In the thirteenth century the Venetians were masters of the
sea, and some of their wealthy merchants- as the Sanudos, the
Justiniani, the Grimaldi, and others- erected principalities in divers
places of the Archipelago, which their descendants enjoyed for many
centuries. These self-created princes were called “royal merchants.” (Warburton.)
Glancing an eye of pity on his losses,
That have of late so huddled on his back,
Enough to press a royal merchant down.
Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice. iv. 1.
Sir Thomas Gresham was called a “royal merchant.”
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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