Port Royal is a village located at the end of the Palisadoes at the mouth of the Kingston Harbour, in southeastern Jamaica. Founded in 1518, it was once the largest city in the Caribbean, functioning as the centre of shipping and commerce in the Caribbean Sea by the latter half of the 17th century. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692, which had an accompanying tsunami and damage that led widespread fires. Severe hurricanes have regularly damaged it. Another severe earthquake occurred in 1907.
Port Royal was once home to privateers encouraged to nip at Habsburg Spain's empire when smaller European powers dared not directly make war on Spain. As a port city, it was notorious for its gaudy displays of wealth and loose morals. It was a popular homeport for the English and Dutch-sponsored privateers to spend their treasure during the 17th century. When those governments abandoned the practice of issuing letters of marque to privateers against the Spanish treasure fleets and possessions in the later 16th century, many of the crews turned pirate. They continued to use the city as their main base during the 17th century. Pirates from around the world congregated at Port Royal, coming from waters as far away as Madagascar.
After the 1692 disaster, Port Royal's commercial role was steadily taken over by the town (and later, city) of nearby Kingston. Plans were developed in 1999 to redevelop the small fishing town as a heritage tourism destination to served by cruise ships. It could capitalize on its unique heritage, with archaeological findings from pre-colonial and privateering years as the basis of possible attractions.
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