Saint Lucia was a British colony in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with Atlantic Ocean and has been a sovereign country since 1979. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. The volcanic island is more mountainous than most Caribbean islands, with the highest point being Mount Gimie, at 3,120 feet (950 meters) above sea level. Two other mountains, the Pitons, form the island’s most famous landmark. They are located between Soufrière and Choiseul on the western side of the island. Saint Lucia is also one of the few islands in the world that boasts a drive-in volcano. It covers a land area of 238.23 square miles (617 km²) and reported a population of 165,595 in the 2010 census. The capital city of Saint Lucia is Castries with a population 60,263. Major towns include Gros Islet, Soufrière, and Vieux Fort.
The French were the island’s first European settlers. They signed a treaty with the native Carib Indians in 1660. England took control of the island from 1663 to 1667. In ensuing years, it was at war with France 14 times, and rule of the island changed frequently (it was seven times each ruled by the French and British). In 1814, the British took definitive control of the island. Because it switched so often between British and French control, Saint Lucia was also known as the “Helen of the West Indies”.
Representative government came about in 1840 (with universal suffrage from 1953). From 1958 to 1962, the island was a member of the Federation of the West Indies. On February 22, 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state of the Commonwealth of Nations associated with the United Kingdom. The country is a mixed jurisdiction, meaning that it has a legal system based in part on both the civil law and English common law. The Civil Code of St. Lucia of 1867 was based on the Quebec Civil Code of 1866, as supplemented by English common law-style legislation. It is also a member of La Francophonie.
According to some, Saint Lucia was first inhabited sometime between 1000 and 500 BC by the Ciboney people, but there is not a lot of evidence of their presence on the island. The first proven inhabitants were the peaceful Arawaks, believed to have come from northern South America around 200-400 AD, as there are numerous archaeological sites on the island where specimens of the Arawaks’ well-developed pottery have been found. There is evidence to suggest that these first inhabitants called the island Iouanalao, which meant ‘Land of the Iguanas’, due to the island’s high number of iguanas.
The more aggressive Caribs arrived around 800 AD, and seized control from the Arawaks by killing their men and assimilating the women into their own society. They called the island Hewanarau, and later Hewanorra. This is the origin of the name of the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort. The Caribs had a complex society, with hereditary kings and shamans. Their war canoes could hold more than 100 men and were fast enough to catch a sailing ship. They were later feared by the invading Europeans for their ferocity in battle.
When the island was first discovered by Europeans is disputed. Some claim that Christopher Columbus sighted the island during his second voyage in 1493, while others claim that Juan de la Cosa noted it on his maps in 1499, and that the island is included on a globe in the Vatican made in 1502. However, it is doubtful that Columbus passed St Lucia during his second voyage, as the island lies far south of his known route on that voyage; Juan de la Cosa was exploring northern South America in 1499 and it’s obvious that the claim about him naming St Lucia El Falcon refers to the state Falcón in northern Venezuela; and there is no known globe in the Vatican Library from the early 1500s.
In the late 1550s, the French pirate François le Clerc (known as Jambe de Bois, due to his wooden leg) set up a camp on Pigeon Island, from where he attacked passing Spanish ships.
Around 1600, the first European camp was started by the Dutch, at what is now Vieux Fort. In 1605, an English vessel called the Olive Branch was blown off-course on its way to Guyana, and the 67 colonists started a settlement on Saint Lucia. After five weeks, only 19 survived, due to disease and conflict with the Caribs, so they fled the island.
In 1635, the French officially claimed the island but didn’t settle it. Instead, it was the English who attempted the next European settlement in 1639, but that too was wiped out by the Caribs. In 1643, a French expedition sent out from Martinique by Jacques Dyel du Parquet, the governor of Martinique, established a permanent settlement on the island. De Rousselan was appointed the island’s governor, took a Carib wife and remained in post until his death in 1654.
In 1664, Thomas Warner (son of the governor of St. Kitts) claimed Saint Lucia for England. He brought 1,000 men to defend it from the French, but after two years, only 89 survived, mostly due to disease. In 1666, the French West India Company resumed control of the island, which in 1674 was made an official French crown colony as a dependency of Martinique.
Both the British, with their headquarters in Barbados, and the French, centered on Martinique, found Saint Lucia attractive after the sugar industry developed, and during the eighteemth century the island changed ownership or was declared neutral territory a dozen times, although the French settlements remained and the island was a de facto French colony well into the eighteenth century.
In 1722, the George I of Great Britain granted both Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent to John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu. He in turn appointed Nathaniel Uring, a merchant sea captain and adventurer, as deputy-governor. Uring went to the islands with a group of seven ships, and established settlement at Petit Carenage. Unable to get enough support from British warships, he and the new colonists were quickly run off by the French.
During the Seven Years’ War Britain occupied Saint Lucia for a couple of years, but gave the island back at the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. Like the English and Dutch on other islands, the French began to develop the land for the cultivation of sugar cane as a commodity crop on large plantations in 1765. Colonists who came over were mostly indentured white servants serving a small percentage of wealthy merchants or nobles.
Near the end of the century, the French Revolution occurred. A revolutionary tribunal was sent to Saint Lucia in 1792, headed by Captain Jean-Baptiste Raymond de Lacrosse. Prior to this, the slaves had heard about the revolution and walked off their jobs in 1790-1791 to work for themselves. Bringing the ideas of the revolution to Saint Lucia, Lacrosse set up a guillotine used to execute Royalists. In 1794, the French governor of the island Nicolas Xavier de Ricard declared that all slaves were free, as also happened on Saint-Domingue.
A short time later, the British invaded in response to the concerns of the wealthy plantation owners, who wanted to keep sugar production going. On February 21, 1795, a group of rebels, led by Victor Hugues, defeated a battalion of British troops. For the next four months, a group of recently freed slaves known as the Brigands forced out not only the British army, but every white slave-owner from the island (colored slave owners were left alone, as in Haiti). The English were eventually defeated on June 19, and fled from the island. The Royalist planters fled with them, leaving the remaining Saint Lucians to enjoy l’Année de la Liberté, “a year of freedom from slavery…”. Gaspard Goyrand, a Frenchman who was Saint Lucia’s Commissary later became Governor of Saint Lucia, and proclaimed the abolition of slavery. Goyrand brought the aristocratic planters to trial. Several lost their heads on the guillotine, which had been brought to Saint Lucia with the troops. He then proceeded to re-organize the island.
The British continued to harbor hopes of recapturing the island and in April 1796 Sir Ralph Abercrombie and his troops attempted to do so. Castries was burned as part of the conflict, and after approximately one month of bitter fighting the French surrendered at Morne Fortune on May 25. General Moore was elevated to the position of Governor of Saint Lucia by Abercrombie and was left with 5,000 troops to complete the task of subduing the entire island.
In 1803, the British finally regained control of the island and restored slavery. Many of the rebels escaped into the thick rain forests, where they evaded capture and established maroon communities. The same year, the French withdrew their forces from Saint-Domingue after losing two-thirds of the 20,000 soldiers they had sent there against the slave revolt. The new leaders of Haiti declared its independence in 1804, the first black republic in the Caribbean, and the second republic in the Western Hemisphere.
The British abolished the African slave trade in 1807; they acquired Saint Lucia permanently in 1814. It was not until 1834 that they abolished the institution of slavery. Even after abolition, all former slaves had to serve a four-year “apprenticeship,” during which they had to work for free for their former masters for at least three-quarters of the work week. They achieved full freedom in 1838. By that time, people of African ethnicity greatly outnumbered those of ethnic European background. Some people of Carib descent also comprised a minority on the island.
Also in 1838, Saint Lucia was incorporated into the British Windward Islands administration, headquartered in Barbados. This lasted until 1885, when the capital was moved to Grenada.
A branch of the British GPO was established at Castries in 1844 and handstruck marks were introduced. Letters from Saint Lucia were required to be prepaid starting April 1, 1858, and British stamps were authorized for use on the island. This information was conveyed to the Colonial Postmaster by Rowland Hill. Supplies for two months’ consumption (£50) were sent out on about April 16, 1858, consisting of 1 penny, 4 pence and 6 pence stamps along with an obliterating tool numbered A11. The first recorded use occurred on August 28. Further supplies of stamps may have been sent out later, but no records exist of the numbers involved, they may have included 2 pence and 1 shilling denominations The numbers are likely to have been small as at this time it is probable that only about 200 people on the island could read or write.
The first stamps issued by St. Lucia were put on sale in 1860 and consisted of three denominations (1 penny, 4 pence and 6 pence). The stamps were printed by Perkins Bacon Ltd. of London using the line-engraved process. To save the Colony money only one plate was engraved, with the face values identified by the color of the stamps, rose red for the 1 penny, deep blue for the 4 pence and green for the 6 pence (Scott #1-3).
The die for the first stamps was finished on October 16, 1860, and used the Queen Victoria portrait engraved for them in May by C. H. Jeens for use on the 9 pence stamp of South Australia. Jeens was paid £2 12s 6d for the drawing and £9 9s for the engraving. A vertical oval large enough for the head was cleared in the engraved background. This was surrounded by a plain band with ST. LUCIA and POSTAGE. The design is considered to be one of Perkins Bacon’s most elegant.
The stamps were printed on paper produced by Rush Mills at Northampton and under the control of Stacey Wise. The paper was watermarked by a small six pointed star as well as around the margin with POSTAGE twice at the sides and once at the top and bottom, the spaces between being filled by five parallel lines. The stamps were printed by a Mr. Dix on November 10, and perforated by a Miss Stewart on November 14. The perforation needles were set to 14 to 16 and often became clogged giving rough perforations. Thirty-six sheets were printed in rose red (8640 stamps), 13 sheets in deep blue (3120 stamps) and 17 sheets in green (4080 stamps). These sheets were dispatched to the island by Packet on November 17.
The first issue of these stamps was made on December 18, 1860, and details were printed in the Island Gazette for the 19th with stamps in red for sale at a price of one penny, blue at four pence and green at six pence.
The St. Lucia Steam Conveyance Company Limited carried mail by sea from Castries to the coastal villages of St. Lucia. Stamps were issued from around 1871 to 1872 when the company went out of business. A possible provisional stamp is illustrated in Handbook of the Private Local Posts edited by E. F. Hurt and L.N. & M. Williams (part of volume 6 of Fritz Billig’s Specialized Catalogues. This was followed by the issue of several values depicting a steamship in an oval frame. There are a number of different printings of the stamps which may be distinguished by paper and gum variations.
St Lucia joined the Universal Postal Union in 1881. Because of the long connection with France, the French Ligne C visited St Lucia between 1865 and 1887. From the 1880s, an internal post operated with individual villages having index letters in the postmarks. Some of these were used up to the reign of King George V.
Increasing self-government marked St Lucia’s twentieth-century history. A 1924 constitution gave the island its first form of representative government, with a minority of elected members in the previously all-nominated legislative council.
During the colonial periods of French and British rule, Saint Lucia did not have its own unique colonial flag. The British finally granted Saint Lucia its own unique coat of arms in August 1939. The escutcheon consisted of a black shield featuring two sticks of bamboo forming a cross, with two Tudor roses symbolizing England and two fleurs-de-lis symbolizing France occupying the four quadrants. This emblem was utilized to deface the British Blue Ensign in order to form the territory’s flag.
Universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1951, and elected members became a majority of the council. Ministerial government was introduced in 1956, and in 1958 St. Lucia joined the short-lived West Indies Federation, a semi-autonomous dependency of the United Kingdom. When the federation collapsed in 1962, following Jamaica’s withdrawal, a smaller federation was briefly attempted. After the second failure, the United Kingdom and the six windward and leeward islands — Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, and St. Lucia — developed a novel form of cooperation called associated statehood.
On March 1, 1967, Saint Lucia became an Associated State. This gave the territory full control over domestic matters, while Britain retained responsibility for the island’s foreign affairs and defense. The territory’s new flag was designed by native Saint Lucian artist Dunstan St. Omer and was adopted on the same day as associated statehood. The colors and symbols of the flag carry cultural, political, and regional meanings. The blue epitomizes the sky and the sea, specifically the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea which encircle the country. The black and white allude to the harmonious relationship between the black and white races. The yellow symbolizes sunshine, as well as prosperity. The triangles represent the Pitons (twin volcanic cones located in the southwest part of the island) and unity,
This interim arrangement ended on February 22, 1979, when St. Lucia achieved full independence under Sir John Compton of the conservative United Workers party (UWP), who served as prime minister from 1982 to 1996, after which he was succeeded by Vaughan Lewis.
When Saint Lucia became an independent country, the overall design of the flag from twelve years before remained unchanged, but the blue color’s shade and the triangles’ sizes were modified marginally. Despite the fact that the island already had its own distinct flag by the time it became a sovereign state, the Union Jack was still lowered for the final time at the official ceremony marking independence.
Dr. Kenny Davis Anthony of the Labour Party was prime minister from 1997 to 2006. In 2006, the UWP, again led by Compton, won control of parliament. In May 2007, after Compton suffered a series of small strokes, Finance and External Affairs Minister Stephenson King became acting prime minister and succeeded Compton as prime minister when the latter died in September 2007. In November 2011, the Honorable Dr. Kenny D. Anthony was re-elected as prime minister for a third time. In the June 2016 elections the UWP assumed power again, under Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.
St. Lucia continues to recognize Queen Elizabeth II as titular head of state and is an active member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The island continues to cooperate with its neighbors through the Caribbean community and common market (CARICOM), the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM), and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
Scott #49 was released by Saint Lucia on December 16, 1902, to commemorate the purported 400th anniversary of the island’s discovery by Christopher Columbus. The beautifully engraved 2 pence brown and green stamp, perforated 14 with a sideways Crown CC watermark, was printed by Thomas de la Rue & Company Limited and portrays the island’s majestic twin peaks known as The Pitons. These are two mountainous volcanic plugs, or volcanic spires, located near the towns of Soufrière and Choiseul on the southwestern coast of the island on either side of Jalousie Bay. The Gros Piton is 2,530 feet (771 meters) high, while the Petit Piton is 2,438 feet (743 meters) high, despite the legend on the stamp (Saint Lucia’s highest point is Mount Gimie at 3,120 feet or 950 meters above sea level. The Piton are linked by the Piton Mitan ridge and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Coral reefs cover almost 60% of the site’s marine area. A survey has revealed 168 species of finfish, 60 species of cnidaria, including corals, eight molluscs, 14 sponges, 11 echinoderms, 15 arthropods and eight annelid worms. The dominant terrestrial vegetation is tropical moist forest grading to subtropical wet forest, with small areas of dry forest and wet elfin woodland on the summits. At least 148 plant species have been recorded on Gros Piton, 97 on Petit Piton and the intervening ridge, among them eight rare tree species. The Gros Piton is home to some 27 bird species (five of them endemic), three indigenous rodents, one opossum, three bats, eight reptiles and three amphibians. The volcanic complex includes a geothermal field with sulphurous fumaroles and hot springs.
Piton is French for “peak.”