Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, is celebrating its 240th anniversary this year.

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Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, is celebrating its 240th anniversary this year.

Post  Sirop14 on Tue Jun 12, 2018 4:04 pm

Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, is celebrating its 240th anniversary this year.


According to research, the area that would become Victoria was originally settled in 1778 by French colonists after they claimed the island in 1756.
But it was not until after the Treaty of Paris of 1814 was signed that the British formally established Victoria and gave it its modern name.
Situated on the north-eastern side of the main island, Mahé, Victoria was first established as the seat of the British colonial government.
Victoria is one of the smallest capitals in the world and is therefore the touristic, economic and cultural centre of Seychelles.
Banners as the one in the photo have been erected in different places in Victoria to remind people that the city is 240 years old. Happy Anniversary!


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Re: Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, is celebrating its 240th anniversary this year.

Post  Sirop14 on Mon Jul 30, 2018 3:26 pm

VICTORIA - The Birth

This year, Seychelles is marking the 240th anniversary of its capital town, VICTORIA. On behalf of the Victoria Committee, Tony Mathiot recounts the early chapters…

The Fregate L’Helene must have dropped anchor at Mahé sometime in the mid-February of 1779 -- having left L’île de France on December 3, 1778. A voyage that must have taken over two months. The “new settlers” were 15 soldiers and a lieutenant colonel. They had been entrusted with the task of creating the first establishment that would, over the course of two centuries, become the modern capital of Victoria. Indeed, they had no illusions about the industry and labour that awaited them. Apart from their military experience in the regiment of L’île de France, each one of the 15 soldiers was skilled in some occupation: carpentry, masonry, blacksmithing, bakery and medicine. Their names should be known: Julien Diard, Michel Charles, Jacques Leonard, Jacques Antoine Giroux, Pierre Garnier, Jean-Baptiste Mareaux, Michel Dugoin, Julien Habraham, Sulpice Lanoux, Bonaventure Roitier, Joseph Bazerga, François Le Roy, Jean Thomas Pelletier, Dominique Bertin, Joseph La Bétonnière.There should have been sixteen of them, but one, a surgeon named Theodore, had died at sea.

The Lieutenant colonel was Charles Routiers de Romainville (1742-1792), a thirty-six-year-old cartographer who in 1767 had joined the expedition of Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811) to make the first French voyage around the world. The expedition was undertaken to discover new territories for the French to acquire, find a new route to China, establish new trading posts for the French East India Company and lastly, to look for spices that were acclimatizable to L’ile de France. At the end of the journey in 1769, Romainville stayed for a while at L’île de France until he was appointed in the regiment of Pondicherry, the Chief French settlement (until 1954) in India.

The decision to create a permanent settlement on Mahé came at a time when the global war that was a consequence of the American Revolution (1775-1783) was in full rage. Imperial rivalries and expansionism set the world order. France and England were inveterate enemies, relentlessly fighting for dominance in the English Channel, in the Mediterranean, in the West Indies, in the Indian Ocean. The second half of the 18th century was grimly punctuated by military conflicts between the French East India Company and the British East India Company. This Anglo-French war (1778-1783) was the immediate consequence of the military alliance that France had concluded with America on February 6, 1778 to support the 13 colonies which had been part of British America (1607-1776) and ultimately Great Britain (1707-1776). It was on December 11, 1777, that a naval officer at L’île de France, Charles Henri Louis d’Arsac, Chevalier de Ternay (1723-1780) wrote to the Secretary of State for the Navy in France, Antoine de Sartine (1729-1811), that “un officier avec un détachement de 15 hommes du régiment de L’ile de France peut y maintenir bon ordre de faire une distribution sage de terrains, aux familles qui voudraient s’y établir…”

The Governor of L’ile de France, Antoine de Guiran Chevalier de La Brilliane, had expressed his concern that the administration of Rodrigues, which the French had occupied since 1735, should be closed and all the funds re-allocated to the creation of an outpost in the Seychelles. Two years previously, a former wealthy employer of the French East India Company, Jacques Le Roux de Kermoseven, had offered to create a settlement on Mahé at his own cost -- since the French East India Company (formed in 1668) which had financed the first settlement on Ste Anne in 1770 had encountered disastrous financial deficit and had been closed by Louis XV (1710-1774) in 1770, that same year. Kermoseven’s request was rejected, probably because he had asked to be appointed commandant and be allowed to give land concessions.

The initial cost of creating the new settlement had been evaluated at 15,000 livres (6 livres = 1 piastre). The new settlers had to make their way through the thickets of mangroves that extended along the shoreline. Back in 177, the mangroves barrier was the reason why the first settlers who arrived aboard Telemaque had to go to Ste Anne Island. During the next decade, mangroves became less of a hindrance as their ashes were used in soap-making, thus making Port Royal accessible.

When they arrived ashore, they found an assortment of ill-conceived small buildings including the ruins of the small chapel of St. Antoine de Padua which a Lazarist Priest named Dumontagnier had blessed on December 1, 1771. Not surprisingly, the first settlement on Ste. Anne which Brayer du Barré had created in 1770 had failed disastrously. Consequently, the small group of settlers had moved over to Mahé to begin anew. However, lack of manpower and the unruly disposition of the settlers resulted in the abject failure of the small colony, to such an extent that famine and sickness had become a scourge. Moreover, there was constant altercations with new settlers. Fortunately, in May of 1773, they were repatriated to L’ile de France aboard La Belle Poule, leaving the rudimentary settlement to the new batch of settlers who had arrived at Mahé aboard La Marianne in January of 1772. Eventually, most of them went back to L’île de France except for an abbey named Dumontagnier, Sicard, Mousse and a woman called Dame Claire Larue who was the island’s first Florence Nightingale.

The settlement on Ste. Anne was taken over by a former soldier of the French East India Company named Pierre Hangard (1732 - 1812). He had arrived at Mahé on July 1, 1772 aboard Le Necessaire in the company of Antoine Gillot, to create the Jardin du Roi at Anse Royale. This most enterprising settler put his predecessor to shame by producing enough food for the entire small colony and to supply passing ships.

Unbeknownst to Romainville and his men, the settlement at Anse Royale had deteriorated into a disgraceful state of neglect. Most of the slaves had fled into the forests. The garden of spices which was a rectangle with an area of 52 gaulettes (1 gaulette being 5 metres) divided into 4 squares did not reflect the splendor of a Jardin du Roi created in the name of Louis XV (1710-1774). A few withering plants of nutmegs, cloves and cinnamons were all that remained, almost like a botanical burlesque of a ‘kings garden’.

They saw the ‘Stone of Possession’ -- the 57cm by 57cm block of stone inscribed with “”, and the Coat of Arms of France, which Captain Nicholas Morphey (1729-1774) had placed on a rock on November 1, 1756 as an act of pre-emptive possession of the Seychelles islands for the French Empire.

Soon after they arrived, they set about their task, clearing the woods, selecting the best timber that they could find for construction. In addition to the fifteen soldiers, there were two marine carpenters, Laurent Elie and Yves Le Flere. Evidently, the site was eminently propitious for a permanent establishment due to the existence of at least two rivers there. Water is invariably a determining factor in the creation of a settlement. Salvation for survival then, came from not least, Bel Air River and Moussa River, because the east coast of Mahé abounds in rivers and streams.

Romainville complied scrupulously to his instructions. He built a house for himself of 30 feet length and 12 feet width (about 10 metres by 4 metres), “a magasin pour les effets du Roi et les subsistances”…barrack for soldiers, with a basement of 30 feet by 12 feet which was used as a prison, a kitchen of missionary which was 18 feet by 12 feet, a hospital with a verandah of 30 feet by 18 feet, and a lodge of 12 feet by 8 feet for passengers of ships. For the first four years these would be the aggregate amount of infrastructures constituting L’Etablissement du Roi. A house for the surgeon, a tortoise pen, a large pirogue shed and a battery were added by Romainville’s successors Berthelot de La Coste and Antoine Gillot (the former gardener at Jardin du Roi).

The authorities at I’île de France were pleased with Romainville. On its return voyage to L’île de France in January 1779, L’Hélène brought back 600 tortoises which was followed by a second consignment of 500 tortoises in April the same year.

Romainville’s administration was regrettably brief but impressive. He managed to curb the depredations of forests and the pillage of tortoises by certain unscrupulous settlers. He succeeded in reserving...Pour le Roi et pour la défense du pays, le long des côtes de l’île sechelles, une lisière de bois de zoo toise au moins en profondeur…

But also, an inadvertent monumental blunder. One day in May of 1780, he was deceived by a French ship flying an English flag and in an impetuous act of patriotism he ordered the destruction of the Jardin du Roi by fire! Unfortunately, because of serious infirmities of health relating to his liver, Romainville left Seychelles at the end of 1780.

His three predecessors administrated the settlement with the same tenacity of purpose in spite of which elsewhere, the plunder of the island’s natural resources continued. In the absence of a defined protocol to regulate the lives of the small colony, there was no submissions to rules and authority. In 1785, the total population of L’Etablissement du Roi was 28 inhabitants -- a commandant, a detachment of 12 soldiers from the Regiment of Pondicherry, and 15 slaves (8 men and 7 women). There were 9 pirogues in the service of the harbour.

In 1786, Jean Baptiste Philogène de Malavois (1748-1825) arrived at Mahé accompanied by a surveyor called Bataille. Malavois who was an agronomist, engineer and geographer re-organised the administrative establishment and instituted orderly land tenure, conceding to each inhabitant an area of 108 arpents (112 acres). The extensive work he and Bataille conducted resulted in the law of July 30, 1787 which contained 30 articles aimed at organising and systematising the economy, the society and landownership of Seychelles. By then, the territory of L’Etablissement du Roi extended along the south side of what is now Revolution Avenue, encompassing the Bel Air cemetery site in the west and the La Poudrière site in the south with the sea coast being what is now Francis Rachel Street. As the settlement gradually expanded, the woods were cleared for more construction. But the L’Etablissement du Roi as such, that is the settlement controlled, managed and directed on behalf of Louis XVI by Malavois’s legislation would experience quite a few upheavals caused by the events of the French Revolution (1789 -1799). On June 19, 1790, for example, ten settlers formed a Colonial Assembly, demanding that the law of July 30, 1787 should be amended, so that “… les iles Praslin, Frégate, Silhouette, et L’île du Nord soit affecter pour y conceder des terrains aux seuls enfant des habitants de Seychelles…”

There was a clamour for independence from L’île de France. But the political frenzy gradually abated and the following year, on July 30, 1791, the Minerve dropped anchor at Mahé. On August 1, 1791, at 8am, the national flag of France was unfurled at the L’Etablissement du Roi. Commandant Enouf displayed a modicum of exquisite diplomacy by communicating the decisions of the Colonial Assembly to Governor Cossigny for his approval.

On September 22, 1792, when the monarchy was abolished in France and the Republic was proclaimed, it was considered inappropriate, even offensive for the Mahé French Settlement to invoke the memory of the king, who would be guilloted on January 21, 1793. Therefore, L’Etablissement du Roi was stripped of its Royal connotation and was called L’Etablissement.

On September 9, 1793 a 45-year-old former Captain of the Pondicherry Regiment Jean-Baptiste Quéau de Quinssy (1748-1827) arrived at Mahé aboard L’Aimée to take up the post of commandant. The population of Seychelles amounted to 572 inhabitants (65 whites, 20 Free Africans, 487 slaves).Quinssy encouraged the construction of more buildings to accommodate new arrivals of settlers and their slaves. During his eighteen years as commandant, renovations and improvements were made to the original Romainville buildings of L’Etablissement. Even a cemetery was opened (the Bel Air cemetery) for the burial of those who passed away at L’Etablissement. Indeed, it was during his administration that L’Etablissement knew its first of many momentous events. Such one occurred on May 17, 1794, when Quinssy had to negotiate the first capitulation Treaty with Captain Henry Newcome aboard Orpheus. It was the first military confrontation to take place at L’Etablissement, or Seychelles. There were no means to defy a squadron of four vessels which totalled 1200 men and 66 canons. Quinssy had at his disposal, 40 volunteers, 60 muskets and 8 small canons. But his steadfastness of purpose and sagacity precluded the worse that could have happened to L’Etablissement and the inhabitants. The British Flag was unfurled for the first time on Seychelles. But after the British had disappeared, Quinssy had the French Flag Fly at high mast again!

On July 14, 1801, La Chiffone brought the first group of 32 Jacobins to Mahé, to the consternation of the settlers and the slaves. There would be 70 of those terrorists who were accused of planning to assassinate Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1831) and were thus sentenced to exile in Seychelles. The inhabitants were petrified a few weeks later, precisely on August 20, 1801 when a naval battle took place in Port Royal between La Chiffone and an English ship, Sybille. The half hour ferocious engagement left 35 men dead… and L’Etablissement dazed.

Understandably, there were then no shops at L’Etablissement. Inhabitants bartered with captains of passing ships. However, by 1804, there was a café and a billiard room. Since 1796, Mahé had been producing cotton and coconut oil for exportation to L’île de France. A network of footpaths which connected distant plantations to L’Etablissement created access for the transportation of these produce by slaves to the coast of Port Royal where they were put on board the occasional ship.

In 1811, the British took possession of the Seychelles and Barthelemy Sullivan was the first in a long series of British functionaries, who with various appellations (Agent, Commissioner, and Administrator Governor) would administrate the Seychelles until 1976.

From 1839 to 1850, the civil commissioner was Charles Augustus Etienne Mylius (1795-1873). Anxious that L’Etablissement should take advantage of the maritime traffic that passed through the Indian Ocean, he initiated the construction of a jetty with a grant of £50 from Mauritius. Though there was not much amenities for visiting ships, the “Mylius jetty” as the wharf was affectionately called, was an important start.

In the mid-19th Century, Seychelles formed part of the vast territory of colonies and protectorates known as the British Empire. These scattered different nations were united by a common obedience to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The British throne was held by twenty-two-year-old Queen Alexandrina Victoria (1819-1901). On May 31, 1841, Ordinance No:12 of 1841 was passed in the Council at Port Louis, Mauritius, with the assent of Governor Sir Lionel Smith (1778-1842) that established the name of the Capital of Seychelles as Victoria.


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