Why were there so many Dutch privateers?
The Dutch went from being subjects of Spain to becoming patriotic defenders of Holland. William of Orange organized the pirates and incorporated them into his War of Independence against Spain.
Holland, its corsairs and pirates, 80 years fighting Spain
Dutch Corsairs, the Beggars of the Sea
The Dutch piracy was enhanced in their attempt to gain independence from Spain. The beggars of the sea, denomination given in Holland to the Dutch sailors because of their terrible living conditions.
Dutch privateer ships prepared to attack other ships and Spanish populations in America. Corsairs organized and supported by the House of Orange in Holland.
Spain incorporates The Netherlands
The territories of the current Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, grouped in 17 provinces constituted the County of Flanders. This county belonged to the Dukes of Burgundy. When the king inherited the Duchy, they passed to the Spanish Empire.
A war for prestige, which ruined Spain, was the result of the peaceful incorporation of the Netherlands into the Spanish Empire. But the death of the monarch changed everything. From succession to war with the Dutch Princes.
Charles I inherits Flanders
The Spanish Crown took possession of the area through the King.
The important and rich cities of Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Brussels, Liège etc., are located in these territories.
The King, born in Ghent (Belgium), knew these lands and their language. He was considered by his subjects in Holland and Belgium as the legitimate sovereign.
When he abdicated in 1556 to his son Philip II, born and raised in Spain, he was no longer recognized by the Dutch Princes as their sovereign king, and was considered a foreigner, with no right to the Crown of Holland.
However, Philip II, was legitimately heir, by the paternal line, as had been his father Charles I of Spain and also known as Charles V of Germany, who was even born in Flanders, in Ghent (Belgium).
Charles I inherited the entire set of territories that are now the States of Belgium and Holland, along with some small adjoining territories.
An 80-year war
Difficult to abandon
Almost a century of military expenses in a war for prestige that Spain could not abandon, and fighting against France and England, which sent military aid.
An 80-year war begins, trying to get rid of Spain, which led to Spanish ruin and decline. Spain was bankrupt on several occasions, among other reasons due to the enormous expenses of this war.
France, being surrounded by territories controlled by Spain, was threatened. England, for its part, feared a Spanish invasion from present-day Belgium, where the troops were located.
Although the Spanish Crown repeatedly tried to find a solution with an honorable exit from Holland, it did not succeed. Its prestige prevented it from abandoning territories that only caused enormous military expenses.
The Spanish Empire managed to be at that time the Empire of greater extension of the History. Its great difficulty was to defend such an extensive territory spread all over the world. This caused enormous expenses during 80 years, for this war, which wore out the country and began its decline.
The Spanish fleet was finally defeated thanks to the help of France and England. The Spanish overseas possessions were besieged by Dutch, English and French corsairs.
The Occupation of the Netherlands
The Rebellion against Spain, Calvinism and misery among the people.
Marguerite, the sister of King Philip II, governed Flanders and he promised her not to intervene with force if the Catholics were not disturbed. However, the King prevented freedom of worship.
There were several causes: the appearance of a new religion, Calvinism, a plague of hunger, the excesses of the Inquisition, and the plundering of the king’s mercenaries who did not receive their pay. All this caused a rebellion to spread through the Netherlands.
Philip II was not willing to tolerate it and sent an army to bring order. His sister Margaret, who acted as Governor of Flanders resigned, considering that the people were loyal to Philip II, and that it was only some Princes who provoked the revolt.
The Duke of Alba arrived in command of an army, and put an end to the rebellion of the Dutch. The repression that followed, made that the princes managed to increase their number of Dutch dissidents.
Organized pirates against Spain
William of Orange, one of the leading Dutch princes, manages to flee and the war begins. In Germany he hires an army of mercenaries, and organizes the pirates of the sea for his cause. He grants patents of corsairs to the ships and with bases in La Rochelle (France) and Dover (England) he launches all the Dutch ships, supported by French and English, against Spain.
For 80 years, from 1568 to 1648, when they managed to obtain their independence, Spain was ruined, in a war that it could not win, but neither withdraw, because of the prestige of being the greatest power of the time.
The greatest disaster occurred in 1639, the fleet of Spanish warships was defeated by Dutch and French pirates.
France financed the rebellion, helped in the sea battles and cut off supplies. England sent pirate ships and even soldiers.
West India Company
Supported the privateer expeditions.
Organized and controlled smuggling with Spanish possessions in America.
It provided the Corsairs with logistical support with its factories, as well as economic support in their expeditions.
Created in 1621, it had a monopoly on trade with America and control of the slave trade.
Curiously, most of the profits were provided by the spoils of the privateer expeditions, which they sponsored.
The House of Orange
Provided privateering patents
Like Elizabeth I of England, the House of Orange of the Netherlands clearly saw that the possibilities for development lay at sea.
Therefore, it initially organized the pirates, and gave them privateer’s licenses, confronting them with the Spanish, during the period of Spanish control of the Netherlands.
When the Spanish control disappeared, expeditions to America were encouraged, trying to obtain resources.
Dutch privateers to America
In search of salt
They needed salt for their salted fish and cheese.
Holland had an important canning industry through the salting of meat and fish. Also at that time, it produced cheeses and butters with great success.
All this industry needed enormous quantities of salt for its elaboration. To solve this shortage it was necessary to import salt from other countries.
At the beginning, salt was imported from Portugal. When Spain and Portugal were united under the Spanish Crown, they were forced to look for it in America.
In search of sugar
They could not resell it
In 1580, with the Iberian Union, Philip II of Spain prevented Holland from buying sugar in Portugal. Because of this, they could not trade sugar with other countries.
They looked for new sources and raided Salvador de Bahia in 1624. But in a short time they were expelled by a Portuguese and Spanish army.
In retaliation for this, they prepared a large fleet of privateer ships and made an assault on the La Plata Fleet, which they managed to capture.
Capture of the Silver Fleet
Piet Heyn in the year 1628
The great unfulfilled wish of all pirates was achieved by the Dutch, when they captured 16 ships of La Flota de la Plata, in Cuba. It was the biggest booty obtained by a corsair in the history of the Fleet.
The galleon fleets that came to Spain twice a year, with all the gold and silver from America, were heavily protected. This was one of the few occasions, that an enemy country managed to capture it.
A huge fleet of Dutch privateer ships attacked and captured it. The booty was great. It allowed them to finance and build a new fleet with which to invade Brazil.
New Holland is created
With the enormous profits from the capture of the Silver Fleet, a large expedition of more than 60 ships was financed and sailed to the Caribbean.
They occupied new territories for the Netherlands. In America they created with them the colony of New Holland, and for almost 30 years it was under Dutch control.
But they could not maintain the colony. The Spanish Crown still had enough ships at that time. And the Spaniards under the command of Admiral Oquendo, destroy them part of the Dutch warship fleet in the area.
Captain of the Mendigos del Mar
Guillermo de la Marck, chief of the Corsairs.
He participated in the creation of pirates and corsairs called the Sea Beggars, who helped so much to the independence of the Netherlands. He set up his refuge on the island of Voorne at the mouth of the Meuse.
This group of Corsairs supported by the House of Orange, who at the beginning of the religious persecutions took merchant ships and armed them to attack the Spaniards.
France supported them economically and allowed them to settle in the port of La Rochelle, from where they attacked the Spanish ships.
England allowed them to use the port of Dover, so that they could control the traffic through the Canal. Later they were expelled by Elizabeth I of England, to please Philip II of Spain.
Laurens de Graff (Lorencillo)
It was very common for pirates and privateers to force captured sailors to join them. This happened to Lorencillo, so called because of his short stature.
But it seems that it was not something essential since he himself had other remarkable attitudes. Unfortunately he soon became a pirate famous for his cruelty.
Cornelius Holz (Peg Leg)
He became Admiral of the Dutch Company.
He was a brave Dutch privateer who repeatedly attacked the Spanish and Portuguese fleets in the Caribbean and Brazil. A very good navigator, he rose to command his own squadron of warships.
He participated in the Spanish-Dutch war, standing out in the battle of the Dunes.
Summary: The Pirates and Corsairs of Holland were famous: The organizer of them William of Orange, The Beggars of the Sea, Company of the Indies, The House of Orange, Lorencillo, Pata de Palo …