Located 3,700 km west of Darwin in the Indian Ocean, approximately half way between Australia and Sri Lanka, the Australian Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands is comprised of a group of 27 coral islands.
William Keeling, an East India Company captain is credited with discovering the islands in 1609. The name Cocos is the genus of the coconut palm, found in profusion throughout the islands.
The first permanent settler to arrive was Alexander Hare, an adventurer who had made his fortune. He and a harem of women settled on Direction Island in 1826.
In 1827, John Clunies-Ross, a Scottish trader and sea captain settled on Home Island with his wife, six children, his mother-in-law and 10 young men. Additional men were imported from Java to work a plantation which was quickly established. The Clunies-Ross men soon raided Hare's settlement for the women, forcing Hare to flee to a remote island and not long afterwards, to leave the islands for good.
Between 1831 and 1857, the Cocos Islands constituted a feudal fiefdom ruled by John Clunies-Ross. In 1886, Queen Victoria relinquished control of the islands to the Clunies-Ross family, who then proclaimed their islands as a kingdom, and themselves as monarchs. This title was not recognized by Britain or Australia. The population of the islands settled at around 500, mostly Malays employed on the Clunies-Ross copra plantation.
In 1978, under increasing pressure, King Ross V relinquished control of the islands to Australia for a reported $6.25 million.