PIRATES & PRIVATEERS

 

  A LIFE OF PIRACY ON THE OCEAN WAVES

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A pirate is a person who sails the oceans looking to plunder merchant ships for their cargo and to ransom ships and crew.

 

 

 

Pirates were brave, and sometimes very skilled naval freelancers, on an ocean that no country controls, though many claim superiority over, such as: "Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves."

 

Modern naval superiority is mostly underwater in submarines and overhead in aircraft or drones, the subs sneaking from port to port, hoping not to be detected or irradiated, with a cargo of death in the form of nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

 

Disney made an excellent series of fantasy swashbuckler films based on the legendary haunt, Tortuga, and piracy, a formula that made Errol Flynn famous as a privateer for Good Queen Bess and before that as Captain Peter Blood, romanticizing the cutthroat plundering and treasure hunting, with British Naval officers as some of the antagonists.

 

 

A BIT OF PIRATE HISTORY

 

Pirates have existed since ancient times – they threatened the trading routes of ancient Greece, and seized cargoes of grain and olive oil from Roman ships. The most far-reaching pirates in early medieval Europe were the Vikings.

A life of Piracy on the high seas tempted poor seamen because it offered them the chance to take more control of their lives and adventure. Ordinary seamen toiled for modest wages and were subject to strict discipline. In contrast, piracy offered sailors a chance to get rich quick as equals or at least shareholders of captured booty.

ENGLISH SEA DOGS, PRIVATEERS

English Sea Dogs were pirates that sailed during the Privateering Era under the leadership of Queen Elizabeth I between 1560 and 1605. During this time they had explicit permission from the Queen known as a Letter of Marque which allowed them to engage in acts of piracy against the Spanish and other colonial powers the English were at war with at the time.

One of the first well known English Sea Dogs would be John Hawkins who began in the mid 16th century. Hawkins would also be engaged in the slave trade as part of the Trans-Atlantic Triangular Trade. Another famous Sea Dog was Francis Drake who raided Spanish settlements all across the world. One of Drakes most famous exploits was to sail around to the Pacific Coast and raid Spanish settlements before returning to England, completing his second circumnavigation of the globe.

In 1588 the famous English Sea Dogs named Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Walter Raleigh and Martin Frobisher were all part of the English naval forces that helped defeat the Spanish Armada and challenge Spanish naval dominance. In 1604 when peace was made with Spain many of the Sea Dogs went to work in the Barbary States.

Overall the English Sea Dogs were responsible for striking great blows against the Spanish Main. Eventually they would be replaced by the English Buccaneers who operated throughout the Buccaneering Era and helped manage to establish actual colonies for the British Empire throughout the West Indies.

 

CORSAIRS

Corsairs were pirates who operated in the Mediterranean Sea between the 15th and 18th centuries. Muslim corsairs, such as the Barbarossa (red beard) brothers, had bases along North Africa’s Barbary Coast, while Christian corsairs were based on the island of Malta. Both used to swoop down on their targets in oar-powered boats called galleys, to carry off sailors and passengers. Unless these unfortunates were rich enough to pay a ransom, they were sold as slaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUCCANEERS

Thousands of pirates were active between 1650 and 1720, and these years are sometimes known as the 'Golden Age’ of piracy. Famous pirates from this period include Henry Morgan, William 'Captain' Kidd, 'Calico' Jack Rackham, Bartholomew Roberts (Black Bart) and the fearsome Blackbeard (Edward Teach).

By the beginning of the 18th century, piracy was becoming hard work. The Spanish galleons no longer plied the oceans with chests full of doubloons, and responsible governments with large navies were getting tired of pirates preying on their vessels.

Still, there was a living to be made by those who were prepared to take risks. The famous pirate Blackbeard (Edward Teach) plundered successfully for nearly three years until, in a hand-to-hand fight with Lieutenant Maynard of the H.M.S. Pearl, he was taught the difference between swinging a cutlass brutally and skill and training with a blade. Twenty-five wounds later, Blackbeard expired on the deck.

In 1717, George I offered a general amnesty to all pirates who surrendered themselves before 5th September of the following year. Many members of the profession decided to quit while ahead and settled down to become respectable citizens. There were a few pirates who could not change their lives of piratical adventure. They were hunted down ruthlessly until by 1725 it was just about over.

 

FRENCH BUCCANEERS

French buccaneers were famous pirates of the Buccaneering Era that were from the French Empire. These buccaneers were responsible for establishing the first French colony in the New World in Spanish controlled La Florida that was known as Saint Caroline. However, this settlement of French huguenots was wiped out by the Spanish under the command of Pedro Menendez de Aviles who assaulted them from nearby Saint Augustine.

After this defeat the French buccaneers moved to the rocky outcrop island of Tortuga off the coast of Hispaniola and established the famous pirate haven. They would clash with the Spanish for many decades and eventually be successful in not only claiming Tortuga but a third of the island of Hispaniola as well that the French named Saint-Dominigue. French buccaneers were just as famous as their English or Dutch counterparts.

Buccaneers lived on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and its tiny turtle-shaped neighbour, Tortuga, in the 17th century. At first they lived as hunters, but later the governors of Caribbean islands paid the buccaneers to attack Spanish treasure ships. Although raids began in this way, with official backing, the buccaneers gradually became out of control, attacking any ship they thought carried valuable cargo, whether it belonged to an enemy country or not. The buccaneers had become true pirates.

Privateers, meanwhile, were privately owned (rather than navy) ships armed with guns, operating in times of war. 

17th century pirates were also known as buccaneers and operating mostly during the Buccaneering Era. Called boucaniers, the English term 'buccaneers', these groups of French and English pirates would raid Spanish settlements and ships alike in a state sponsored piracy campaign. The buccaneers of the 17th century were generally more ruthless, and merciless than the 18th century pirates.

Operating out of their bases at Port Royal and Tortuga, the 'Brethren of the Coast' were not pirates in the sense they were conquerors. Buccaneers raided ships at sea when it was convenient for them but they also had massive armies with which they would militarily take out Spanish troops and invade settlements from the land. They were known for sacking and ransoming cities, but there total take was a lot less than the 18th century pirates in that they had more men to split the loot with.

Most of the exploits of the buccaneers are only known about through the writings of the surgeon aboard Henry Morgan's ship named Alexander Exquemelin. His primary source book first published in Dutch as De Americaensche Zee Roovers (1678), known in English as the 'Buccaneers of America,' is one of the best documents to understand the biographical story of the buccaneers.

 

 

 

 

Kiera Knightly as Miss Elizabeth Swann, who turned pirate Anne Bonny style, save for her  absolutely stunning outfits.

 

 

 

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