History of Guelphia
Guelphia has been inhabited by humans for less than 500 years, making the history of the islands something of a recent affair.
- 1 Pre-history
- 2 Colonisation
- 3 Philipine era
- 4 Recent times
- 5 See also
- 6 References and notes
The Guelphian archipelago is thought to have been first inhabited by a groups of Polynesian peoples, the Ngati Meru, as late as the mid-16th century. Archaeological, cultural, and DNA evidence points to a migration of Maori from the South Island of New Zealand between 1510 and 1550. It is likely that these peoples were members of the Waitaha tribe (or iwi) who for reasons that have never been discovered, left their home homeland and migrated east to the previously uninhabited archipelago. Likewise, the relationship between these peoples and the Moriori inhabitants of the nearby Chatham Islands has never been fully established. Whilst the Ngati Meru share many of the same customs and traditions with the Moriori, there is no mention in the oral history of either group of inter-tribal contact before 1791.
By the 17th-century the Ngati Meru had established themselves as distinct cultural group, albeit with many similarities to mainland Maori in New Zealand. Indeed for many years they were considered to be a separate iwi, rather than a distinct indigenous peoples and were known as the Guelphian Maori. In the mid-20th-century, recognition of their distinct cultural identity led to their re-categorisation as a separate and distinct cultural group and they have been known by their native name as the Ngati Meru ever since.
In 1773, the isolation of these peoples was broken with the arrival of Captain James Cook on board the HMS Resolution. In September 1769 Cook had narrowly missed Guelphia, having charted the sea to the east, north, and west of the archipelago. For his second voyage, Cook had been charged by the Royal Society in London with charting the extent of the hitherto unknown southern continent, Terra Australis Incognita. Along with Captain Tobias Furneaux on the HMS Adventure, Cook sailed east from New Zealand in June of 1773, and three weeks later struck the south-east coast of the Guelphian archipelago near the modern town of Cook's Landing.
Over the next few weeks, Cook put his considerable map making and navigation skills in to practice, charting the islands and naming some of the more prominent features that he observed on his journey around the archipelago. Having taken the time to chart the islands, Cook deliberated on a name for the archipelago, before settling on the ancient name of the Hanoverian Royal Family before continuing his voyage east towards Tahiti. Neither Cook, nor Furneaux, ever journeyed to the islands again.
Sealers and whalers
There is no clear record of who among the various European adventurers came next to the after Cook departed the archipelago in July 1773. However, it is assumed from archaeological records and the accounts of the Ngati Meru that numerous waves of British, French, and American sealers were the next to arrive on the islands over the coming decades. Indeed, Cook’s description of massive New Zealand Fur Seal populations in his journal is likely to have drawn many to the archipelago. By 1820, seal populations had crashed to around 10% of their pre-European numbers.
Whilst the sealers were predominantly transient inhabitants, there was some attempt at colonisation before the 1830s. However hostility from the Ngati Meru, and the general unpreparedness for the harshness of the Guelphian environment, meant that most attempts at early colonisation failed outright. It is thought that by 1830, the European population of the islands numbered less than 100, with the largest settlement being the whaling station of Corfe Harbour.
Despite a small European presence, the effect on the Ngati Meru was dramatic. Disease and conflict caused the number of native inhabitants to crash over the coming decades. By 1830, the population, which might have been as high as 25,000 in 1773, had fallen to just 1,000. On many levels, Ngati Meru culture has never recovered from this trauma, and much of the unique mythology and language of the indigenous peoples has been lost permanently to history.
The Guelphia Company
The isolated and under-populated nature of the archipelago led to several English social reformers to look at Guelphia as a possible location for a broad ranging social experiment. The rapid pace of industrialisation throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century had transformed Britain from an agricultural economy to one built on the back of mills and factories. The breathtaking speed of the changes wrought upon society concerned a number of leading social thinkers of the time, and led to reactionary movements such as the romantic movement in literature and the arts as characterised by the writings of Wordsworth and Coleridge.
In 1834 the Guelphia Company was formed by way of Letters Patent issued by William IV after the passage of the Guelphia Act through the British Parliament. The company exploited the connexions of its leading benefactors to secure full control of the archipelago on behalf of the Crown. In return for taking control of the islands on behalf of British interests, the company would be entitled to manage the exclusive colonisation of the archipelago and would be given full control over Guelphia's domestic affairs.
From the beginning, the Company was headed by those who held a conservative world view. Dissatisfied with previous and ongoing organised colonisation attempts in Australia and New Zealand, the Guelphia Company sought to reproduce a pre-industrial English society in the South Seas. The key emphasis was on a nation that would be built on an agricultural economy, and a solid moral ethos of church, monarchy, and family. Concerted attempts were made to ensure that people from all classes of society were given an opportunity for a new life in the antipodes, something that other settlement schemes largely failed to do.
Shaping the colony
There were two crucial decisions taken by the board of the company that ensured this ideal was realised. The first was to invite members of the aristocracy to invest by money and manpower in to the company. The Company encouraged the younger sons of peers, who would be otherwise unlikely to benefit by remaining in England, to settle in the archipelago. The company also added a number of sweeteners to entice aristocratic investors; with a promise of new source of income in the form of rich agricultural lands, and additional social status with the granting of new titles of nobility. Around 30 aristocratic families took up the offer, and today continue to form the bulwark of the Guelphian peerage and upper classes generally.
At the other end of the social spectrum, the Guelphia Act granted the Company the right to take a percentage of convicts sentenced to penal transportation and send them to the archipelago as an indentured labour force. Indeed, penal transportation would form the backbone of the country's working classes throughout much of the nineteenth century, and was only ended when public opinion turned against the continued use of indentured labour. The convict labour force was unique from the Australian experience in that almost none of those transported were Irish or Roman Catholic. The company was at pains to establish a new society that was overwhelmingly English and Protestant in nature. Indeed, anti-Catholicism would shape Guelphian society for much of the next century.
The aristocratic nature of the company board, and the expectation that Guelphia would be allowed some latitude to act with a degree of independence from the British, meant that it was decided very early on that the country would constitute itself with a monarchical system of government.
British interests were to be preserved and represented by the appointment of a Resident Commissioner, who would act as the chief minister to the Sovereign, and retain full control over all matters relating to defence and foreign affairs. Control over all domestic matters were vested in the Parliament and the various domestic portfolios of the Cabinet.
This action essentially established the islands as a protectorate of Britain, however unlike other protectorates, Guelphia would be overwhelmingly populated by Europeans.
Organised settlement of Guelphia commenced in February 1835, with the first shipment of convicts sent to the islands. This convict labour force was charged with establishing Port Frederick as the first settlement and capital of nascent colony. Over the next year, the convicts constructed a port, laid down streets, built houses, shops, churches, and granaries. A small number of trusted convicts were tasked with the establishment of the first farms outside the town limits, establishing farming communities at Ossulstone and Maridale. The early settlement was one where most of the luxuries of nineteenth century life were altogether lacking. However, there was never a shortage of food or basic provisions, and the early colony was soon thriving.
The board of directors of the Guelphia Company arrived in Port Frederick on 18 February 1836, and having set foot on the archipelago, were immediately transformed into the Executive Council. The first action of the Council was to elect the former chairman of the company board of directors, Alexander Crowther as the first monarch of Guelphia. Joining the Council was the first British Resident Commissioner, Sir George Wheeler. In addition to his role as chief minister to the sovereign, Wheeler oversaw the transformation of the Guelphia Company’s militia force into the Guelphian Guard, which remained under his command, and the Royal Guelphian Constabulary, which would be transferred to domestic control on 1 January 1845.
The year of 1836 saw most of the middle and upper class members of the Company arrive in Guelphia. All resident shareholders in the Company became members of the Senate once they landed in Port Frederick. The Senate would remain a fully appointed body until it was reformed in 1968. Migration would continue for much of the nineteenth century, initially with anyone in England with the sufficient funds to purchase the £100 subscription entitled to a ¼ acre (1,012 sq m) town block, and 100 acres (40.47 ha) of farmland. Those who could pay £500 for a special subscription received the same land entitlement, and also received free passage to Guelphia and automatic appointment to the Senate.
The subscription system proved to be a victim of its own success, and was abolished by the Senate in March 1850 once the availability of good farmland became an issue. Newer settler had complained that the lands granted to them were marginal at best, and could not be made a profitable concern. Faced with a crisis, the Senate opted to end the scheme rather than tarnish the good name of the kingdom as a place where settlers were given marginal and unprofitable farm land.
Despite the end of land incentives, migration from the middle classes continued unabated throughout the 1850s, with thousands taking the opportunity for a new life, or to escape the dire poverty and grime of industrial Britain.
Expansion of the colony
The late 1830s and early 1840s saw the rapid expansion in urban development across the islands, with new towns surveyed and laid down at Regentsmere (1837), Pasquale (1838), Williamsdene (1839), Hillsborough (1840), Langford (1842), Shepton (1843), Earnestvale (1845), and Swanbrook (1846).
With the abolition of subscription system in 1850, Senate membership was effectively capped at a maximum 75 members, with vacancies inheritable by the eldest son of the incumbent. As with the British House of Lords, attendance at every Senate debate was not compulsory, with senators expected only to participate in debates to which they had an interest or some form of expert knowledge. Despite the noble intentions of many senators, pressure soon began to mount for a second chamber to better represent the middle and lower classes in the Parliament. After years of lobbying and pressure, the House of Assembly was formed by an amendment to the Constitution, which passed the Senate in 1854. The first elections to the Assembly took place in April of same year, and was overwhelmingly dominated by conservatives.
The "Russian threat"
The 1850s saw the French and British empires engage with the Russians over the "Eastern Question". In 1854 Guelphia found itself drawn into the conflict, with Guelphian units deployed to protect British assets in India and Singapore. With the fear of Russian invasion considered to be a very real (albeit remote) possibility, the Resident Commissioner, Sir Edward Brinkmann, took the decision that Guelphia should assume control over all land military forces. Maritime defence would remain the purview of the British, with the Royal Navy providing defence on the high seas, and local maritime detachments of Guelphians placed under the command of the Resident Commissioner.
The placing of military units under local command for the first time led to an increase in recruitment, driven mostly by patriotic fervour and a determination on the part of many to "do their bit" for the kingdom. By the time the Crimean War ended in 1856, Guelphia was able to boast a small, but well equipped fighting force that would be more than capable of defending the archipelago in the event of an invasion. This transfer of power had a two-found impact on Guelphia. First, it led to the removal of all British land forces from the islands at the end of 1858. Second, the transfer led the demands for more sovereignty to be shifted to the Guelphian government, and can be seen as the spark for the independence movement that took root in the 1860s.
A new capital
The war also led to a rethink of the location of Guelphia’s political institutions. The vulnerability of Port Frederick to a foreign attack led the Parliament to vote on a relocation to a greenfield site on the Central Plateau, many hundreds of miles from the coast. A site was chosen between Hillsborough and Shepton in the county of Centralia, with Kingsbury settled upon as the name for the new city named after a competition to decide on an appropriate name for the new seat of government was held.
Construction of the city, which drew some inspiration in its design from Washington, D.C., commenced in 1858 and took some 10 years before it was completed to the extent that would allow Parliament and the Royal Court to relocate. The new city featured spacious avenues, and increased room for the various departments of the government to do their business. Civil projects, such as the cathedral, military barracks, various museums and galleries, railway station, and university were undertaken by subscription drives throughout the last decades of the nineteenth century.
The death of Alexander I in 1867 coincided with the transition of leadership of the kingdom from the first settlers to the first native born Guelphians. The conservative faction remained dominant in both houses of parliament, but for the first time, a liberal faction began to emerge as a serious political force. In the 1868 general election, the liberals won 34% of the popular vote, but the first-past-the-post electoral system saw them victorious in just 15 electoral districts of the 59 seat Parliament.
Throughout the mid-1800s, pressure had been steadily increasing from free settlers to end the practice of penal transportation, which by the 1870s was seen less as source of free labour and increasingly perceived as doing little more than increasing the number of undesirable characters who did not subscribe the national identity. Critics also pointed out that continuing transportation at a time when there was plenty of labour on hand from freed convicts and their descendants was an expensive folly which the government could ill afford, and would only increase the popularity of socialism and trade unions at the expense of national stability.
The 1880 general election saw the first liberal premier in Bernard Clifton elected to office. The new government soon went about implementing a radical platform of social and economic reform to Guelphia. One of the first actions of the new government was to see that transportation would be finally brought to end. Guelphia’s discontinuation of this practice came some 12 years after the last of the Australian colonies had abolished transportation. The arrival of the ship La Hogue in December 1880 marked the final passage of convicts from Britain to the antipodes.
The unique political character of Guelphia as a white protectorate would endure from 1836 until 1907, however from the 1860s there were calls for the country to take full control of her affairs. Even at the outset of settlement, it had been recognised that Guelphia would be a unique entity within the British Empire, and could therefore be expected to seek a degree of independence as time went by. Guelphia's domestic institutions had proved themselves over the previous decades when the power to control policing and the army had been devolved to local control. In 1865, the then Resident Commissioner, Sir John Kittler, gave his tacit support to the government to pursue a further devolution of powers from the Colonial Office in London.
However, the British were unwilling to consider any change to Guelphia’s constitutional status. The Colonial Office felt that the islands provided strategic and economic benefits that might be lost if the kingdom was given full control of its affairs. Furthermore, with a population of just 200,000, the British believed that the country could not yet possess sufficient economic base to compete on the world stage. Between 1865 and 1900, there were a further four attempts launched by successive Guelphian governments to bring about change in the constitutional arrangements of the kingdom. None ever progressed beyond a proposal stage.
In the aftermath of the South African War, the British finally recognised that Guelphia had earned the right to go her own way. Guelphian troops had fought gallantly in South Africa, and the British were satisfied that the kingdom would remain a staunch ally even without the presence of a Resident Commissioner ensuring British interests or adequately taken into account. The British however, did not believe that Guelphian independence could be granted unconditionally. Guelphia, in the eyes of the British, remained something of a static provincial backwater, given to the bouts of reactionary politics. The country continued to operate under the auspices of the Guelphia Act, meaning that the political institutions of the country were much the same as they had been in 1854, which the British felt had come to the end of it's useful life. Guelphia also continued to vigorously enforce anti-Catholic legislation, which forbade the Roman Catholic Church from erecting a diocesan structure or having bishops. The Church of Rome was also forbidden from operating it's own schools or hospitals. To the British, such measures had long since ceased to be reasonable in a modern society.
The conditions for the reform and the demand for their implementation were passed to the Guelphians in late 1905 in form a memo from Alexander Veivers, the Resident Commissioner, to the Sovereign. The Veivers Memo, as it came to be known, placed four demands on the Guelphians before independence would be granted. These demands were a mutual assistance treaty with Britain, a new constitution, a fairer electoral system, and the removal of all anti-Catholic legislation. Initially, the Guelphian reaction to these demands was tepid at best. The constitutional arrangements suited the Guelphians well, and they were loathe to change them for a system of government they saw as a 'modish fad' (i.e. democracy). The power of the Anglican Church was also sufficient to initially resist any attempts to offer relief to the 7,000 or so Roman Catholics that lived in Guelphia.
Independence at last
However, as the months went by, the Guelphians came to see that the required changes were unlikely to cause any significant detriment to their government and society. A new constitution was drawn up by a Constitutional Convention, and Parliament enacted legislation to reform the electoral system and provide relief for Roman Catholics. By May 1907, these measures were in place, and Veivers telegraphed the Colonial Office in London his blessing that independence be granted. Having made good on British requests to reorganise her affairs, Guelphia was granted independence on 1 October 1907 to delirious celebrations in Kingsbury. Independence for the archipelago came alongside the granting of Dominion status to New Zealand and Newfoundland, and marked a recognition that the kingdom was a partner in maintaining and defending the British way of life.
As promised, independence saw the office of Resident Commissioner abolished, and replaced with the ambassadorial office of High Commissioner. In theory, Britain now passed from being a colonial master to an equal partner and ally. In reality, Guelphia remained heavily dependant on the United Kingdom for her economic prosperity and security. In return, the British used this dependence to their advantage, and used it to extract concessions at regular intervals over the next fifty years. The Mutual Assistance Treaty was often abused or ignored outright by the British, with the Guelphians finding themselves in no position to argue their point of view. It took until 1956, and the aftermath of the catastrophic Suez Crisis, for Guelphia to be able to assert herself as an equal partner.
Guelphia and the world at war
First World War
While Guelphia is now assumed full control over her affairs, a mutual assistance treaty with the British meant it was inevitable that the country would be drawn in to the First World War when it broke out in August 1914. Thousands of Guelphian men enlisted to fight in a conflict that was expected to last only a few months at worst.
Although they were not grouped with Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), the Guelphian Army often fought in sectors alongside it’s antipodean neighbours. Despite Guelphia suffering devastating casualties first at Gallipoli in 1915, and from 1916 on the Western front, the majority of the Guelphian population remained enthusiastic supporters of the war and the alliance with Britain.
Second World War
This view persisted throughout the 1920s and 30s, and meant that in 1939, Guelphia found itself at war again. The Guelphian Expeditionary Force (GEF) was raised in October 1939, and sailed for Egypt in early 1940, with the intention of joining the Western Front in France. However, the fall of France, coupled with the entry of Italy in to the war in June 1940 led to Guelphian forces being redeployed to the Horn of Africa to expel fascist forces from the region. The East African Campaign saw Guelphia commit two initial divisions to the campaign in 1940, before they were joined by a third division sent from home later on in the campaign. The fighting in Abyssinia and Somaliland continued until November 1941 with the capture of Gondar in the Abyssinian highlands. Guelphian casualties for the campaign were not significant, with 45 men killed in action over the 18 month campaign.
Coinciding with the East African Campaign, Allied forces were involved in the expulsion of pro-Axis forces from Iraq throughout much of 1941. A single Guelphian battalion was deployed from home to Iraq to assist British efforts in the region until the fall of Baghdad in late May. From Iraq, the battalion was then sent to reinforce Guelphia's contribution in East Africa, having first rested and retrained in Aden. Guelphian casualties for the Anglo-Iraqi War numbered just 94, including 2 killed in action.
The entry of Japan in to the war in December 1941 changed Guelphia's participation in the war significantly. The sudden closeness of the enemy, coupled with the fiasco of the fall of Singapore in February 1942, led to a rapid increase in public alarm. Guelphian forces were recalled from Africa beginning in January 1942 where they had been training to join the fight against Rommel in the Western Desert. From Egypt, the GEF was sent India to repel the Japanese invasion of the subcontinent from Burma. The Burma Campaign was Guelphia's largest contribution to the war effort, with a total of four divisions (~40,000 men) fighting from January 1942 until July 1945. The Burma Campaign was the bloodiest action of the war for Guelphia, with 1,500 wounded and 144 killed in the fighting. The most notable casualty was Prince David, Lord High Steward, who was killed by Japanese shellfire at Kohima on the 8 April 1944. Aside from Burma, additional forces from Guelphia were also sent to defend Fiji and Samoa in January 1942, including much of small Guelphia's air force, and navy who were not already committed to the defence of the Guelphian archipelago.
After the liberation of Burma, Guelphia recalled her forces and began the process of demobilisation. New recruits raised were intended to participate in the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands in 1945-46, but the surrender of Japan in August 1945 made this redundant. The last Guelphian forces arrived home in September and were demobilised by December, coinciding with the dissolution of the GEF.
The post-war period was one of steady growth and modernisation.
Apart from participation in the Korean war between 1950 and 1953, Guelphia has remained out of most of the major post-war conflicts. Guelphia did give aid and support during the Malayan Emergency. Units from the Guelphian Army were placed on standby in the late 1955 in order to support Commonwealth troops in suppressing Communist forces in Malaya, but none were ever deployed in to active service. Likewise, Guelphia maintained it's forces on standby throughout the 1960s in response to the conflict in Vietnam, but refused to be drawn in to the conflict. Both these conflicts led to Guelphia maintaining an army much larger than a country of it's size would ordinarily maintain in peacetime. The Paris Accords in 1973, coupled with the Oil Shock, finally convinced the government to stand down it's forces and implement a reduction in military spending.
Guelphia's inexorable march toward 'modernisation' was not straight forward, with 'progress' sometimes thwarted by the will of the people. In 1965, the Braddock government proposed the implementation of a decimal currency and metric weights and measures to bring the kingdom in line with much of the rest of the world, which was slowly going through similar processes at the same time. A petition to withhold assent on both bills was successfully carried and a plebiscite to override the Parliament was also easily carried. To this day, Guelphia remains the only country to still use the £.s.d system of currency, and alongside Burma and the United States, still uses imperial (or customary) units of weight and measurement.
The general isolation of Guelphia began to change in 2012, with the election of the Jones government. Jones pursued closer relations with a number of small and minor states across the world, leading to Guelphia's accession to the Forum for International Cooperation and Trade in May 2013.
References and notes
- Including reinforcements for casualties, Guelphia's contribution in Burma total 62,398 men.