Yo ho, yo ho. A buccaneer’s life for me. Or is that pirate’s life? They are the same thing, aren’t they? Not exactly. Buccaneers were pirates who made their thieving living attacking fat Spanish ships in the Caribbean. Eventually, English settlers began using the term buccaneer to mean pirate, and thus the interchanging confusion.
England was delighted with the buccaneers crime against their hated rivals the Spanish and issued letters of marque to legalize their looting for a share of the profits. Sneaky sneaky, you Brits. By the end of the seventeenth century, the government grew weary of the wild buccaneering ways and the wars tangling up between other countries so these roaming seamen were forced to turn to legal work. Of course there were those who refused an honest day’s pay and joined ranks with other pirate crews seeking to plunder the far off waters of India, North America, and Africa.
Now, you may be thinking that the captain ruled the roost with an iron fist and anyone caught not swabbing the deck would be forced to walk the plank into a frenzy of sharks. Not so. The captain was elected by popular vote and could be fired just as easily. Power to the people! In fact, it was the crew that decided who, when, and where they attacked and all spoils were evenly divided. The one perk of being captain was that he got just a little more. Go figure.
Have I convinced you yet to join up? No? Well, mate, let’s talk fashion. Most men joined a crew with just the clothes on their back, be they civies or retired naval garb. Over the years, the hard work, the long days in the sun, and the constant exposure to water these clothes wore out fast. What’s a hard working seaman to do? Improvise. And take from your plundered foe. The flashier the better because at the time only the wealthy were allowed to wear velvets and silks, and what sophisticated brethren wouldn’t want to outdo the elite?
Ok, so I may not have persuaded any of you to make your mark, but hopefully if you cross paths with a buccaneer you’ll know not to call him a pirate.
– Henry Morgan was the most famous of them all. Plundering to his heart’s content, he was later knighted by Charles II and became governor of Jamaica.
– The term ‘motley crew’ came from multi-colored woolen fabric woven of mixed threads from the 14th to the 17th century.
– Gold hoop earrings, not just for looks, but were thought to ease sea sickness by applying pressure to ear lobes.
– Fear of the Jolly Roger derived from a plain red flag flying meaning no quarter given. In other words, no mercy. Jolly rogers translates to the French meaning ‘lovely red’.