Gardiners Island

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Gardiners Island
Gardiner banner.png
Motto: Gardiner always comes out on top.
Area: 3,300 acres
Population: 70
Establishment: 1639
Language: English
Currency: NAL pound
Lord of the Manor: David Lion George Allen-Gardiner
Reeve: Julia Cliff

Gardiners Island is a very odd little piece of the North American League. It is a sui generis entity, neither a province nor a territory in the formal sense, though for many practical purposes it is treated like an outlying island of Connecticut. A privately owned island in Gardiners Bay, the water between Long Island's two eastern arms, it has quite literally slipped through the cracks for most of its history.


The early Gardiners

Lion Gardiner was one of the founders of Connecticut colony, and he cuts a dashing figure in the early history of that province. Fierce in battle, kind and judicious in peace even to former foes, he seemed to revive the long-lost chivalric ideal of England's past. He has been an ideal founder figure for his descendants, the Lords Gardiner. Nearly all details of his life are sketchy, including his place of origin. He was English, that much is certain, and very proud of it. But some accounts place him in Yorkshire, others in Essex. The longstanding family tradition that he was a Wessishman seems to be based on nothing more than the fact that he named his island Wight, a fact that certainly doesn't prove anything.

He was also a Protestant and a Parliamentarian, and may have supported the English Commonwealth. But while King Charles I reigned, Lion was very loyal to him. He fought wars in Holland, where he married. The expertise that he gained there led the original settlers of Connecticut to hire him in the New World to build fortifications. He strongly opposed war against the Pequot tribe, one of the bloodiest in New England's history, but when the war broke out he helped lead Newcomer troops.

Shortly after the war, in 1639, Lion Gardiner took his pay and purchased the island of Manchonake from a group of Montaukett. Naming it after the Isle of Wight, Gardiner ruled it as his private fiefdom. His son David obtained a grant from King Charles naming him proprietor of a new colony. The King gave David the right to administer the island's government "according to God and the King... without giving any account thereof to any one whomsoever." This charter, which foreshadowed the Solemn League and Covenant (though there is no evidence of any direct influence) remains in effect today. The Montaukett were allowed to stay as tenants, and it is believed that some of the island's oldest Tenant families are descended from them.

David's grant entitled him to style himself "Lord of the Isle of Wight". Under Lion, David, the third proprietor, John, and their immediate desendants, the Gardiner family extended their holdings into a great real-estate empire with interests on Long Island, mainland New Netherland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Throughout the 18th century the Gardiners were at the pinnacle of New England gentry society.

The Island, however, remained the Gardiners' stronghold, where they could live unhindered by any other colonial government. Their role was sometimes challeneged but never revoked as Long Island changed hands, passing from England to Holland to Kemr.


The Gardiners, under Lord John Lion, attempted to remain neutral during the difficulties over taxes and religion of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. For a while he hoped that the island could continue to go more-or-less unnoticed by the surrounding provinces, but other members of the family feared that Castreleon New in particular, once free of direct rule from Kemr, would simply annex the fiefdom.

This possibility horrified the Gardiners, since besides costing them their autonomy, annexation would make them subjects of the Cambrian crown. John Lion composed a statement, "A Declaration Concerning North America", which stated that he wished to cooperate with the future NAL and comply with "such Laws and Customs that may be enacted concerning the entire Continent". At the same time, the Declaration acknowledged the sovereignty of King Henry VII of England and affirmed the island's original charter. The language was politically murky, but it eventually allowed for the sensible solution of allowing the League to treat Gardiners as just about its own territory, but leaving the family to govern it outside the boundaries of the provinces.

John Lion Gardiner sailed to Philadelphia himself and spoke with the Connecticut delegation. They negotiated a Treaty of Protection between the province and Gardiners Island in which Connecticut pledged to guarantee the independence of the island in exchange for an annual payment. The matter of the island was trivial compared with the weighty business of creating the Solemn League itself, so it was several weeks before Mr. Sherman of Connecticut read Lord John's Declaration to the rest of the delegates, adding that his province was committed to "honoring the island's charter as granted by His Majesty". The delegates quickly voted to honor the Declaration and moved on to other matters, but the move successfully staved off any attempts the New Castreleonians might have made to take over the island.

The Nineteenth Century

As the years progressed, Connecticut began to provide more services to the island: for example, since 1810 a Connecticut postmaster has handled Royal Post Service business for Gardiners Island. Meanwhile the family prevented it from becoming too modernized. Henry Lion I turned down a number of requests to immigrate to the island and prevented it from becoming an early American tax haven. Henry incidentally obtained a ruling from the English College of Arms that his rank should be considered equivalent to a Baron, allowing him to be styled "Henry Lion, Lord Gardiner" instead of merely "Lord and Proprietor of the Isle".

During the reign of Henry Lion I and his son, Henry Lion II, the family came under pressure to reform their administration. Nobody lived there except for about 50 tenants, and those were a mix of household servants, employees on the lord's fields and fishing fleet, and a few independent farmers and fishermen who rented from the family. None of the tenants had ever agitated for anything like a representative government, but some officials in Connecticut criticized the "island of absolutism in the free seas of America". In 1853 Henry Lion II acquiesced and authorized his tenants to meet as a body and have authority to enact some local laws and settle disputes. The elective official was titled Reeve in true manorial fashion. The first Reeve, John Mac Gearailt, took office in February 1855.

Lord Henry Lion II also did much to change the feel of the island. A romantic and lover of things medieval, Henry saw to it that his lordship be enhanced with a suitible amount of feudal flair. When Mac Gearailt was elected reeve, Henry issued him his first grant of arms. Shortly after, he created the office of Manorial Herald. In 1865 he did what all good sovereign princes did and created a chivalric order, the Order of Manchonake. At first given to people with family or other connections to the Gardiners, the Order was bestowed on outgoing General Moderator Abram Lincoln in 1873, of whom Lord Henry was a great admirer.

The Crisis of 1875, which saw violence spreading throughout the NAL and very nearly drove the League to civil war, centered on questions of what the NAL was, and what its relationship to the British kingdoms ought to be. Henry II was determined to stay out of that debate, and he steered island policy down a course of absolute neutrality, just as his grandfather had done at the beginning of his century. Henry is often quoted as saying, "Politics and strife will always ebb and flow all around. But Gardiner always comes out on top" - a statement later adopted as the island's official motto.

Status today

Gardiners Island remains in family hands today. Politically it is still somewhere between the cracks. Queen Diana of England remains its Sovereign. Officially, the NAL has never actually claimed it. Gardiners Island's only de jure connection to the League is through its status as a protectorate of Connecticut, a status it attained shortly before the Solemn League and Covenant outlawed such compacts. Connecticut nominally remains responsible for the island's external affairs. It was linked to the NAL before the creation of the Extraterritorial Lands Bureau and therefore has never fallen under the jurisdiction of that overworked body.

The NAL's National Trust took an interest in Gardiners Island in the early 20th century. In the words of its director: "Historical in its very being, it would be a national tragedy if Gardiners Island ever had to be sold outside the Lordly Family. Some reliable means ought to be put in place to maintain its status." In 1961, the National Trust, the Council of Tenants, and the Gardiner family agreed to a deal in which a regular grant would be given to help maintain the island, in exchange for which, the Trust would monitor the island's governance, finances, and the care of the land.

Gardiners is not alone in the NAL as the remnants of a royal grant -- Ter Mair is as well, as are several of the Nations up in UT. There are possibly some others as well, Gardiner is unique in being the last intact land grant parcel still privately owned. Ter Mair is intact, but is not privately owned by the family any more.

(BK, 34101 & 35340; PB, 34129)


Heraldry on Gardiners Island

Arms— Argent a chevron between three buglehorns stringed gules.
Crest— An arm in armor hand grasping the broken shaft of a lance.

The Old Blue Sheet   Provinces of the North American League and Solemn League and Covenant   The Old Blue Sheet
Alba Nuadh / New Scotland | Aquanishuonigy | Bahamas | Carolina | Castreleon New / Nieuw Batavie | Cherokee Nation | Connecticut | East Florida / Florida Oriental | Illinoise | Jacobia | Jamaica | Kent | Kentucky | Les Plaines | Mascoutensi | Massachussets Bay | Miami | Mobile | Mueva Sefarad | New Hampshire | New Sweden | Nýja Ísland / New Iceland | Nunavik | Ontario | Ouisconsin | Oxbridge | Pennsylvaania | Rhode Island | Tenisi | Ter Mair / Maryland | Utawia | Virginia | West Florida / Florida Occidental
Unincorporated Territories | Beaver Island | Dry Tortugas