The Hudson's Bay Company holds numerous portraits of Governors and senior officials. These include examples from the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries which depict some of the key figures involved in the Company's early history, including King Charles II, Prince Rupert, the Duke of York (James II) and John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. The Company's tradition of commissioning portraits of its senior officials continues up to the present day. Our most recent portrait, that of 37th Governor Jerry Zucker, was unveiled in 2007.
His Majesty King Charles II, by Sir Peter Lely, n.d.
His Majesty King Charles II, King of England 1660-1685
Sir Peter Lely, 1618-1680
c. 1670, oil on canvas, 39 ¼" by 49 ¼"
Granted Hudson's Bay Company Charter 1670
Charles II ascended the English throne in 1660, following the restoration of the monarchy after eleven years of Cromwell's Commonwealth. The early years were marked by difficulties: bubonic plague in 1665, the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the Dutch war, which culminated in an attack on the Thames in 1667. Politically, Charles' reign was marked by a policy of deliberate religious tolerance and careful balancing of competing Protestant and Catholic interests, both at home and abroad. His foreign policy revolved around a series of shifting alliances, first with Catholic France, next with Protestant Holland. At home his shrewd handling of religious issues helped to ensure the Stuart succession.
In addition to granting the Royal Charter of the Hudson's Bay Company, Charles founded the Royal Society in 1660, still in existence today, to promote scientific research. After the devastating Great Fire of London he encouraged a rebuilding program which included extensive reconstruction at Windsor Castle and Greenwich Observatory. He was also the patron of Christopher Wren in the design and rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral and other London buildings destroyed by the fire.
His Highness Prince Rupert by Studio of Anthony van Dyck, n.d.
His Royal Highness Prince Rupert,
Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria
Contemporary copy after Anthony van Dyck, 1599-1641
Date unknown, oil on canvas, 37" by 48 ½"
1st Governor of Hudson's Bay Company 1670-1682
Born in 1619, Prince Rupert, first cousin of King Charles II, was HBC's founder and first Governor. He was Charles II's finest cavalry commander and a brilliant admiral, as well as an artist, chemist and patron of the arts and sciences. He is credited as the inventor of tear-shaped glass globules known as "Rupert's drops", which led to the making of bullet-proof glass, a primitive torpedo and a "diving engine" used to retrieve sunken treasure.
Prince Rupert had the entrepreneurial spirit needed to bring the Company of Adventurers to life. He organized a private syndicate to finance an speculative journey into Hudson Bay. The forty-five-ton former Royal Navy ketch Nonsuch was purchased for the Hudson Bay voyage. By October 1669, the Nonsuch returned to England laden with beaver pelts.
The success of the venture convinced Charles II to award Prince Rupert and his fellow Adventurers the Royal Charter on May 2nd, 1670. The Charter granted HBC ownership of all land drained by the rivers flowing into Hudson Bay. Henceforth known as Rupert's Land, this area covered approximately forty percent of modern Canada. Prince Rupert served as Governor of HBC until his death in 1682.
His Highness James, Duke of York by Jacob Huysmans, n.d.
His Royal Highness James, Duke of York
Jacob Huysmans, 1633-1696
c. 1685, oil on canvas, 39 ¾" by 50"
2nd Governor of Hudson's Bay Company
After Prince Rupert's death the Committee men approached James, Duke of York, brother and successor of King Charles II, to become the next Governor of HBC. The Duke accepted the offer.
His tenure as Governor was brief, however - just two years, from January 1683 to February 1685 - at which point he resigned to become King of England upon Charles's death. His reign was just as brief: having converted to Catholicism, he was forced to abdicate in favour of his Protestant daughter Mary and driven into exile in 1688, where he would die in 1701.
The Duke of York was not particularly supportive of HBC. His lack of enthusiasm for the Company stemmed in part from his desire to stay on good terms with Louis XIV of France as well as the conflict of interest he felt from his ownership of competing beaver preserves in the upper reaches of the Hudson River Valley.
John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough by Geoffrey Kneller, n.d.
John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough
Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1646-1723
After 1703, oil on canvas, 39 ½" by 49"
3rd Governor of Hudson's Bay Company 1685-1692
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough was born in 1650, the second son of an impoverished Stuart administrator. He rose from being a page to the Duke of York, eventually becoming the power behind the British throne and one of the greatest generals in British military history.
When James, Duke of York, became King of England in 1685, he elevated Churchill to the peerage as Baron Sandridge. Within a few months, the new king faced a series of rebellions. Churchill was appointed head of the loyalist troops. When William of Orange invaded England in 1688, James II fled to France, rather than defend his position. By that time Churchill had already deserted to the Orange cause, and been named Earl of Marlborough as a reward.
Marlborough was out of the public sphere to a large extent for the next few years. During this time, his most notable activity was his appointment as Governor of Hudson's Bay Company from 1685-1692. During his tenure as Governor, Churchill managed to achieve parliamentary confirmation of the Company's Charter in 1690, despite spirited lobbying for the abolition of HBC's monopoly from competing interests.
The town of Churchill, Manitoba, a former HBC outpost, takes its name from the Duke of Marlborough. Churchill died in 1722.
Thomas Knapp of Richmond by Gervase Spencer, n.d.
Thomas Knapp of Richmond
Artist Unknown, British School
c. 1750, oil on canvas, 27 ¼" by 40"
9th Governor of Hudson's Bay Company 1746-1750
Thomas Knapp was born in 1685 and elected to the Hudson's Bay Company Committee in 1720. In 1743 he was appointed Deputy-Governor, and was elected Governor in 1746, succeeding Benjamin Pitt.
In 1748 Knapp lent HBC the sum of £798 to save the Company from selling bonds at a loss. In 1750 he loaned a sum of £300 to the Company in order that "remaining Tradesmens Bills and the several Dividends yet unpaid" could be settled without having to resort to selling bonds.
Thomas Knapp remained Governor until his death in 1750.
William Mainwaring by unknown artist, ca. 1812
Artist Unknown, British School
c. 1812, oil on canvas, 21 ½" by 26 ½"
15th Governor of Hudson's Bay Company 1807-1812
William Mainwaring was born in 1737. He became a member of the Hudson's Bay Company Committee in 1794 and was appointed Governor in 1807, succeeding Sir James Winter Lake.
During William Mainwaring's governorship, Lord Selkirk, a major Hbc stockholder, established the Red River Colony, which was created as a refuge for displaced Scottish Highlanders in 1811. It was also during Mainwaring's tenure that David Thompson, who was employed with Hbc for twenty years before switching to the North West Co. in 1797, mapped out the Columbia River system to the Pacific and explored both the upper region of the Missouri and the southeastern interior of British Columbia.
William Mainwaring remained as Governor until his death in 1812.
Sir George Simpson by Stephen Pearce, 1857
Sir George Simpson
c. 1850, oil on canvas, 45 ¼" by 55"
Governor-in-Chief of the Northern and Southern Departments of Rupert's Land, 1826-1860
George Simpson, was born in 1786 at Loch Broom in Rosshire, Scotland. He moved to London at a young age to enter the trading business.
In 1820, recommended by one of his superiors who happened to also be a high ranking HBC executive, Simpson entered the Company's service as the acting Governor-in-Chief of Rupert's Land. He was immediately sent oversees and his first year tenure was so successful that he was officially put in charge of the reorganization of HBC's Fur Trading operations, now that the Company and its greatest rival, the Northwest Company, were amalgamated.
By 1826 Simpson was officially Governor of both the Northern and Southern departments. In 1841, Queen Victoria knighted him for his accomplishments. The Council of the Northern Department remained, until Simpson's death in 1860, the dominant governing body of Rupert's Land.
Sir Donald A. Smith, by Adolphus Muller-Ury, 1903
Sir Donald A. Smith, Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, K.C.M.G.
Adolphus Muller-Ury, 1862-1947
c. 1914, oil on canvas, 24 ¾" by 29 ¾"
26th Governor of Hudson's Bay Company 1889-1914
Donald A. Smith was born in 1820, at Forres, Scotland. When he was eighteen, Smith was given a job counting muskrat skins at Hudson's Bay Company's warehouse at Lachine. Later, in 1847, he was assigned to a trading post in Labrador where he remained for over twenty years. Smith returned to England for a holiday in 1864 and so impressed HBC officials during his London visit that five years later he was transferred out of Labrador to Montreal and promoted to Chief Factor.
In 1871, while other shareholders panicked during the complicated transfer of company land assets to the Crown, Smith bought up great blocks of HBC stock at depressed prices, enough to exercise working control of the company. On some of the stock he eventually realized a 1,300 percent profit. With these funds and his own growing fortune, he captured stock control of the Bank of Montreal and used that financial base to become one of the chief animating partners in the financing of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He quickly became the wealthiest Canadian of his day.
In April 1869, Smith was appointed Chief Commissioner for Montreal and Labrador and, later, of the whole service. He was appointed HBC Governor in 1889 and was finally elevated to the peerage as Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal in 1897. Donald A. Smith remained Governor of HBC and an active member of several other Canadian businesses until his death in 1914.
Yves Fortier, by Igor Babailov
2003, oil on canvas, 48" x 36"
36th Governor of Hudson's Bay Company 1997-2006
L. Yves Fortier, CC, OQ, QC is a Canadian trial lawyer, arbitrator, businessman and diplomat.
Born in Quebec City in 1935, he received his B.A. from Université de Montréal in 1955, his B.C.L. from McGill University in 1958, and his B.Litt. from Oxford University, as a Rhodes Scholar, in 1960. In 1961, he was called to the Quebec Bar.
From 1984 to 1989, he was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), also known as the Hague Tribunal. From 1988 to 1992, he was Canada's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. From 1989 until 1990, he was also Canada's Representative to the UN Security Council and in October 1989 was the President of the Security Council. From 1998 to 2001, he served as President of the London Court of International Arbitration.
From 1997 until 2006 Fortier was Hudson's Bay Company's Governor - the last to serve the Company when it was publicly held. Fortier is Chairman and Senior Partner of law firm Ogilvy, Renault and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Alcan Inc., among numerous other corporate appointments.
In 1984 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 1991. In 2006, he was made an Officer of the National Order of Quebec.