Monday, January 30, 2006

A Canadian Institution?


Prince Rupert, shown above, was a cousin of Stuart monarchs of England, Scotland and Ireland, and a heroic cavalry commander for Charles I in the Civil War. After the Restoration of Charles II to the various British thrones, Rupert was a highly favored member of the court. One of the gifts the King gave the Prince was a charter for the Hudson's Bay Company, giving Rupert and his business associates a monopoly on trade to the lands surrounding the great bay, and all land drained by rivers that flowed into it. This country, known as "Rupert's Land" was a vast reservoir of beaver and other furs which, if they could be obtained on favorable terms, were worth a great deal as raw material for fashionable hats.

This week the Canadian news is full of the sale of the HBC to an American company called -- wait for it -- Maple Leaf Heritage Investments Acquisition Corp. There's a lot of talk of losing a bit of Canada's history, etc., etc. It may be that I'm handicapped by not having grown up with HBC stores, but when I hear this talk, I remember that neither Prince Rupert nor the king who gave him the charter ever visited Rupert's land, and neither had any right to set up such a monopoly in the first place.

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