Blessed Islands

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Blessed Islands
Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, of Malta and of the West Indies
Insulae Beatae
Flag of BI2.png
Locator Maltese.pngLocation of Blessed Islands
CapitalSan Giovanni
Languages
  • Latin (liturgical)
  • Maltese
  • Genoan
  • Blessed Patwa
  • Spanish
CurrencyBlessed Island Scudo (BIS)

The Blessed Islands, (Latin: Insulae Beatae); officially the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, of Malta and of the West Indies is a country and sovereign knightly military order in the Caribbean Sea.

History

Early History

It is generally thought that the Blessed Islands were first settled by the Arawak from South America around 100 BC; the Arawaks inhabited the islands until the 15th century when they were displaced by the Caribs, a tribe from the Lesser Antilles islands. In 1493 Christopher Columbus became the first European to spot the islands calling them 'The Virgin Islands'. The Spanish Empire claimed the islands but didn't seriously settle the islands and as such they became a haven for pirates. In the late 16th century the English and Dutch both attempted to the settle the islands; both the Dutch and British established plantations on the islands and imported African slave labor to work in the sugarcane industry. In 1723 the Dutch took full control of the islands and pushed the British from the islands (with the majority of these British plantation owners moving to Guyana and establishing sugar plantations). For the rest of the 18th century the sugar industry, centered on Tortola, dominated the Dutch colony of the Virgin islands. In 1795 after the fall of the Dutch republic to the French, the British empire tried to secure as many former Dutch colonies as possible (as to not let the French or their client state the Batavian Republic, make use of them). In the summer of 1795 the British raised the union jack over Tortola.

Flight of the Knights

In the aftermath of the French Revolution and the coalition wars against The French Republic and the armies of Auguste Spiga, during the council of Vienna the Ottoman empire demanded the island of Malta (which was under French republican occupation during the wars). The British agreed to give the Ottomans Malta on the condition that they allow the Knights Hospitallers to relocate. The British chose the the Blessed Islands since they didn't really have a strong attachment to the islands and they were unsuccessful in taking other more valuable Dutch colonies in the area that they would want to keep. Additionally by keeping a good relationship with the Knights Hospitallers the British crown believed that they could make diplomatic inroads with the papal states and the heavily catholic Italian states.

Blessed Islands under the Knights Hospitallers

The Knights briefly possessed the Tuscan Virgins Islands from 1651-1660 and as such found it easy to colonize the islands. When arriving on Tortola island in 1814 the Grand Master and Prince of the Knights Hospitaller proclaimed that the islands were blessed by the Virgin Mary herself; this led to the name 'Blessed Islands or Blessed Isles' being commonly used as refer to the islands. Within the first year of Knights rule of the islands the order declared all the slaves on the island free and slavery banned on the islands. They also built an elaborate palace and cathedral in the new planned capital city of San Giovanni on the island of Tortola. In the 1810's and 1820's a wave of catholic refugees from Malta migrated to the islands to avoid living under Ottoman rule, the majority of these migrants tended to be pious middle class craftsman. Throughout the 19th century the piousness of the order and their connection to the papal made San Giovanni a popular area of travel in Latin America and a center of catholic culture in the Caribbean.