So declares the Sunday Gleaner in its Sunday, April 25, 2010 online paper. The Gleaner announced that officials from the Carnival Cruise Lines “will travel to Jamaica in May for talks with the government about taking passengers to the historic seaside town.”
My reaction? It’s an excellent idea and a boom for our heritage tourism product! Port Royal is the ideal starter for this ‘Carnival’ initiative.
So this tiny piece of news got me thinking: Port Royal, pirates, earthquakes and other disasters, the underwater city…but where did it all begin? With the Spanish?
Port Royal owes its unique history and ultimate naming as the “wickedest city in the world” to the English.
The English’s eventual 307 years of colonisation and rule of Jamaica began with one man’s plan for English domination of the Spanish’s new territories in the Caribbean: Oliver Cromwell, England’s Lord Protector from 1653 to 1658, and his Western Design.
As long time enemies, Cromwell penned the Western Design with the general objective of England taking over all of the Spanish territories in the Caribbean for, among others, commercial and religious reasons. If successful, this would have proven a severe blow to Spain. As the events unfolded it was shown that the Spanish were not as weak as the English thought and Cromwell’s Western Design did not go as planned.
But before all was totally lost, and as a second best in the plan, England captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655.
In 1654 Cromwell hastily put together the conquering expedition, a combination of a fleet under Admiral William Penn, and an army of some 2500 men under the command of General Robert Venables.
The main aim of sending out this conquering army was to capture Santo Domingo (Hispaniola) the Spanish stronghold in the Caribbean. Despite the army’s strong numbers, which were added to by stopping at the English territories of Barbados and the Leeward Islands and recruiting more men, their attack on Santo Domingo was not successful.
Fearful of Cromwell’s anger at the failure at Santo Domingo, the greatly depleted English invading army decided to try and conquer some other (weaker!) Spanish territory. Jamaica was chosen because it seemed the easiest to be conquered as it was well-known to be thinly populated and weakly defended. They set sail for Jamaica and on May 10, 1655 the fleet sailed into the Kingston Harbour.
The Spanish formally surrendered on May 11, 1655, but the island was not to become free of Spanish inhabitants or Spanish guerilla warfare until 1660.
So what were the terms given to Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables by Cromwell under the Western Design to capture certain Spanish territories in the Caribbean?
Read this in tomorrow’s tour as we continue to trace the historical echoes of the capture of Jamaica by the English in Jamaican Echoes. Until then…
Black, Clinton V. (1983) History of Jamaica. UK: Longman Caribbean Publishing.
Pestana, C.G. (2005) English Character and the Fiasco of the Western Design. Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 3(1), 1-31.