MAURITIUS

 

 

HISTORY

HERALDRY

The Dutch

The French

The British

 

 

 

History

 

The first historical evidence of the existence of an island now known as Mauritius is on a map produced by the Italian cartographer Alberto Cantino in 1502

Mauritius was discovered and visited by the Portuguese between 1507 and 1513.

An official world map by Diogo Ribeiro described “from west to east, the first island, “Mascarenhas”, the second, “Santa Apolonia” and the third, “Domingo Froiz” The three islands (Réunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues) were discovered some years earlier by chance during an exploratory expedition of the coast of the Golf of Bengal led by Tristão da Cunha.

In 1598, a Dutch expedition consisting of eight ships set sail from the port of Texel (Netherlands) under the orders of admirals Jacques Cornelius Van Neck and Wybrandt Van Warwyck towards the Indian subcontinent.

On 17 September, five ships under the orders of Admiral Van Warwyck came into view of the island. On 20 September, they entered a sheltered bay which they gave the name of Port de Warwick (today’s Grand Port). They landed and decided to name the island “Prins Maurits van Nassaueiland”, after Prince Maurits (Latin version: Mauritius) of the House of Nassau, but from those days, only the name Mauritius has remained.

Dutch colonization under the jusrisdiction of the Dutch East India Company started in 1638 and ended in 1710, with a brief interruption between 1658 and 1666. Abandoned by the Dutch, the island became a French colony when, in September 1715, Guillaume Dufresne D'Arsel landed and took possession of this port of call on the route to India. He named the island “Isle de France”, but it was only in 1721 that the French started their occupation. However, it was only from 1735, with the arrival of the most illustrious of French governor, Mahé de La Bourdonnais, that the Isle de France  started developing effectively.

The island was under the administration of the French East India Company which maintained its presence until 1767.

From that year until 1810, the island was in charge of officials appointed by the French Government, except for a brief period during the French Revolution, when the inhabitants set up a government virtually independent of France.

During the Napoleonic wars, the Isle de France had become a base from which French corsairs organised successful raids on British commercial ships. The raids continued until 1810 when a strong British expedition captured the island. By the Treaty of Paris in 1814, the Isle de France which was renamed Mauritius was ceded to Great Britain, together with Rodrigues and the Seychelles.

Elections in 1947 for the newly created Legislative Assembly marked Mauritius’ first steps toward self-rule. An independence campaign gained momentum after 1961, when the British agreed to permit additional self-government and eventual independence. This was granted on 12 March 1968 with Queen Elizabeth as head of state. On 12 March 1992 Mauritius finally became a republic within the Commonwealth.

 

Heraldry

 

As Mauritius was for a long time under the jurisdiction of the Dutch and French trade companies and later in the 18th century under the jursidiction of the kingdom of France, it had in this time no heraldry of its own.  Instead,  the heraldic symbols of the companies and France were used.

About the heraldry in Mauritius in the time of French rule we are well informed by the work of Auguste Toussaint who gives a survey of the Mauritian seals in the archives of Port Louis.[1]

Real Mauritian heraldry started with the seals of the self government of the Island at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century. In the first half of the 19th century it was continued by the British.

 

V.O.C.

1638 - 1710

 

 

The Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.) used a cypher composed of the letters V(ereenichde) O(ost Indische) C(compagnie), adopted in 1603 and also, from the second quarter of the 17th century a n achievement showing arms with a ship and a merman and a mermaid as supporters.

 

Compagnie des Indes

1721- 1767

 

 

The achievement of the Compagnie des Indes was granted by king Louis XV in 1717 to the Compagnie d’Occident. It consisted of a green field with a pile wavy Argent charged with a river-god leaning on a cornucopia and a chief semy with fleurs de lys over a base Or. The armes were crowned with a crown of five leaves and was supporterd by two indians, armed with bows. The motto of the company was FLOREBO QUOCUMQUE FERAR (I flourish wherever I am planted).

The achievement is on the print of the seal, illustrated above, on a document from 1729, but was used regularly by the Provincial Council from 1723 - 1735. [2]

 

 

In 1734 a Supreme Council was instituted by king Louis XV. It  took over much of the administration of the Island.  The seal of this first Supreme Council showed the full royal achievement, consisting  of the crowned royal arms of France, surrounded by the collars of the orders of the Holy Ghost and St. Michael and supported by two angels. The seal illustrated is on a document of 1756 and has as its legend: CONSEIL SUPÉRIEUR DE L’ISLE DE FRANCE. This seal was used until 1767. [3]

 

Colonie et Département Française

1767-1797-1803

 

In the time of the colony as a part of the Kingdom of France the king of France was its sovereign. The ministry of the Navy was the administrator of the Island.

The royal arms consisted of the crowned shield with the three fleurs de lys, surrounded by the collars of the main french orders. This coat of arms can be found on the seal of the second Supreme Council, founded in 1766 and installed  on 17 July 1767. This Supreme Council consisted of the governor and the administrator, a vice commander, the first commissioner of the navy, six councillors appointed by the king, four judges appointed by the governor and the administrator, an attorney-general and a registrar.

The presence of the royal arms on the seal used by the Supreme Council, as illustrated, is explained as to be usual for “His Majesty’s seal for use in this colony”.

 

 

Seal used by the Second Supreme Council, dated 29.V.1772

Royal Arms and the legend  ISLE DE FRANCE  [4]

 

The arms of the Ministry of the Navy which decided on the budget of the administration, consisted of the Royal arms posed on two anchors in saltire. This achievement could be found on documents issued by administrative authorities like on this muster-roll of the Département du Port Louis.

 

After the revolutions in France a General Assembly was founded in Port Louis on 27 April 1790.

On the seal of this General Assembly there was an achievement in the tradition of the former achievements It consisted of the new arms of France which shows a fasces between three fleurs de lys. On the shield is a crown of laurel and there are a triton and a Virgin personifying France as supporters.

Seal of the General Assembly of Isle de France. dd. 28 May 1790

Arms with fasces between fleurs de lys, a crown of laurel and a triton and a Virgin as supporters. L.: ASSEMBLÉE GÉNÉRALE DE LA COLONIE DE L’ISLE DE FRANCE. [5]

 

The successor of the General Assembly of the Colony was the Colonial Assembly of Isle de France and was instituted 21 April 1791. In this time Isle de France was nominally organize as adépartement of France, but was with the hands of the colonial assembly without relationship with the metropolis.

The Assembly existed until 1803 when by decree of 26 September 1803 the government of the Mascarenas was appointed to a Captain General.

In the mean time the seal of the Colonial Assembly showed a fasces-and-axe with a cap of liberty upon it, surrounded by a garland of oak.

 

 

Seal of the Colonial Assembly of Isle the France, dd. 19 May 1801.

Fasces with axe and cap of liberty surrounded by a garland of oak. L.: ASSEMBLEE COLONIALE DE L’ISLE DE FRANCE.

 

In the time of the Colonial Assembly the administration was the task of the Assemblée Administrative. In fact the administration was performed by a committee of four of its members appointed by this Assembly. This committee (Directoire) disappeared in 1803, together with the Colonial Assembly. The seal of the committee showed the title “Isle de France” within a garland of oak.

 

 

Seal of the Administrative Committee dd. 12 Fberuary 1795

The title Isle de France within a garland of oak, L.: DIRECTOIRE DE LA COLONIE.

 

Colonies Orientales

1803 -1810

 

The first seal of Captain Charles Mathieu Isidore, comte Decaen who ruled the island from 1803 until the British conquest in 1810 showed a cock sitting on a fasces per pale, and a trophy of a sword and a halberd in saltire, on the dexter a flag and a banner, two branches of oak and a cornucopia; on the sinister a flag and muskets, a cannon and a pile of six cannonballs. L.: RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE / CAPITAINE GÉNÉRAL. [6]

 

 

Seal of the Captain General of  Isle de France, 1803-1805.

 

The second seal showed the crowned French imperial eagle sitting on a thunderbolt as provided by law of 26 January 1805 (6 Pluviose 13) about the Seal of State. Art. 1.2 of this law reads:

 

2. Le sceau de toutes les autorités portera pour type l’aigle imperial, tel qu’il formera un des cotés du grand sceau de l’Etat; et pour légende, le titre de autorité publique pour laquelle il sera employé.

 

(The seal of all authorities will show the Imperial Eagle, as on one side of the great seal of State, and as a legend the name of the public authority by which it is used).

 

In the case of Isle de France the legend read: COLONIES ORIENTALES / CAPITAINE GENERAL. It should have had the same form as the seal of the Commissaire de Justice on a document of 1807, shown here. [7]

This seal was used until the end of French rule on 3 December 1810.

 

 

The British

1810/’14-1992

 

After the conquest in 1810 and the Treaty of Paris of 1814 a Council of Government was established in 1825.

 

Royal Arms

 

From 1814 until the proclamation of the Republic on 12 March 1992 the coat of arms of the sovereign and head of state of Mauritius was the Royal arms of Britain. This coat of arms can be found for example on British half-crown coins In Mauritius it is the successor of the royal arms of France and the imperial arms of Napoleon Bonaparte.

 

Half dollar, Mauritius 1822

Showing the anchor of the Admiralty and the royal arms of George IV

 

Royal Flag 1968-1992

Showing the Royal Cypher of Queen Elisabeth II

 

The present symbol of the head of state is the national flag charged with a white disc with the national achievement in the middle.

 

Presidential flag 1992-

 

A governors flag was introduced in 1906. It consitsed of the Union Jack charged with a disc whi the achievement of the colony surrouned by a garland:

 

 

A governor generals flag was introduced in 1968:

 

 

The administration of the colony in the mean time used different symbols.

 

At first this was the anchor of the Admiralty which in fact ruled the colony.

 

A seal was sent by Despatch N° 29 of 10 December 1839 but no picture of this seal is available. A coat of arms on the badge of the Governors flag was approved by the Secretary of State by Despatch of 14 December 1869 and it is different from the devices displayed on the seal.

It was:

 

Arms: Quarterly, the first a three-masted ship on waves of the sea, proper; the second Or, three stalks of sugar cane proper; the third Sable a key erect Or; the fourth parted by a fess Argent, the chief Azure, a six-pointed star Argent throwing a bundle of rays over the base Vert.

Motto: STELLA CLAVISQUE MARIS INDICI. (Star and Key of the Indian Ocean).

The first coat of arms was printed, without the motto,

on stamps issued from 1895 until 1905.

 

In the coat of arms the first quarter symbolizes the shipping trade. It is also an homage to the Portuguese discoverers of the island. The second symbolizes the main trade crop of the island.

 

Stalks of sugar cane were also on the first British coinage of the colony, minted in 1822. 50 and 25 sous coins had two stalks of sugar cane on the obverse.

 

 

As this central motif is surrounded by the legend GOUV[ernement] DE MAURICE ET DEP[endances], it may be considered as the first British heraldic symbol for the colony.

 

The two lower quarters symbolize the motto.

 

After the enlargement of the constitution in 1886 to make room for elected representatives an achievement with an improved coat of arms was adopted in 1906.

The coat of arms was improved by replacing the three masted ship by a more heraldic lymphad. The stalks of sugar cane in the second quarter were replaced by palm trees. Also, the tinctures of the quarters were changed into “quarterley Azure and Or” which is also more in agreement with heraldic rules.

As supporters a dodo and a sambur were added:

 

• The dodo (Raphus cucullatus - Raphidæ) was a flightless bird endemic to Mauritius. It stood about a meter tall, weighing about 20 kilograms, living on fruit and nesting on the ground. It was rooted out in a very short time by the Dutch settlers.

• The sambar (Cervus timorensis - Cervidæ) was imported from Java in 1693 (when the stock of dodo was exhausted).

 

The two sugar canes from the symbol on the sous of 1822 were reintroduced on both sides of the shield.

The new achievement was:

 

Arms: Quarterly Azure and Or, in the first quarter a lymphad of the last, in the second three palm-trees eradicated Vert, in the third a key in pale, the wards downwards Gules, and in the last issuant from the base a pile and in chief a mullet Argent.

Supporters: Dexter a dodo per bend sinister embattled Gules and Argent. Sinister a sambur deer per bend embattled Argent and Gules each supporting a sugar cane erect proper.

Motto: STELLA CLAVISQUE MARIS INDICI. (Star and Key of the Indian Ocean).

By Royal Warrant, 25.VII.1906. [8]

 

ð See illustration in the head of this essay.

 

The achievement of 1906 survived all constitutional changes and has remained in use until today.

 

 

 

Armed Forces

 

Coast Guard

 

Mauritius Coast Guard Flag, 1992

 

Police

 

Mauritius Police Force  Badge 1910-1952ca

Mauritius Police Force  Badge 1952ca-1992

 

The present emblem of the police force of Mauritius consists of the letters MPF surrounded by a white garland with the national achievement as a crest. Below is the title “Police MAURITIUS Force” on a white ribbon. This device is on a blue disc. The motto of the MPF is: SALUS POPULI SUPREMA LEX ESTO (The well-being of the people is the supreme law).

 

Mauritius Police sleeve patch

 

Æ see also: http://dijcolorg.free.fr/collection-coiffes/pages/Mauritius.htm

 

 

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© Hubert de Vries 2009-04-11. Updated  2012-10-23

 

 



[1]  Toussaint, Auguste: Sigillographie de l’Isle de Maurice (1721-1810). Port Louis, 1970

[2]  Toussaint op. cit. 1970, fig. 2.

[3]  Toussaint op. cit. Fig. 5.

[4]  Toussaint op. cit. Fig. 8.

[5]  Toussaint op. cit. Fig. 18.

[6]  Toussaint op. cit. Fig.  27, pp. 119-120.

[7]  Toussaint op. cit. Fig. 28.

[8]  Fox-Davies, A.C.: The Book of Public Arms. London, 1915.