Bay. Des Grosseilliers continued into Hudson Bay, then south into James Bay were he made landfall at the mouth of the Rupert River on the south-eastern shore of James Bay. There he began construction of the trading post Fort Charles.
The next year, in 1670, des Grosseilliers returned to England with a shipload of furs and with news that Fort Charles had been established. King Charles II was ecstatic, as were the merchants.
On May 2, 1670, King Charles II chartered The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into the Hudson's Bay (a.k.a. The Hudson's Bay Company). For his efforts, des Grosseilliers was well-paid and was made a Knight of the Garter - a title of great honour to the common man, made even more honourable by the fact that des Grosseilliers was French.
The Hudson's Bay Company would become the most prosperous and most endurable companies in Canada. At its peak, it would own 10% of the entire land surface of the earth. The Hudson's Bay Company still exists today.
For Radisson and des Grosseilliers, however, their fame would not be long-lasting and they would soon change allegiances back to France - at least for a short time.
Radisson and des Grosseilliers
Médard Chouart des Grosseilliers
Expedition to Lake Superior
* Hudson Bay Company *
Back to France
The Final Chapter