In Britain’s history, there have been many people appointed to positions of power and influence in far-flung corners of the globe, two examples are Anna Leonowens (of Hollywood fame) in the Siamese court of the 1860s, and Henry Francis Fynn, sometime self-professed confidant of Shaka Zulu. What the vast majority of them have in common is that they achieved their feats after Britain became an imperial, scientific, and cultural power, and the British Isles emerged as the logical place to look for knowledgeable and well-connected people to employ.
Our hero, William Adams, for whom this club is named, achieved his rise in Japan, before the island of Great Britain was unified, and while England was an isolated nation, purely through hard work, innate trustworthiness, and his own talents. Hiring him brought little or no external political gain for his Japanese patrons. Furthermore, he achieved what he did in the face of considerable opposition from powerful foes, not least from the Jesuits dispatched from Rome, and their local allies who knew full well that their waning influence would certainly not be ameliorated by having such an astute, intelligent, knowledgeable, and flexible Englishman acting as counsellor to the highest authorities in the land, including of course the Shogun, and later retired Shogun, himself, Tokugawa Ieyasu.
These few pages will cover William Adams’ story, and put it in contemporary context, showing why he was not only a daring adventurer with an astonishing back-story, but also a man to be admired for his soberer characteristics, sage counsel, and ability to fit in, while gaining others’ respect.
Portait of Adams commissioned by Robin James Maynard