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The Stone of Possession | 31 October 2020

The Stone of Possession

For so many centuries, the Seychelles Islands remained virtually unknown, hidden in the expanse of the Indian Ocean by the secret of their isolation. Adventurous navigators and intrepid explorers might have been lured to her shores to avail themselves of water from her streams, of her tortoises for food and of her precious hardwood timber to repair their mast.

On January 19, 1609, the islands of the Seychelles were reached by an English expedition; the mariners spent ten days here. It was the first recorded landing on Mahé. One of the mariners, John Jourdain, wrote in his diary that “you cannot discerne that ever any people had been there before us”.

On November 21, 1742, after more than three months at sea, a French captain from Ile de France named Lazare Picault (1700-1748) anchored his boat ‘Elizabeth’ off a south-west beach of the largest island of the archipelago and named it Mahé, in honour of Bertrand Jean François Mahé de la Bourdonais, (1699-1753) the Governor-General of Ile de France at that time.

A decade passed until November 1, 1756 when Captain Nicholas Morphey (1729-1774) arrived on ‘Le Cerf’, a frigate of the Compagnie des Indes, accompanied by ‘Saint-Benoit’, and claimed the Seychelles Islands for France by placing a Stone of Possession on a rock overlooking Port Victoria.

This large stone measuring 57cm by 57cm carved with Arms of France and the name Isle de Sechelles signified that France had taken pre-emptive possession of the islands.

Today, this oldest object in the history of Seychelles can be seen at the National Museum of History.

 

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