historical accounts state the island was discovered on 21 May 1502 by the Galician
navigator João da Nova sailing at the service of the Portuguese Crown, on his
voyage home from India, and that he named it "Santa Helena" after
Helena of Constantinople.
for the English to make claim to the island was first made in a 1644 pamphlet
by Richard Boothby. By 1649, the East
India Company (HEIC) ordered all homeward-bound vessels to wait for one
another at St Helena and in 1656 onward the Company petitioned the government
to send a man-of-war to convoy the fleet home from there. Having been granted
a charter to govern the island by the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth
Oliver Cromwell in 1657
the British government selected Saint Helena as the place of detention of
Napoleon Bonaparte. He was brought to the island in October 1815 and lodged
at Longwood, where he died on 5 May 1821.
Stamp of the Guardian and Curator of the tomb (of
Napoleon) of St. Helena. On a document
Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the India Act in 1833, a provision of
which transferred control of St Helena from the East India Company to the
Crown with effect from 2 April 1834. In practice, the transfer did not take
effect until 24 February 1836 when Major-General George Middlemore
(1836–1842), the first governor appointed by the British government, arrived
with 91st Regiment troops. He summarily dismissed St Helena Regiment and,
following orders from London, embarked on a savage drive to cut administrative
costs, dismissing most officers previously in the Company employ. This
triggered the start of a long-term pattern whereby those who could afford to
do so tended to leave the island for better fortunes and opportunities
British Nationality Act 1981 reclassified St Helena and the other crown
colonies as British Dependent Territories. The islanders lost their status as
'Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies' (as defined in the British
Nationality Act 1948) and were stripped of their right of abode in Britain. For
the next 20 years, many could find only low-paid work with the island
government and the only available employment overseas for the islanders was
restricted to the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island, a period during
which the island was often referred to as the "South Atlantic
the British government published a review of the Dependent Territories. This
included a commitment to restore the pre-1981 status for citizenship. This
was effected by the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, which
restored full passports to the islanders, and renamed the Dependent
Territories the British Overseas Territories.
of Arms was designed by the Garter King of Arms in London in consultation
with the Governor and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during 1982/83. On
30th January 1984, Her Majesty The Queen commanded that the Coat of Arms be
registered at the College of Arms for exclusive and sole use on
St Helena. This was published in Gazette No 2 of 31st January 1984.
the official, registered description of the Coat of Arms:
Azure in base waves of
the sea proper thereon an Indiaman rigged sable masts and sails furled or and
flying at the stern. The George heading towards on the dexter side rising
from the sea two cliffs proper on a chief or a wirebird also proper; and for
the crest upon a helm in a naval crown azure a demi figure representing
St Helena. From her brow a veil or vested argent her mantle azure
holding in the dexter hand a lily and supporting with the other in the crook
of her arm a cross raguly proper mantled azure doubled or beneath the shield
upon a scroll the motto ‘Loyal and Unshakeable’
Government of St Helena uses the Coat of Arms as its logo.
Æ See illustration in the head of this article.
St Helena’s Public Seal
Arms: Azure in base waves of the sea
proper thereon an Indiaman rigged sable masts and sails furled or and flying at
the stern. The George heading towards on the dexter side rising from the sea
two cliffs proper on a chief or a wirebird also proper
Crest: The royal achievement of Queen Victoria.
Legend: VICTORIA DEI
GRATIA BRITANIAR REG F.D. / SIGIL. INS. SANCTA R’HELENEA R
Public Seal is applied by the Governor to Ordinances, Proclamations,
Contracts and other legal and administrative documents. The presence of the
seal validates the document and guarantees its authenticity.
Helena’s Public Seal, made of Sterling Silver, was designed in Victorian
times by Benjamin Wyon, Chief Engraver of Her Majesty’s Seals. The wording on
the seal changes with each new monarch; our current seal bears the legend:
ELIZABETH II BY THE GRACE OF GOD OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT
BRITAIN & NORTHERN IRELAND & OF HER OTHER REALMS & TERRITORIES
QUEEN + DEFENDER OF THE FAITH +HEAD OF THE COMMONWEALTH 
Badges on Flags
East India Company flag
India Company flew its own flag over St Helena until in 1687; then
it started flying the Union Flag, which continued in use until
1874 when the first flag of St Helena was introduced,
badges are flown on the blue ensign:
Helena’s Badge, 1874-1984
was formed on the Island of St Helena and were shipped to England in 1945. After
the war the majority of them stayed on and joined the regular army.
© Hubert de Vries 2018-12-14.