Following on our recent ten reasons not to ...
Ten things you never knew about pirates. Or maybe you did?
1. Very little physical evidence survives about piracy. Pirates weren’t big on diaries and record-keeping. Most of what we know, or think we know, comes from storytellers -- in other words, they made it up.
2. The line between a pirate and privateer was a fine one. The privateer had Letters of Marque from the monarch that licensed pillage of ships considered to belong to a hostile power. The king or queen took a cut of the booty and often members of the aristocracy were financial backers who also took their share.
But if the political wind changed while you were away …
3. The golden age of piracy was from 1680 until 1730 - when treasure was being transferred from the New World to the Old.
4. The popular image of a free fighting man under the leadership of a daring captain might not have been a total myth – crews would probably have been multiracial, a leader could have been elected on the basis of his seagoing skills, and there was probably a system in place for profit sharing of the cargo -- but it wasn’t exactly the equality and democracy that is often portrayed in books and films.
5. Piracy wasn't just a game for the boys. There were notable women pirates. Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of Connaught, came from a well-to-do family who were involved in coastal shipping in Ireland. When she met with Queen Elizabeth I in 1593 it is said that the two women conversed in Latin, their only common language.
6. Blackbeard is a multipurpose villain of most pirate tales. He did exist. His name was Edward Teach, captain of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. He was a Brit who raided the American coast and was responsible, amongst other things, for blockading Charleston.
7. There is absolutely no evidence that any of the famous pirate trappings – eye-patches, wooden legs, hooks, parrots, buried treasure with a convenient map, where X -marks the spot, ever existed. That's all down to writers like …
8. Raphael Sabatini, who wrote adventure novels, and what would be classed these days as romantic suspense, including the pirate tales of The Black Swan, Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk.
9. But before Sabatini, Conrad, protagonist of Byron's wildly successful poem The Corsair, may have been the prototype of the chivalrous, handsome, adventurous anti-hero - noble, brooding, with a hint of mystery in his past …
The poem, published in 1814, sold 10,000 copies on first day of publication.
10. And then, of course, there’s Hollywood, responsible for most of our pirate imagery, with the likes of Errol Flynn swashbuckling amongst the rigging. The heyday of the pirate adventure was probably the 1930s, 40s and 50s – when the cinema served up escapism from financial depression, war and post war austerity.
And that makes ten - and I never mentioned Johnny Depp once – oops!
With acknowledgement of the wit and wisdom of Juliette Wood and Dimitra Fimi in all things piratical, and thanks for a fun day on Saturday.