Some More Island History
That aside, the first record of European presence on the island is attributed to a French buccaneer, Francois le Clerc aka Jambe de Bois/ Wooden Leg/ Peg leg le Clerc who frequented the island in the 1550s.
The first attempt at colonization took place approximately fifty years later by the Dutch at the south of the island – Vieux Fort. The Olive Branch, and English vessel on its way to Guyana was blown off course and its 67 passengers settled in St. Lucia only to have their number whittled down to 19 in five weeks by disease and fighting with the Caribs. Their departure from the island, it goes without saying, was speedy. This trend of conflict between the Caribs and Europeans would abound as the Europeans who settled the island demanded more territory.
Soon after, the French officially claimed the island, but it was the English under Thomas Warner who made a second attempt at settlement. They were quickly routed by the Caribs. Thus began the story that would rival that of mythical Troy. The French headquartered in Martinique, came in 1651, commanded by De Rousselan. They ‘purchased’ the island for the French West India Company. Following De Rousselan’s death the governorship of the island changed frequently until 1660 when local treaties between French and British governors left St. Lucia in French hands.
The English headquartered not too far away in Barbados were not amused and for a century and a half Anglo French rivalry punctuated every chapter in the island’s history especially as the sugar industry developed and St. Lucia became ever the more attractive.
No more than 3 years after the local treaties had been signed the Governor of Barbados, Francis Lord Willoughby set his sights on St. Lucia as a means of ridding Barbados of its ‘surplus’ population. The French took offence immediately going into defense mode and erecting fortifications on the northern end of the island. The English (Barbadians) were nonplussed and a year later successfully invaded and took possession of St. Lucia with the help of 600 Caribs. Their settlement did not last long as like the first Dutch settlers, they met their demise as a result of sickness and at the hands of the Caribs. The French returned gleefully after the departure of the English but were turned aside by Lord Willoughby with forces from Barbados.
The island was placed in the hands of the French by the Peace of Breda but peace would not be. The British, with full knowledge that the French were in occupation of the island continued to made bids for the island even when it was annexed to the domain of the French Crown and made a dependency of Martinique.
Under the French, the colony grew so large that Marechal Count d’Estrees applied to the Regent of France for a grant of the island. Letters of Patent issued in 1718 granted his request. The British were annoyed, to say the least and though they objected in words, they took no military action. In 1722 however, the King of England granted the island to the Duke of Montague who appointing a Deputy Governor dispatched him to the island later that year to set up a settlement at Petit Carenage. The French opposition was immediate with threats emanating from Martinique that if he did not withdraw in 15 days he would face that wrath of the French warships. He complied when help from British warships in the area was not forthcoming.
The Treaty of Choc, signed by the representatives of the colony and the French authorities in Martinique called a truce, requesting withdrawal of the French troops from the island after the departure of the English, thus making it a neutral territory until a decision about its future was made by the governments of France and Britain.
The saga of occupation and ownership nevertheless did not end there for although a proclamation was made for the withdrawal of all settlers from the island, persons who had already had their livelihood entrenched in the island refused to abandon their homes and businesses. During this period and beyond of course both the French and the English attempted to settle the ‘neutral’ colony, the French for most part being the instigators and that perhaps arising out of the fact that until 1756 the island virtually remained a French colony with de Longueville as Civil Commandant. War erupted in 1756 and in 1762 the island passed into British possession. A year later, however, the Treaty of Paris put St. Lucia back into the hands of the French.
It was around this time that St. Lucia joined the ranks of sugar producing countries. The backbone of that economy was African slave labour. This added to the rich indigenous stew that was becoming St. Lucia.
After the Treaty of Paris, peace reigned for 15 years and during this time impressive forts were raised on Morne Fortune and development of estates was rampant. But like all the times before, peace was short lived. At the latter part of 1778, Sir Henry Clinton who was stationed in New York received orders to send military reinforcements to the West Indies in order to capture St. Lucia. The French attempted to repel the attack but were overpowered. St. Lucia was once again surrendered to the British but only for a short period as by the Treaty of Verailles in 1783 it passed back into French hands.
As most of the islands first settlements were French, the first being Soufriere in 1746, the island has a tremendous French heritage of which perhaps the most prominent is the language – the French creole spoken on island and secondly the fact that the city, the towns and all the villages bear French names. Under French governorship from 1784 to 1789 the island flourished economically, a large number of sugar plantations and 12 settlements had developed; but this era was the beginning of the French Revolution which would mark new trouble for St. Lucia.
Two revolutionary agents Mondenoiz and Linger hoisted the Tricolore on Morne Fortune two years after the revolution started causing the French Governor, Colonel de Gimat to hightail it off the island. The revolutionaries grew bolder under La Crosse who was sent to St. Lucia with a revolutionary tribunal to propagate the new political philosophy on the island. He came with his guillotine which he used on Royalists with no small pleasure. The new French governor arrived in 1783 and immediately made a proclamation for the abolition of slavery in the French Antilles thereby acknowledging officially the political equality of the coloured/black man. The loyalty of the freed slaves was quickly “won” by the French Republicans and with part of their number - renegade ex-slaves (maroons) - a formidable resistance was formed against the British in their attempts to recapture the island.
When war broke out between French Republic and England it quickly spread to the West Indies. In 1794 but the British invaded, hoisted the British colours on Morne Fortune and after protracted fighting restored slavery to the delight of English plantation owners. The city of Castries succumbed to a fire as part of that battle between the British, the French Republicans and the slaves. The British sustained continual attacks from the French and were forced to withdraw. Less than 12 months later, 12 000 British troops converged on the island planting once again the British colours. By 1797 the Republicans began to concede defeat but the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 put St. Lucia back in French hands and the sparks of war soon began to fly.
In what was the last battle for St. Lucia, the Brigadier General Xavier Nogues, who was also Governor, surrender the island and so the tenacity of the British eventually paid off. In 1814, by Treaty of Paris, the island was ceded to Britain by France. Abolition of slavery by the British was announced in 1834, but it wasn’t until 1838 that abolition was actually effected. With former slaves unwilling to undergird the sugar industry, Indian indentured servants were brought in from the provinces of Uttar, Pradesh and Bihar. While many returned to India at the end of their indenture, there were those who remained thereby diversifying the island’s cultural mix. It was also then that the island was incorporated into the British Windward Island administration headquartered in Barbados and administered as a separate territorial unit. This lasted until the post of Governor of the Windward Islands was abolished in 1959.
In January 1960 a new constitution was instituted which rendered St. Lucia again a separate unit with an Administrator advised by an Executive Council and the Attorney General. The Legislative council comprised 14 persons – 10 elected members, 2 nominated members, the Attorney General and a Speaker who presided over the sessions.
Seven years later, St. Lucia entered Associated Statehood on the 1st March with full control over all her internal affairs with Britain retaining responsibility for her Defence and Foreign affairs under advisement of the island’s government. Prior to that period it had been governed by a 1924 constitution that gave it its first attempt at representative government. Universal adult suffrage was then granted to all citizens over the age of 21 in 1951.
Association gradually gave way to independence on the 22nd February 1979.
Divinely placed within easy reach of the rest of the world it takes:
|| 8hrs to get here from London via British Airways and/or Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow and Gatwick
|| 3hrs 37 minutes to get here from Miami on American Airlines
||4hrs 35 minutes to get here from New York on American Airlines and Jetblue Airways
||4hrs to get here from Atlanta on Delta Airlines
||5 hrs to get here from Toronto Canada via West Jet or Air Canada
A volcanic island, the St. Lucian landscape is awash with contradictions – awe inspiring mountains, fertile valleys, verdant hills, idyllic black and white sand beaches and a plethora of flora and fauna.
The mellow Caribbean Sea washes its western coast while the choppy Atlantic Ocean laps/compasses its eastern coast.
In terms of beauty, even from the air the island inspires with its stunning scenery, rugged coastline and blue-white surf. Its natural deep harbor, now a home for luxury cruise ships calling at port, was pre-eminent in colonial days and was the cause of it being hotly contested fourteen times during the 17th and 18th centuries by England and France, until finally it was ceded to England in 1814.
St. Lucia is unrivalled simplicity and unrivalled beauty. No wonder that it is marketed under the slogan “Simply Beautiful”. One of the world’s best kept secrets, this island has captured the eye and the heart of native and visitor alike. The name “Helen of the West” was bestowed upon her in the 17th century, owing to the dueling of the English and French, and of course, because her beauty was said to rival that of Helen of Troy.
Pristine and yet un-ravaged by the ills of the 21st Century, the island lays bare her English and French heritage with abandoned barracks, garrisons, forts and canons. Her secret beaches captivate and so too her hot springs, and the cocoa and banana plantations that provide a welcome treat for the mind and body. Hers is a beauty that remains etched in your memory.
The climate is warm and temperate – tropical year round – which makes it ideal for snorkeling, deep sea fishing and whale watching. Average temperature is about 80°F and humidity is kept at bay by the moderate northeast trade winds.
Typically the coolest months are December and January; and the hottest being June to August. The hurricane season which runs concurrently to the hot months ends on November 30, but peaks in September.
The dry months are January to April while it pours throughout May to August.