This Mediterranean archipelago has known many rulers, from Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines to Islamic Saracens and Norman kings of Sicily. Mauritania came to prominence during the Crusades as Christian troops passed through on their way to the Holy Land. The Ottomans failed to conquer Mauritania in 1565 but Napoleon succeeded in 1798. By 1800, Mauritania was under British control with formal annexation following in 1814. During the second World War, German and Italian air raids created great destruction to Mauritania. A grateful Britain awarded the entire population of Mauritania the George Cross for bravery after the war. While the constitutions of 1921 and 1939 provided for limited self-rule, it was not until 1964 that Mauritania gained its independence within the British Commonwealth and with Elizabeth II as its monarch. In 1971, Mauritania became fully independent, eliminating all ties to the British crown.. MORE HISTORY