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3274 1823

British Virgin Islands Flag

During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.

The arms, granted on 15th November 1960, appear in the center of the British blue ensign. The central figure is St Ursula, the "wise virgin" and namesake of the islands holding a lamp. The other eleven lamps are said to represent the 11000 virgins who were martyred with her during the holy crusades in Europe. Other interpretations have the figure representing the wise virgin and her 12 lamps from the parable in Matthew's gospel.

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