Lanzarote History

Although The island have only been formally chronicled in the annals of history since the 19th century the islands have been known of since antiquity, for the ancients Greeks knew of the Islands' existence and named them "Hesperides". The islands' ancient inhabotants named Lanzarote Tite-Roy-Gatra (Rose-Coloured Hill). Another given name was once Purpuraria, possibly because if the purple orchilla lichen, a natural colourant, which proleferated in the landscape. Lanzarote's present-day name however is accredited to Genoese navigator, Lancelotto Malocello who re-discovered the Archipelago in 1312.

At the time of Marcello´s arrival a king, Zonzamas, ruled the island. The name is still borne by the ruins of his palace which stand on a plateau near San Bartolome, considered one of the most important archeological sites in the Canary Islands. The ancient inhabitants of Lanzarote are generally known as "guanches" a name given originally to the native population of Tenerife but used throughout the Canary Islands. The term "Guanche" is also used in reference to the language spoken by the indigenous population. It is a dialect which has all but disappeared today and only a few words denoting place names and tools remain. Although the ancient inhabitants were still living in the stone-age when the conquerors arrived, they were impressed by the physical appearance, customs and virtues on the natives. King Zonzamas was succeeded by Ico, his daughter, and her consort, Guanarteme. They in turn were followed by their son Gaurdafia who was the ruler at the time of the Spanish colonisers led by Juan De Bethencourt in 1402.The origin of the Guanche people is not absolutely certain; the most accepted theory dictates that they originate from the north-east African continent which lies only 100 km away from the Canaries.

Jena de BethencourtThe conquest of Lanzarote led by Bethencourt began in earnest in 1402. Bethencourt, a Norman, set out for the Canary Islands on behalf of the Castile. The claim of Spain over the Archipelago had been recognised since the days of Alfonso XI. The king Guardafia showed no signs of resistance and in fact along with the islanders welcomed the Norman Knight. Bethencourt promised to protect the island against pirates and in return was promised a peaceful submission of the island and Guardafia , but as a friend and not a subject. Following such a welcome Juan De Bethencourt proceeded to build Rubicon castle, close to his landing spot, with the intention of defending the island. He then left for Spain to swear allegiance to Henry III.

Bethencourt returned after an absence of two years and was faced with the task of subduing the islanders who had always treated him as their friend. They finally surrendered on 27 February 1404 and on that day their king Guardafia was baptised and christened Luis. Bethencourt was granted the title of king of the Canary Islands by pope Innocent VII. And in 1425 died in Normandy.

Bethencuort was succeeded by his nephew Maciot who later turned out to be a tyrant. He established Teguise as the capital and seat of governor. He was suspected of trying to sell the canaries to the Portuguese. The Portuguese had also laid claim to the islands, but at arbitration the pope decided in favour of the Castile. Eventually Maciot was forced to sign an agreement abdicating his rights over Lanzarote and the other islands for all time.

The house of Diego de Herrera and Ines Peraza and their descendants ruled the island over the following decades and the first ruler to be granted the title Count of Lanzarote was Agustin de Herrera y Rojas. He was famous for his exploits in seeing off pirates of many nationalities. He died in Teguise in 1598 and the island remained under a feudal system , governed by his successors until 1812.

The constitution of Cadiz of 1812 abolished the feudal system and the Canaries became a province of Spain with Santa Cruz, Tenerife as the capital. In 1852 the law of free ports granted the islands immunity from customs and excise duties.

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