Another day, another port. The Adventure of the Seas docked at Castries — the capital and largest city of the Lesser Antilles island of Saint Lucia — on July 20, 2016, nearing the end of her seven-day cruise in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. This is where my little sister posted today’s featured postcard:
Fourth stop was St Lucia. The picture is of the outside of the post office. We had a private driver for the four of us and I told him I needed to mail my postcard. He went to the post office and had me stay in the car while he ran it in. I already had the stamp but he wanted to double check I had the correct stamp. He was nice.
Saint Lucia (Sainte-Lucie in French) is a sovereign island country, having become an independent state of the Commonwealth of Nations associated with the United Kingdom on February 22, 1979. Part of the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 238 square miles (617 square kilometers) and reported a population of 165,595 in the 2010 census. Saint Lucia was named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse by the French, the island’s first European settlers, and the only country in the world named after a woman.
The French pirate François le Clerc (also known as Jambe de Bois, due to his wooden leg) frequently visited Saint Lucia in the 1550s. It was not until around 1600 that 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. The French officially claimed the island in 1635. The English attempted the next European settlement in 1639, and that too was wiped out by Caribs.
In 1643 a French expedition sent out from 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 Sir Thomas Warner, 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 with the rest dying 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 and the French found the island attractive after the sugar industry developed, and during the eighteenth 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, 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 year. Britain handed the island back to the French at the Treaty of Paris in 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.
When the French Revolution occurred, and the slaves had heard about the revolution, they walked off their jobs in 1790-1791 to work for themselves. In 1792, a revolutionary tribunal was sent to Saint Lucia, headed by Captain Jean-Baptiste Raymond de Lacrosse. 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 In Saint-Domingue. However, the decree was unevenly carried out.
A short time later the British invaded the island as a part of the recently broken out war with France. On February 21, 1795, a group of locals led by Victor Hugues defeated a battalion of British troops. In 1796, Castries was burned as part of the conflict. In 1803, the British regained control of the island. Many of the rebels escaped into the thick rain forests where they evaded capture and established maroon communities. The slavery on the island was continued for a short time, but anti-slavery sentiment was rising in Britain. The British stopped the import of slaves by anyone, white or colored, when they abolished the slave trade in 1807.
Saint Lucia continued to be contested by France and Great Britain until the British secured it in 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris ending the Napoleonic Wars. Thereafter Saint Lucia was considered part of the British Windward Islands colony.
In 1836 the institution of slavery was abolished on the island and throughout the British Empire. After abolition, all former slaves had to serve a four-year “apprenticeship,” to accustom them to the idea of freedom. During this period, they worked for their former masters for at least three-quarters of the work week. Full freedom was duly granted by the British 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.
In the mid-twentieth century, Saint Lucia joined the West Indies Federation (1958–1962) when the colony was dissolved. In 1967, Saint Lucia became one of the six members of the West Indies Associated States, with internal self-government. In 1979, it gained 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.
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.
The volcanic island of Saint Lucia 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.
Castries was founded by the French in 1650 as Carénage (meaning “safe anchorage”) when St. Lucia was purchased by Jacques Dyel du Parquet, the governor of Martinique. It was renamed in 1756 after Charles Eugène Gabriel de La Croix, marquis de Castries, commander of a French expeditionary force to Corsica that year. The earlier settlement across the harbor at Vigie, started in 1651, was abandoned after a devastating hurricane in 1780. From 1803 to 1844, the British made the town a major naval port and built fortifications on Morne Fortune, the mountain that overlooks this important harbor. By 1844, Castries had a population of 4,000. By the end of the century it had become a major coaling station, because it was the only port in the Caribbean capable of accommodating the Royal Navy.
During World War II, a German U-boat sailed into Castries harbor and sank two allied ships in 1942, including the Canadian ocean liner RMS Lady Nelson, which was subsequently refloated in the harbor and taken to Canada to be converted to a hospital ship. Castries has been rebuilt many times, following major fires in 1796 and 1813, and most notably on June 19, 1948.
The city is in a flood gut and is built on reclaimed land. It houses the seat of government and the head offices of many of foreign and local businesses. The city’s design is in a grid pattern. Its sheltered harbor receives cargo vessels, ferry boats, and cruise ships. They dock at Pointe Seraphine, to the north of the harbor, which is also a duty-free shopping center. St Lucia’s main post office is in Castries. Because most parts of the country do not use standard street addresses, mail is largely sent to P.O. boxes. Any mail sent without a town name ends up in the Castries post office.
The postcard pictures Marigot Bay, located just south of the capital, Castries. It was described by American novelist James A. Michener as “the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean”. This card was mailed at the post office in Soufrière, a town on the west coast of Saint Lucia which was founded by the French and was the original capital of the island. There were large estates run by plantation owners of French origin and their descendants still live in the area. Over the years, Soufrière has had to deal with hurricanes in 1780, 1817, 1831, 1898 and 1980, a major fire in 1955 and an earthquake in 1991. This led to the town being rebuilt several times. Today, Soufrière is more dependent on tourism rather than agriculture. The Pitons are just south of the town and there are several attractions in the area including many of the old estates.