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Saint-Barthélemy (Overseas Collectivity, France)


Last modified: 2008-03-29 by ivan sache
Keywords: saint-barthelemy | ouanalao | fleur-de-lis: 3 (yellow) | maltese cross (white) | crowns: 3 (yellow) | pelicans: 2 |
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[Flag of France]

Flag of France - Image by Željko Heimer, 22 September 2001

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Presentation of Saint-Barthélemy

Saint-Barthélemy (6,852 inhabitants in 1999; 2,500 ha), locally known as Saint-Barth, is an overseas community (collectivité d'outre-mer), as prescribed by Law of 21 February 2007, published in the French official gazette on 22 February 2007. This new status was approved by local referendum (95.5% yes) on 7 December 2003. Beforehand, Saint-Barthélemy was a municipality forming, together with the municipality of Saint-Martin, the third arrondissement (northern islands) of the overseas department of Guadeloupe.

The island was discovered in 1493 by Colombus during his second travel; Colombus named the island after his brother Bartolomeo and took possession of it in the name of the King of Spain. The island was occupied by the French in 1648 and ran by the Knights of the Order of Malta from 1651 to 1656. Saint-Barthélemy became a French colony in 1659; however, the poor soil and the dry climate of the island prevented its economical development, and its inhabitants mostly lived from buccaneering.
In 1785, King Louis XVI swapped the island for trade rights in Gothenburg with King of Sweden Gustav III. The king suppressed tax from the island (and there is still no tax perceived on the island, which was contrary to the French law and the main reason of the modification of the status of the island); the capital was renamed Gustavia and the former French careenage became a free port. On 16 March 1878, the Sweded sold back the island to France. The successive rulers of the island are symbolized on its coat of arms.

In 1957, David Rockefeller purchased a 27-ha estate on the island and launched the transformation of the poor island into a safe place for upmarket tourism. There is no airport on the island but a small runway, which has prevented mass tourism to reach the island until now.
After the Second World War, several St-Barths (natives of the islands) emigrated to the neighbouring US Virgin Islands, where they set up their own communities, the most important of them being Frenchtown, located west of the port of St. Thomas. They lived from fishing and trade and significantly contributed to the economic development of the Virgin Islands. Some of them became American citizens while others came back to Saint-Barthélemy and helped to develop the island.

Ivan Sache, 6 March 2007

Local flag of Saint-Barthélemy

[Local flag of Saint-Barth]

Local flag of Saint-Barthélemy - Image by Pascal Gross, 30 September 1998

A photography taken by Christian Lange in June 2006 shows the town hall of Gustavia, the capital of Saint-Barthélemy, with a row of four flags, from left to right, the national flag of Sweden (recalling that the island was once a Swedish possession), the local flag of Saint-Barthélemy, the French national flag and the flag of European Union. The local flag is white with the coat of arms of Saint-Barthélemy.

This coat of arms, designed by the heraldist Mireille Louis, is shown and depicted in the article 1624-1998 - 374 ans d'histoire de notre blason, published in St Barth Informations and available on the Saint-Barthélemy official website.
The three fleurs-de-lis recall the fact that the island was French from 1648 to 1785 and has been so since 1878.
The Maltese Cross recalls that the island belonged to the Order of Malta (1651-1665).
The three crowns are for the Swedish rule on the island from 1785 to 1878.
The mural crown is the ancient symbol of the Greek gods protecting the cities; it was granted to the French towns during the First Empire.
The two pelicans represent the island fauna.
Ouanalao is the local name of the island.

The leaflet mentions a legal issue related to the coat of arms, as follows:

In 1977, the Direction of the Archives of France asked every Municipality and every Department to adopt une marque symbolique urbaine.
[Following this, in brief, the municipal administration contacted a professional heraldist, who did the job.]
But the artist was a tough businesswoman! The contract signed with the municipal administration stated that the artist transferred all rights of administrative concern to the municipality, but retained to her all the rights of commercial concern !
After several attempts by the former municipal administration to purchase the rights of commercial concern, the new municipal administration obtained the full right of property on the arms for 90,000 FRF, instead of 500,000 FRF claimed by the artist.
Now, everybody wishing to use the coat of arms for an administrative or commercial concern shall ask permission to the municipal administration.

Paraskevas Renesis, Ivan Sache & Pascal Vagnat, 23 September 2007

Saint-Barthélemy Yacht Club

[Burgee of SBYC]

Burgee of SBYC - Image by Ivan Sache, 19 May 2001

The burgee of the Saint-Barthélemy Yacht Club is quartered blue-red-red-blue with the initials S B Y C in white in the respective quarters.

Source: SBYC website

Ivan Sache, 19 May 2001