The Sun Never Sets

We usually think of Florida’s colonial days as a Spanish affair, but for two decades we were under the British crown
Shutterstock 1721379976
Built just 25 years after the British Empire relinquished Florida back to Spain, St. Augustine’s Old City Gates represent Florida’s colonial era. They stand just yards from Castillo de San Marcos and welcome visitors to the historic capital of British East Florida.

 

The year is 1763. Above the coquina walls of the diamond-shaped fortress, a red-and-white flag representing the king of Spain has been flying; now that flag is lowered, replaced by the British Union Jack. In the courtyard, the men of the British First Regiment, newly arrived from their voyage aboard the HMS Renown, stand at attention. The cannons atop the battlements begin firing, and the acrid smell of gunpowder fills the air. This is not a defense against an enemy squadron, for the occasion is peaceful. Instead, the cannon fire is a thunderous salute marking the change of flags. Welcome to the newest colony of the vast British Empire. Welcome to British East Florida.

The idea of Florida as a British colony may sound like something from an alternate history. After all, Florida was not one of the 13 American Colonies; when they were established, Florida was under Spanish dominion. Nevertheless, there was a time when Florida was British. In the public imagination, it is perhaps the least-known period of our state’s history. 

The British colonial era in Florida was admittedly short-lived — only about 20 years — but it was a colorful and fascinating time. And while the capital of British East Florida was St. Augustine, the Vero Beach area was part of the land speculation that went on during the period, as investors sought to make their fortunes.

The British colonial era in Florida began with an ending: the conclusion of the French and Indian War by the Treaty of Paris of 1763. This treaty redrew the map of North America.

Categories: Features, Where & When