Port Royal

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PORT ROYAL. Port Royal, Nova Scotia, at the site of present-day Annapolis Royal on the southeastern shore of the Annapolis Basin, was variously under the control of France and England throughout the seventeenth century. Pierre du Guast established the earliest settlement of Port Royal in 1605. Though alternately destroyed or taken by the British over the course of the seventeenth century, Port Royal remained the most important French outpost in Acadia, and became the seat of French government there in 1684. The town's strategic location made it desirable as a launch site for French attacks on British colonial soil. After several battles during which the region changed hands, Acadia was ceded to the British in the Treaty of Utrecht, and Port Royal was renamed Annapolis Royal. Once the British designated Halifax as the seat of their government in Acadia in 1749, Annapolis Royal lost both its strategic and governmental importance.

Port Royal enjoyed a renewed prominence in the eighteenth century, as a destination for some of the thousands of Loyalists who fled the United States in the wake of the American Revolution. Among those who settled in Nova Scotia were enslaved Africans who fought in the service of the British on the promise that they would gain their freedom. Thousands of freed slaves who were promised farms by the British journeyed north, only to confront bitter cold and near starvation. On receiving a petition describing the plight of the 102 freed black families in Annapolis Royal and 100 families in New Brunswick, the British Secretary of State ordered that, if the petition proved true, the province must either finally compensate the families or send them to Sierra Leone. In January of 1792, more than one thousand black Loyalists departed Nova Scotia, bound for Sierra Leone.


Hodges, Graham Russell. The Black Loyalist Directory: African Americans in Exile after the American Revolution. New York: Garland, 1996.

Quarles, Benjamin. The Negro in the American Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961.

Robert E.Moody

Leslie J.Lindenauer

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Port Royal, former coastal city and port, S Jamaica. Situated on a deepwater harbor on the Caribbean shipping lanes between Spain and Panama, a settlement was established in the 1th cent. by Spain at the end of a 10-mi (16-km) sand spit. It was captured in 1655 by the English, who built a fort that came to be surrounded by hundreds of houses, shops, and warehouses. Privateers and buccaneers, commissioned by the English to raid Spanish and other shipping and settlements, used Port Royal as a center of operations; they defended the city and shared their booty with the Crown and the city residents. Among the most famous pirates who called the city home was Sir Henry Morgan. By the 1660s Port Royal was known as a rich, dangerous, sin-ridden, wide-open city. As the it prospered, the trade in slaves, sugar, and raw materials also became importantce. Port Royal was the largest English city in the New World, with some 8,000 inhabitants, when in 1692 a massive earthquake struck the city, sinking much of beneath the sea. A small town remains on the site.

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Port Royal: see Annapolis Royal, N.S., Canada.