What is it like to approach a real “French” pirate?

Saint Malo, the “pirate city”, is a well-known coastal city in France and a must-see attraction in the west. It was once a stronghold for privateer pirates.

In history, which French city has been closely related to pirates? Saint Malo, the “pirate city”, must be one of them. This well-known coastal city, a must-visit attraction in the west, was once a home base for privateer pirates who have seen them hunt down British and Spanish merchant ships or intercept enemy ships heading to India. Saint Malo also became a wealthy city due to the “trade” of pirates.

The most famous French pirate
The Brittany region where Saint Malo is located was an independent duchy until the 15th century. The locals also have a unique sense of identity (when the local football team played, the fans also sang the tradition in Breton Cheering songs). After being officially incorporated into France in 1532, Brittany’s long maritime tradition was used by King Francois I to search for wealth in the name of exploring the world. Of the major privateer ports in Europe, two are from Brittany: one is Saint Malo and the other is Morlaix. Not long ago, the local media “French West” also relished an inventory of well-known French female pirates, among which Jeanne de Belleville and Anne Die-le-Vaud were both Bretons.

Jeanne de Belleville, known as the “Brittany Tigress,” was originally from a noble family, but her husband was beheaded by King Philip VI, and her head was hung on a wooden stake in a castle in Nantes. In order to avenge her husband, she turned to sell the property to summon mercenaries and purchased two warships to attack the French army. After a fierce naval battle, she was finally able to retreat completely, and married British Lieutenant Sir Walter Bentley and settled in Brittany.

Anne Duer-le-Vaud, also from Brittany, was active in the 17th century. After losing her husband twice, Anne insisted on fighting her provocative Dutch pirate Lawrence de Graf, and the latter fell in love with her. Courage became her third husband. The couple sailed together and broke the superstition that “a woman on board brings bad luck”. Allegedly, Annie’s daughter also inherited her “no beard” temperament and also issued a duel invitation to the man.

In addition to Saint Malo, French pirates also left important marks in other parts of the world. Jean Lafitte was the “most famous French pirate” “stamped” by the French Ministry of Defense. He was mainly active near the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. After France sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803, he once ordered thousands of people. The “little brother” controlled a key area of ​​the Mississippi Estuary and helped the Americans to repel the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. This powerful pirate also intervened in the slave trade that was banned at the time. He and his brother Pierre established Galveston, a cotton transport port in Texas, and from November 1815 to June 1816, he monitored the Mexican revolutionaries for the Spanish government there. Many locations in Louisiana and Texas are still named after this legendary pirate.

The French pirate named Olivier Levasser is known for his fast attack speed. He was active in the Indian Ocean near Bourbon Island (today’s Reunion Island) during his lifetime, and later became a folklore figure on the island. He allegedly left a message that has never been deciphered, leaving a mysterious clue to the location of his buried treasure. As a result, the pirate became part of the cultural heritage of Reunion Island along with his so-called treasure clues.

“Standardized Business”, “Serving the Country”, “Careful Planning”
Speaking of pirates, you might think of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, One Piece, or Stevenson and Defoe’s characters who have “indissoluble bonds” with pirates, as well as rum and parrots that are inseparable from them. In history, pirates appeared almost at the same time as nautical activities. Their “day-to-day work” was to rob merchant ships of various countries without discrimination regardless of nationality. Ships, goods, weapons, hostages that can be exchanged for ransom… everything that is profitable is included in the “scope of business.” In ancient times, the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, the Adriatic Sea, or the Black Sea had become pirates “base camp”, and the Romans who were good at civil engineering and imitating Greek art also started the mode of conscientiously fighting pirates.

However, the real life of pirates still differs a lot from film and television works. Generally speaking, “pirates” should actually be divided into “private pirates” (pirates) and “private pirates” (corsaires). The French historians Gilbert Buty and Philip Hodger, who specialize in the history of marine activities, distinguished the different roles of the two in “History of Pirates and Privateers”.

First of all, pirates are actually self-employed “self-employed”, and their spoils are only digested within a small team. In contrast, privateers are stained with official colors and are particularly active during wartime. Because in addition to grabbing money, they also took into account the important role of “protecting national interests” in the competition among the powers. Therefore, although the history of privateers is much shorter than that of private pirates, they have only stepped into the track of “standardized management” since the great geographical discovery in the 15th century, but they are far more “promising” than the latter. In other words, they are legal pirates supported by the state. For example, the amazingly powerful Francis Drake made great contributions to Queen Elizabeth I (grabbing money and collecting taxes), and was later awarded the title of Royal knight.

The “standardized management” of pirates is not a lie: privateers will receive a “stamped power of attorney” granted by the state, and the document carefully specifies the term of appointment (usually 2 to 4 months) and the “country that can be attacked”. . When these “official pirates” have made some gains, they must also follow the procedures to hand in the proceeds, such as taking the captured ships to the “friendly ports”, counting the goods, and explaining in detail the specific circumstances of the seizures.

In France, since the 17th century, the “hunting” behavior of privateers has been included in a strict management framework: a large number of relevant materials for inventory and inquiries will be sent to a special “capture management committee”, which will decide each trip. Whether the job is “good grab” or “bad grab” (that is, whether the looted ship belongs to an enemy country, or unfortunately belongs to an allied or neutral country). Of course, the processing speed of administrative agencies more than 300 years ago is not much different from that of France now, and it will take at least several weeks to complete this process.

In the case of “good grabbing”, the meritorious team can sit and divide the stolen goods. The specific regulations are as follows: 10% of the auction proceeds of the ship and merchandise shall be turned over to the king, 10% to the sailor and widow, etc., and 80% to the team and the owner of the ship. As a result, piracy and looting activities have also become an important source of income during the primitive accumulation of capital in European countries.

Of course, privateers will inevitably also carry private goods. For example, before the landing in Saint-Malo, privateers often secretly hid their smuggled goods in nearby Cap Fréhel. Of course, there are still unwritten rules here, and the main principle is “identity equivalence”-the captain generally takes the belongings of the captain of the captured ship, and the chief mate takes the belongings of the other crew members of the same level.

In addition, even if captured, “official pirates” have a better outcome than “plain pirates”: ordinary pirates are usually executed ruthlessly and directly after trial, while privateer members can have the status of prisoners of war and can be used. As a bargaining chip in exchange for prisoners of war. In this way, privateing became a stable “system”, which was widely used in the European naval battles of the 15th and 18th centuries. It was not until 1856 that it bid farewell to the historical stage and was formally abolished by the “Paris Declaration of Naval War”.

French “featured” pirates
Sometimes, the boundary between private plundering and ordinary piracy is not absolute. Some privateers who continue to operate after the expiration of their permits or attack their own government ships will become “outright” pirates. For example, there is a “corso-piraterie” combination (corso-piraterie), for which France also specially created a new term-“flibustier”, used to refer to France, throughout the Caribbean in the 16th and 18th centuries. Private pirates in Britain and the Netherlands, including pirates stationed in the French colonies of the Antilles in the 17th and 18th centuries.

This kind of pirates appeared in the 16th century, when Spain began to colonize the Americas, and these pirates mainly focused on the Spanish treasure galleons (ships carrying gold, silver, tobacco and cane sugar) returning from the Americas with full loads. These French pirates and their British counterparts traveled back and forth between Europe and America, struggling to grab food from the Spanish colonists. “Seamen” have seen the Caribbean Sea, Indian Ocean or the Red Sea, and lead a more violent and short-lived life, but more “rushing” than the hard sailors.

Beginning in the 17th century, after Britain and France established colonies in the Antilles, these pirates also took root on the island. Among them, the French tended to occupy Turtle Island near Hispaniola (now Haiti), while the British The home base of the pirates is the Royal Port of Jamaica.

It stands to reason that “flibuste” should belong to privateers, but when the emperor is far away and the colony is much worse than the local conditions, their actions have become more “random”. Although the operation method is similar to that of France (for the local government to send and obtain commissions), the settlement method of trophies is more “personalized”. If the French rulers expect them to strictly divide the spoils in accordance with the detailed procedures of the French officials, I am afraid they will be outraged. In fact, the King of France even turned a blind eye to their embezzlement and looting of Spanish ships’ property, because any behavior that could weaken Spain was in the service of France’s own interests.

Speaking of well-known pirates in French overseas colonies, the French pirate Ronone who was active in the Caribbean in the 1660s must be one. He once enjoyed the name of “the catastrophe of the Spanish”: out of hatred of the Spanish and thirst for wealth, he plundered Havana and Maracaibo under Spanish rule. It is worth mentioning that this person was eventually cooked by aboriginal people with cannibalism.

According to “History of Pirates and Privateers”, the “golden age” of French privateer pirates was actually the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. At that time, the three European countries of France, the United Kingdom, and the Union Province (now the Netherlands) were extremely active at sea. For their rulers, privateers are a convenient way to make up for the lack of naval forces.

For example, in the Battle of Raoulge in 1692, the squadron sent by Louis XIV was severely beaten by the British and Dutch. However, France no longer had the financial means to afford a fleet, so the king directly borrowed ships from private shipowners: a fully equipped privateer fleet stepped forward to “turn the tide”.

Not only that, a large number of excellent sailors and officers are also privateers. For example, the privateer captain Digue-Trouin from Saint-Malo often participated in such battles and later joined the Royal Navy; privateer Jean Barr He also participated in the war frequently, repeatedly defeating the British and Dutch armies, and was finally “recruited” to join the navy. The same is true in Britain: in 1588, the famous British privateer captain Drake mentioned above took part in the Great Britain-West Battle that defeated the Spanish Invincible Fleet as deputy commander.

The decline of the pirate industry
Although writers in the 18th and 19th centuries were keen to describe images of pirates who were vicious and brutal and bloodthirsty, in fact, these desperadoes were much more rational. A series of appearances were aimed at optimizing the return on investment for the realistic purpose: to select the weak. (Slower and weaker ships) start; fully “build momentum” for yourself (fire a warning or display a frightening pirate flag); release the signal of “surrender quickly, grandpa forgive you not to die”, thereby minimizing initiative The number of strikes to avoid damaging your valuable assets (warships and teams). All in all, although some pirates appear in the literary works as Robin Hood or the spokesperson of “Running Unruly Love Freedom”, in fact, they are more like small and medium-sized enterprises owners.

A looter named Nicholas Anton once mentioned some small details of the blackmailed ship, such as issuing an invoice: “The robbed ship will receive a’receipt. If it is targeted by another looting ship again, The captain of the hijacked ship can show the receipt, because according to the rules, the same ship cannot be hijacked twice.”

However, although the calculations are correct, these “business owners” still cannot reverse the fate of “industry decline.” Take “flibuste” as an example: in the early days, these pirates were useful. They provided conditions for development and self-defense for the colonies of countries in the Antilles, but then the rulers began to think they were getting in the way: first, to protect the French In the colony’s sugar and indigo production, peace is actually more advantageous than war; secondly, France has found that it is more cost-effective to trade with the Spanish rivals instead of endlessly looting the enemy’s ships. As a result, France began to sell black slaves looted from Africa to Spain. The two countries exchanged money and made money in harmony. It was precisely the tacky old saying that there are no eternal enemies, only eternal interests.

Etoile du Roy is a floating museum, permanently stationed in the port of Saint-Malo. It is a replica of a 1745 pirate ship frigate. It is a 3-mast sailing vessel with a total length of 47 meters. It is the second largest traditional ship in France, equipped with 20 cannons. In the past, it could hold up to 240 crew members.

The “Seal Power of Attorney” awarded by the state, collected by the British National Archives and obtained by French privateers.

At this point, the pirates who have been harassing Spanish ships for a long time have become a burden of discord. However, not all pirates are willing to “wash their hands in a golden basin.” Some people thus completely belonged to the private pirate camp, and continued to “run wild” after changing the “business scope”: From 1715 to 1725, these French pirates were very active in the Pacific, Indian and Red Seas. Other countries also end up as privateers of “real” pirates because they attacked ships of their own people (home country, neutral country or allies), such as the British pirate William Kidd. Although he argued that he was not a pirate, he ended up still Was sentenced to death.

Gradually, it is difficult for the pirate industry to return to its former glory. The Declaration of the Battle of Paris in 1856 completely announced the end of this way of survival: in fact, since the old European rivals stopped fighting each other at sea, this industry has also No longer have “productivity”. The maritime fleets of various countries have launched a “specialization” mode to distinguish ordinary merchant ships from warships equipped with steam engines. The scene of “fire on merchant ships” in the past has gradually disappeared.

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