Within moments the other banners and long pennants burst out from the head of the mizzen and the foremast, one emblazoned with the cipher of the VOC, die Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, the United East India Company.
In Birds of Prey and Blue Horizon the Courtneys are constantly at war with representatives of the Dutch East India Company, which runs the colony at Good Hope.
The Dutch or United East India Company or Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) was established by the Dutch government in 1602 to administer and control Dutch trading and commercial activities in the Indian Ocean and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). It was the world's first multinational corporation and the first company in the world to issue stock.
It was given enormous powers to act on behalf of the Dutch government and was entitled to set up trading ports, establish colonies, as at Good Hope, and appoint governors, build forts (such as the Castle of Good Hope), maintain armies, strike its own coins, negotiate treaties, and imprison, try or execute criminals – as the Company did with Sir Francis Courtney in Birds of Prey. Officials of the Company had to swear an oath of loyalty to the Dutch government, but otherwise had a large degree of independence to act as they saw fit.
The central executive committee, who ran the Company, were known as the Council of Seventeen and represented the six major port cities of the Netherlands.
In 1619 the Company established the port of Batavia (now Jakarta) – on the island of Java – as their capital. From there they built up a network of ports and trading bases that enabled them to dominate the eastern spice trade started by the Portuguese.
For much of the 17th century the Dutch East India Company was the most powerful trading organisation in the world. However, it became plagued by corruption and debt, and was eventually eclipsed by the British East India Company. The Dutch government dissolved the VOC in 1799 and took over the Company's colonies in the Dutch East Indies.