When Christopher Columbus first set eyes on these islands, he named it Santa Ursula y las Once Mil VÃrgenes or Saint Ursula and her 11,000 Virgins. He named it after the legend of Saint Ursula, who set sail from England with 11,000 virgin handmaidens to join her future husband, Governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica. The name was later shortened to Las VÃrgenes (The Virgins).
The Virgin Islands archipelago is divided into two: The British and the US virgin islands. The British Virgin Islands is comprised of the islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke, along with over fifty other smaller islands and cays.
While Christopher Columbus is the first European who’ve seen the islands, it was the Arawak Indians from South America who were the first settlers in the island. They were later replaced by the Caribs, a tribe from the islands of the Lesser Antilles.
The islands remained untouched for several years, until pirates and privateers discovered its shoals and coves in the 17th and 18th century. A couple of the islands were name after some of the legendary characters (Norman, Jost Van Dyke and Great and Little Thatch).
The first European settlers came in the 16th century. It was the Dutch who established a permanent settlement in Tortola, the one of the main islands. However, in 1672, just 24 years after the first Dutch established a settlement, the British were able to take control of the island from the Dutch. Later on, they annexed Aneganda and Virgin Gorda.
The British Virgin Islands is an autonomous territory, but is still considered as an Overseas Territory of the British throne. Queen Elizabeth stands as Head of State.