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The Arawak and Taino indigenous people originating from South America settled on the island between 4000 and 1000 BC. When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494 there was already an established government

Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there in 1494. Columbus' probable landing point was Dry Harbour, now called Discovery Bay. St. Ann's Bay was the "Saint Gloria" of Columbus who first sighted Jamaica at this point. One mile west of St. Ann's Bay is the site of the first Spanish settlement on the island, Sevilla, which was abandoned in 1554 because of numerous pirate raids.

The capital was moved to Spanish Town, now located in the parish of St. Catherine, as early as 1534. It was then called "Santiago de la Vega".

In 1655, Oliver Cromwell dispatched a fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir William Penn, to conquer Santo Domingo. After meeting heavy resistance, the English retreated, taking the island of Jamaica instead.

After WW II Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom and in 1958, it became a province in the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica attained full independence by leaving the federation on the 6th of August 1962.


The House of Colón 1536-1655


In 1536 a grandson of Christopher Columbus was made a Marquess of Jamaica. His father Diego Colón had continued to fight for the remainder of his father's titles of which he had been deposed, and was made viceroy of the Indies in May, 1511. He continued to resent encroachments on his power and to fight for all of his father's privileges thereafter and made trips to Spain in 1515 and 1523 to plead his case without success. After his death, a compromise was reached in 1536 in which his son Luis Colón (1519/20-1572) was named admiral of the Indies and renounced all other rights for a perpetual annuity of 10,000 ducats, the island of Jamaica as a fief, an estate of 25 square leagues on the Isthmus of Panama, and the titles of Duke de Veragua and Marquis de Jamaica. The island remained in the possession of the descendants of  Luis Colón until the English conquest in 1655.



The coat of arms of  the House of the Duke of Veragua, Admiral of the Indies and Marquess of Jamaica is described in a Register of the Nobility of Andalusia, printed in 1588 [1].

It was:

Arms: Per pale and a base per chevron embowed: 1.  Gules, a castle Or; 2. Argent, a lion Gules; 3. In waves of the sea Azure, five islands Or.

And a listel with the words A CASTILLA, Y A LEON MUNDO NUEVO DIO COLON [2]


Not in this description is the orb in the third quarter.

Of this coat of arms there are two versions which are illustrated here. The first version is from the above mentioned register, the second from an unknown source.


The English Era and Independence


The following is taken from the website of the National Library of Jamaica:


“In giving consideration to what might be the form of an appropriate Coat of Arms for an Independent Jamaica, both Government and the Opposition reached the agreement that the existing Arms, granted to Jamaica since 1661 by Royal Warrant and partially revised in 1957, constituted "a badge of  great historical significance to the nation and should be retained".

The original Arms were designed by William Sancroft, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, and the use of the Royal Helmet and Mantlings together is a unique distinction accorded to Jamaica. However, the design has also been attributed to William Juxon as he was the then Archbishop of Canterbury and not Sancroft, as he assumed this position in December 1677.

The anonymous author who is the authority for Sancroft's connection with the affair says "All this as I have heard, was designed by the present Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1661". This statement was written in 1684 when Sancroft was the present Archbishop.

The original Latin motto, "Indus Uterque Serviet Uni" (Both Indies Will Serve One Lord) has been changed to one in English: "Out of Many, One People". The arms which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples superimposed on it  has a male and female Taino (Arawak) as supporters. The Crest is a Jamaican crocodile surmounting the Royal Helmet and Mantlings.

The official description of the Jamaican Coat of Arms as taken from the records of the College of Arms, London reads: 


     "For Arms, Argent on a Cross Gules five pine-apples slipped OR: and upon a representation of Our Royal Helmet mantled OR doubled Ermine, for the Crest, On a Wreath Argent and Gules, Upon a Log fesse wise a Crocodile Proper: And for the Supporters, On the dexter side a West Indian Native Woman holding in the exterior hand a Basket of Fruits and on the sinister side a West Indian Native Man supporting by the exterior hand a Bow all proper."


Changes in the Coat of Arms: The Jamaica coat of Arms has seen quite a number of changes, but only three are officially recorded. These changes occurred in 1692, 1957 and 1962 respectively.[3]

Although the colours of the Supporters  are described as all proper, that is, in natural colours, it should be noted that in the approved colour sketch the feathered headdress and feathered skirts are red and white.

The single feather in the female figure's headdress is red, and the headband ermine is winter white. The three tall feathers on the male figure are red, the headband and the shorter feathers alternately red and white, commencing with the red (on the left as seen by the observer) and the ending with a white feather on the right. The waistbands on the feathered skirts of both supporters are red.

The strips of feathers making up the skirts are alternately red and white commencing with the red (on the left as seen by the observer) and ending with outer white feathers on the right.”


For a photograph of a sculptured version click here



Obverse and reverse of the royal seal for Jamaica as in the register of the College of Arms, Coll. Arms, Walker Grants 2, p. 5.:

On the obverse a native of Jamaica making an offer to king Charles II. L.: CAROLVS II D. G. MAG BRIT. FRAN. ET HIB. PER DOMIN JAMAICÆ.

On the reverse the achievement of Jamaica with helmet and crest and the motto INDVS VTERQUE SERVIET VNI (Both Indies must serve one (Lord)). L.: ECCE ALIVM RAMOS PORREXIT IN ORBEM NEC STERILIS CRVX EST.


The note on the page reads:


A Seale with the Armes, Crest & Supporters for

Jamaica, with the Reverse by Warrant to Mr

Symonds the Kings Graver. Dat Febr. 3rd 1661.

13° Car 2 d. [4]


An engraving of the seal is from a 18th century collection of medals, coins and seals. On this engraving the motto on the obverse is readable: DVRO DE CORTICE FRVCTVS QVAM DULCES.  [5]:



Jamaica Defence Force






© Hubert de Vries 2008.09.18

Updated 2010-02-01

[1]) Gonçalo Argote de Molina, Nobleza del Andaluzia, Sevilla, por Fernando Diaz, año 1588. The original quotation reads:

….. Y don Christoval Colon primer Conquistador de el nuevo mundo de las Indias, que como escrive Paulo Iovio en sus Elogios, fue natural de Albizolo cerca de Saona de aquesta Señoria, de quien deciende la Casa del Duque de//

Página 246//

de Veragua Almirãte de las Indias, y Marques de Xamayca. Cuyas Armas son un Escudo en Mantel, en el primero un Castillo de oro en campo roxo, y en el segundo un Leo(n) Roxo en campo de plata, y en lo baxo unas Ondas de plata y azul con cinco islas de oro, con una letra q(ue) dize.

A Castilla, y a Leon mundo nuevo dio Colon. (...)

[2] ) From Pseudo Historia Colombina.

[3] ) As there was some doubt as to the proper blason of these arms they were confirmed in 1957, the royal helmet and mantling being allowed.

[4] ) Illustration from:  Woodcock, Thomas & John Martin Robinson: The Oxford Guide to Heraldry. Oxford 1988, p. 158.

[5] ) Vertue, Georges: Medals, Coins, Great Seals, and other works of Thomas Simon engraved by Georges Vertue. Second Edition. London MDCCLXXX. (Digitized by Google).

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