On Wikipedia we read:

In 1664, King Charles II of England ceded to his brother, the Duke of York, later King James II, a large tract of land that included all of New Netherland. This came at a period of considerable conflict between England and the Netherlands in the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Four English ships bearing 450 men, commanded by Richard Nicolls, seized the Dutch colony.

My question is: Why did King Charles cede New Amsterdam/ New York to James in 1664?

As in, my assumption is that Royal Family property is common, and doesn’t need to be transferred or ceded.

  • 2
    I don't know the answer, but clearly your "assumption... that Royal Family property is common" is incorrect. Is there any particular reason you think this is the case? The title Duke of York itself implies a degree of independent authority and property. Charles made a similar grant of Deleware to James of Delaware in 1682.
    – Brian Z
    May 9, 2021 at 16:47
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    @hawkeye You use an incorrect word in your question. You should have used "grant" instead of "cede". "Cede" is used when one independant power grants territory to another independent power, while "grant" is used when a higher power gives dependent territory to a subordinate and tht territory emains dependent and subordinate.
    – MAGolding
    May 10, 2021 at 17:00
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    Thanks @MAGolding that’s helpful. Please read the linked article, it’s a direct quote.
    – hawkeye
    May 11, 2021 at 6:47

1 Answer 1


He didn't, Wikipedia's word choice is bad.

Generally, "ceded" means a cession of territory between legally equal entities. That is not the case here.

What happened in 1664, was that Charles II granted James a colonial charter for New York as a proprietary colony. This was a feudalistic arrangement Charles used to reward his supporters, but also to delegate authority for developing the remote colonies. In a sense, proprietors were like the medieval Marcher Lords of the Welsh border.

Thus, while this instrument invested James with viceregal powers over his possessions, the colony remained under the king's ultimate jurisdiction.

We see from the history of other proprietary colonies demonstrate the supremacy of royal authority. King James issued an order-in-council suspending William Penn's proprietary charter for Pennsylvania in 1692. George I's royal government took over direct rule of Carolina from its Lords Proprietors in 1720. The proprietors were powerful on paper, but derived their powers only from royal authority.

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