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East India Company Merchants

Honourable East India Company

The Bale Mark




The East India Company (also the East India Trading Company, English East India Company, and then the British East India Company) was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China. The oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies, the Company was granted an English Royal Charter, under the name Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, by Elizabeth I on 31 December 1600.


By an act that was passed in 1698, a new parallel East India Company (officially titled the English Company Trading to the East Indies) was floated under a state-backed indemnity of 2 million. However, the powerful stockholders of the old company quickly subscribed a sum of 315,000 in the new concern, and dominated the new body. The two companies wrestled with each other for some time, both in England and in India, for a dominant share of the trade. However, it quickly became evident that, in practice, the original Company faced scarcely any measurable competition.

The two companies were merged in 1708 to form the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies, commonly styled the Honourable East India Company, and abbreviated, HEIC, the Company was colloquially referred to as John Company, and in India as Company Bahadur (Hindustani bahādur, "brave").


The East India Company traded mainly in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpetre, tea, and opium. However, it also came to rule large swathes of India, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions, to the exclusion, gradually, of its commercial pursuits. Company rule in India, which effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey, lasted until 1858, when, following the events of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and under the Government of India Act 1858, the British Crown assumed direct administration of India in the new British Raj. The Company itself was finally dissolved on 1 January 1874, as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act.




East India Company Merchants

chartered 1600


Grant of arms to the East India Company Merchants.

By Garter, Clarenceux and Norroy, 4 February 1600/1. (Coll. Arms, I 9, fo.84)


Coat of arms of the First East India Company, incorporated by Queen Elizabeth I, 31st of December 1600:


Arms: Azure, three ships with three masts, rigged and under full sail, the sails, pennants and ensigns Argent, each charged with a cross Gules; on a chief of the second a pale quarterly Azure and Gules, on the 1st and 4th a fleur de lys, in the 2nd and 3rd a lion passant guardant Or, between two roses Gules, seeded Or, barbed Vert.

Crest: A sphere without a frame, bound with the zodiac in bend Or, between two split pennons flotant Argent, each charged in chief with a cross Gules, over the sphere these words: deus indicat.

Supporters: Two sea lions Or, the tails proper.

Motto: DEO DUCENTE NIL NOCET (When God Leads, Nothing Hurts).

(Burke) [1]


Seal of the Company of Merchants Trading into the East Indies

(National Maritime Museum, London)


In this version the sea lions are guardant.


There is no coloured version of this achievement of acceptable resolution available.


Honourable East India Company

Chartered 1698


Arms: Argent a cross Gules in the dexter chief quarter an escutcheon of the arms of France and England quarterly the shield ornamented and regally crowned Or.

Crest: A lion rampant guardant Or supporting between the forepaws a regal crown proper.

Supporters: Two lions rampant guardant Or each supporting a banner erect Argent charegd with a cross Gules.

Motto: AUSPICIO REGIS ET SENATUS ANGLI. (By right of the King and Senate of England)



A woodcarved specimen of this achievement, originally hung above the chairmans seat in the Directors Court Room at East India House, Leadenhall Street, is preserved in the British Library. [2]


See illustration in the head of this essay.


The achievement did not evoluate very much. On currency from the end of the 18th century the lambrequines have disappeared but balls beneath the feet of the supporting lions and of the crests lion have been added.



2 pice, 1804


On a still later version, when the Company was relieved of the Indian administration in 1858, the helmet and the orbs were omitted altogether and the English flags were changed for flags of the United Kingdom. We may doubt if this version was ever official.


Achievement of the Company, about 1860. [3]


Two lesser forms of the achievement were used. The first consisted of the coat of arms with the crest only, the second of the crest consisting of the lion rampant with the crown.



Lesser achievement and crest on early 19th century coins of the Company.



Bale Mark


Next to the achievement the Company used a bale mark to stamp its goods. It is comparable with the cypher of the Dutch United East India Company and has its origin in mediaeval personal- and trade marks used by traders and artisans. It consisted of the initials of the Company V E I C (Vnited East India Company) within a heart, crested with a 4. In what is probably the oldest form, the initials are placed within a heart tierced by two flaunches, the letters I and C on the dexter and sinister flaunch, the V and the C per pale. Like this:




In a more recent form the heart is parted by a cross saltire, the letters placed in each quarter:




One rupee coin with cypher or bale mark

of the United East India Company: VEIC within a heart and the number four. On the reverse the achievement of the Company, the lambrequines omitted.


Both the achievement and the bale mark were conspiciously used in India from the end of the 18th century when they were printed on East India Company currency.


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Hubert de Vries 2009-08-14

[1] ) Burke, Bernhard: The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. London, 1880

[2] ) British Library Record Number 3572. Shelfmark: Foster 887. Made 1730 ca. Presented to the Secretary of State for India by mr. Louis Forbes, 1891. Wood, painted and gilded. 130 152 cm. Lit.: Birdwood, G.C.M. & W. Foster: Relics of the Honourable East India Company. London, 1909. Hardy, J.: India Office Furniture. London, 1982.

[3] ) From an 1860 Map of Northern India Including the Presidency Bengal. Map drawn and engraved by J. Rapkin. Published by the London Printing and Publishing Co. (John Tallis). Illustrations by A. H. Wray, engraved by J. H. Kernot. Source: ebay.

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