An independent state in the west indies. Its capital is castries. It was probably discovered by columbus in 1502 and first settled by the english in 1605. Contended for by the french and english in the 17th century, it was regarded as neutral in 1748 but changed hands many times in the wars of the 19th century. It became a self-governing state in association with great britain in 1967 and achieved independence in 1979. Columbus named it for the day on which he discovered it, the feast of st. Lucy, a sicilian virgin martyr.