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ON THE TWELFTH OF OCTOBER 1492 CHISTOPHER COLUMBUS SET FOOT ON Watling Island, one of the islands of today’s Bahamas and at the same time for the first time on American soil. The archipelago he discovered further he took  in  possession for his clients, the most Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon and Castile [1]

The Spaniards were only interested for a short time in the Bahamas. They focused first on Hispaniola and the Greater Antilles and next on Mexico where the Vice-Kingdom of New Spain was founded in 1535. As a result the archipelago could be occupied with little effort by the English in 1694. They also failed to colonize the islands for a long time and to establish their authority. In this situation the few colonists engaged in lucrative piracy. This ultimately became such a nuisance that British traders demanded for measures. In 1718 captain Woodes Rogers was appointed governor by king Geaorge I. In ten years he succeeded to make an end to piracy. In 1728 the proud motto expulsis piratis restituta commercia (The Pirates Dislodged  the Trade Restored ) was adopted for the archipelago. On the badge the motto is on a strap surrounding a picture of an  English frigate hunting down two pirates. From  the stern flies the Union Jack (model 1702-1801).

The badge and the motto was used until 1973 on the British red or blue ensign. It served as the model for the first coat of arms of the colony. The frigate and the pirates were placed on a shield, the chief charged with the royal crown, which had covered the badge before. The motto was written on a ribbon and the shield was covered with palm leaves.


Anticipating the declaration of independence on 10 July 1973 Queen Elizabeth II granted a new coat of arms on 7 December 1971. It was designed by Hervis Bain and Harold A. Munnings.


The main charge is the ship of Columbus, the carack Santa Maria. On its sails a red cross moline. From the fore-mast flies the banner of Ferdinand and Isabella, a white cloth charged wit a green cross between the initials F and Y. From the main-mast a flag quarterly of Castile and Leon and from the mizzen-mast a yellow and red pennon charged with the arms of Castile and Leon. [2]

On the chief is a rising sun symbolizing hope. [3]

Around the arms are crest, supporters and motto, as usual in British heraldry.




Badge approved 1869

The motto beginning in the left hand upper corner


Badge 1964 - 1973

The motto beginning in the left hand lower corner


A slightly oval device showing an english frigate, flying the Union Jack from her stern, hunting down two pirate-ships, all proper. The picture is encircled with a strap, proper with golden edges, on which is written: EXPULSIS PIRATIS { RESTITUTA COMMERCIA (The Pirates Dislodged, the Trade Restored). On a ribbon underneath is the word: bahamas. The badge is crowned with the Imperial Crown. [4]





Arms: An english frigate hunting down two pirates, all proper, and a chief Gules, the Imperial State Crown proper.


5th of June 1959







10.07.1973 - present


Arms: Argent, Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria in full sail proper, on a base barry wavy of four Azure and Argent; and a chief Azure, a rising sun radiant Or.

Crest: On a golden helmet guardant, lambrequined Argent and Azure a conch of the Giant Wingsnail (Stromus gigas - Strombidæ) and five palmleaves proper.

Supporters: On the dexter a Blue Merlin (Makaira ampla - Istiophoridæ) and on the sinister a red flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber - Phoenicopteridæ) proper.

Compartment: Waves of the sea on the dexter and a grassy ground on the sinister proper.

Motto: FORWARD UPWARD ONWARD TOGETHER in black lettering on a ribbon Or, lined Azure.


By R.W. 7th December 1971


ð See illustration in the head of this essay




Governors of the Bahamas until 1969


Governors of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, 1969-1973


Royal Bahamas Police


The Royal Bahamas Police emblem shows the achievement of the Commonwealth surrounded by the name of the service and the motto COURAGE INTEGRITY LOYALTY on a ribbon.


Royal Bahamas Defence Force


Since The Bahamas does not have an army or an air force, its navy composes the entirety of its armed forces.



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© Hubert de Vries 2009-12-22; updated 2013-11-02; 2019-04-15



[1] ) For the arms of Columbus: Taviani, P.E.: La Grande Scoperta Vol 2°. Novara 1984 pp. 126-128.  See also Dominican Republic.

[2] ) Flags by World Book Illustrations

[3] ) Herzog, Hans-Ulrich & Fritz Wolf: Flaggen und Wappen. Leipzig, 1966.

[4] ) Both pictures from flag books of the British Admiralty. See also FOTW.

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