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Most 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.

The idea 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

In 1815 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


The 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

The 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 Alcatraz".

In 1997 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.




The Coat 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.

This is 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’


The 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.



The 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.

St 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:



Governor’s Flag


Badges on Flags


East India Company flag


The East 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,


The badges are flown on the blue ensign:


St Helena’s Badge, 1874-1984


Present badge, 1984-





Armed Forces



This unit 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.



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 © Hubert de Vries 2018-12-14.




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