The Anarchy by William Dalrymple EPUB & PDF – eBook Details Online
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- Author: William Dalrymple
- Language: English
- Genre: India History
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On 24 September 1599, while William Shakespeare was pondering a draft of
Hamlet in his house downriver from the Globe in Southwark, a mile to the
north, barely twenty minutes’ walk across the Thames, a motley group of
Londoners was gathering in a rambling, half-timbered building lit by manymullioned Tudor windows.
Even at the time the meeting was recognised as historic, and notaries were
present with ink and quill to keep a record of the unusually diverse cross
section of Elizabethan London that came that day to the Founders’ Hall, off
At the top of the social scale, hung with his golden chain
of office, there was the stout figure of the Lord Mayor himself, Sir Stephen
Soame, robed in scarlet fustian. He was accompanied by two of his
predecessors in office and several senior Aldermen of the City – buttery
Elizabethan burghers, their white-bearded faces nestling in a feathery tangle
of cambric ruffs.
The most powerful of these was the gravely goateed,
ermine-trimmed and stovepipe-hatted figure of Sir Thomas Smythe, Auditor
of the City of London, who had made a fortune importing currants from the
Greek islands and spices from Aleppo. A few years earlier ‘Auditor Smythe’
had helped form the Levant Company as a vehicle for his trading voyages;
this meeting was his initiative.
Besides these portly pillars of the City of London were many less exalted
merchants hopeful of increasing their fortunes, as well as a scattering of
ambitious and upwardly mobile men of more humble estate, whose
professions the notaries dutifully noted down: grocers, drapers and
haberdashers, a ‘clotheworker’, a ‘vintener’, a ‘letherseller’ and a ‘skinner’.
There were a few scarred soldiers, mariners and bearded adventurers from the
docks at Woolwich and Deptford, surf-battered sea dogs, some of whom had
fought against the Spanish Armada a decade earlier, all doublets and gold
earrings, with their sea dirks tucked discreetly into their belts. Several of
these deckhands and mizzen-masters had seen action with Drake and Raleigh
against Spanish treasure ships in the warmer waters of the Caribbean, and
now described themselves to the notaries, in the polite Elizabethan
euphemism, as ‘privateers’.
There was also a clutch of explorers and
travellers who had ventured further afield: the Arctic explorer William
Baffin, for example, after whom the polar bay was named. Finally, also
taking careful notes, was the self-described ‘historiographer of the voyages of
the East Indies’, the young Richard Hakluyt, who had been paid £11 10s
the adventurers for compiling all that was then known in England about the
Such a varied group would rarely be seen under one roof, but all had
gathered with one purpose: to petition the ageing Queen Elizabeth I, then a
bewigged and painted woman of sixty-six, to start up a company ‘to venter in
the pretended voiage to ye Est Indies and other Ilands and Cuntries
thereabouts there to make trade … by buying or bartering of suche goodes,
wares, jewelles or merchaundize as those Ilands or Cuntries may yeld or
afforthe … (the whiche it maie please the Lorde to prosper)’.
Smythe had gathered 101 of the richer merchants two days earlier and
pressed them to commit to individual subscriptions ranging from £100 to
£3,000 – considerable sums in those days. In all Smythe raised £30,133 6s.
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