Portrait of Antonio van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies
The East India Company or the British East India Company and informally as John Company was an English and later British joint-stock company, which was formed to pursue a trade with the East Indies but ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and Qing China. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, London merchants presented a petition to Queen Elizabeth I for permission to sail to the Indian Ocean. Permission was granted, and on 10 April 1591 three ships sailed from Torbay around the Cape of Good Hope to the Arabian Sea. On 31 December 1600, the Queen granted a Royal Charter to "George, Earl of Cumberland, and 215 Knights, Aldermen, and Burgesses" under the name, Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies. The governance of the company was in the hands of one governor and 24 directors or "committees", who made up the Court of Directors. They, in turn, reported to the Court of Proprietors, which appointed them. Ten committees reported to the Court of Directors. According to tradition, business was initially transacted at the Nags Head Inn, opposite St Botolph's church in Bishopsgate, before moving to India House in Leadenhall Street.