Pirate Den: Port Royal
The Wickedest City
Port Royal is a coastal town located in Jamaica. As the one of the largest cities in 17th and 18th centuries, in the Caribbean colonies, with excellent geographic position, the city of Port Royal had large influence.
In 1603, King Henry IV of France gave Pierre Dugua de Mons large parcel on Jamaica to establish a French colony. First expedition of settlers arrived in 1604. They selected a site for settlement on St. Croix Island and started building houses. First winter was windy and cold. Colonists were unprepared and almost half of them died from cold and scurvy. In spring of 1605, they selected a new site few miles away and named it Port Royal.
There were many legal problems with a trade monopoly and the city exchanged authorities several time during the 16th and 17th century. However, the city itself continued to grow rapidly. In the middle of 17th century, the town of Port Royal had more than 5000 inhabitants.
Between 1655 and 1680, during the war with Spain, the city of Port Royal, became a famous buccaneer hideout. With en excellent strategic position, many buccaneers used Port Royal, as a main base for their operations. Soon, from a peaceful city, Port Royal transformed into a criminal nest. There were hundreds of brothels and taverns. People called Port Royal: "the richest and wickedest city in the world". From 1670, Port Royal’s influence became even larger. The legality of trade of slaves, sugar and plundered goods made city of Port Royal mercantile center of the Caribbean region.
In the morning of June 7, 1692, a strong earthquake destroyed almost entire city. In just a few minutes, 33 acres of the city disappeared beneath the sea. More than 3000 people lost their lives in this tragedy. The people called it ‘God's punishment on this wicked city'. The earthquake itself was not that strong, but the city was built on a sandpit and without a proper foundation, the entire streets just slipped into the sea.
After the earthquake, Kingston became the new trading center and the most influential city of Jamaica.
There were many attempts to rebuild the city of Port Royal. However, in the end, some kind of catastrophe always occurred. In 1704, it was burned in a fire, during the 18th and 19th centuries it was hit many times by hurricanes, and in 1907, the second devastating earthquake destroyed practically whole city.
Today, Port Royal is the small town with just over 2000 souls. It does not have neither political nor commercial influence. However, the Jamaican government is trying to develop this city and make tourist attraction of it. The city with this kind of history certainly deserves that.