England, pirates, the business of privateers and kings
For centuries, the coasts of the Caribbean and Mexico suffered a war of attrition. Pirates and privateers enriched England and weakened Spain.
Famous and well rewarded by the Queen: John Hawkins, Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, Thomas Cavendish, Henry Morgan, Jack Rackham …
English Corsairs in the Caribbean Sea
Mexico, Florida, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela ..
Morgan was a good example of an English adventurer who went from pirate and privateer to being appointed Governor of Jamaica.
England and Piracy: more than 250 years attacking without ceasing, the Spanish ships and colonies, especially in North America.
Henry Morgan had a long career in the Caribbean. He began as a pirate, continued as a privateer and ended up being knighted by the King of England, who also rewarded him and appointed him Governor of the Island of Jamaica.
War of attrition against Spain
Isabella I gave all her support to the English Corsairs
The rivalry of Elizabeth I of England with Philip II of Spain encouraged the appearance of English privateers. The queen granted numerous privateering patents, which benefited her and the merchants of the City of London.
Numerous ships and vessels of English privateers and pirates headed for the New World, seeking to enrich themselves. And also many of them would be lost in the long Atlantic crossing. These privateers, while enriching the Queen, weakened Spain. They made her spend enormous amounts of money to maintain a huge naval fleet. Which was necessary to watch the seas and to be able to defend its colonies and even its own coasts.
That is why French pirates prowled the Canary Islands, as later did English pirates and corsairs, including Sir Francis Drake himself. At that time and for 300 years, the Spanish possessions were in the North Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
Thanks to the English privateers, Isabella I, not only became rich, she was also able to create a navy to confront the Spanish.
These privateers, royal pirates with the support of the English Crown, were the basis of her future naval power.
Famous English privateers sent by the Queen
John Hawkins (1532-1595)
Privateer and Admiral
He was one of the first English corsairs, after the Discovery of America of great fame. He was initially dedicated to the lucrative slave trade, buying slaves in Africa and selling them, especially in the Caribbean, using force if necessary to convince potential Spanish buyers. If they did not, he threatened to destroy the population.
His nephew Drake sailed with him. An important event in his life occurred in Veracruz (Mexico). When they thought they were going to make the deal of their lives by blackmailing the population with bombardment if they did not accept their demands, both were cornered by the arrival of a Spanish fleet under the command of the new Viceroy.
At night they were attacked by the Spanish. The largest ship in England, owned by Queen Elizabeth I herself, was lost. The Jesus of Lübeck, which fell into the hands of the Spanish. Hawkins’ ship was set on fire and he had trouble putting it out. They also sank his other two English ships, the Angel and the Swallow.
When he looked for help on Drake’s ship “Judith” he saw that it had already fled and was not in port. Cornered, he fled with his ship and another vessel that was captured shortly after. He abandoned more than 100 of his men on the coast, most of whom were soon captured. And he left for England without the fleet that had been provided to him by the queen and his London investors 4 years earlier.
Hawkins, expert navigator
Improved English warships
He promoted the improvement of the English fleet, building faster and more manageable ships. Armed his ships with cannons of greater firing range. Participating in the battle against the Spanish attempt to invade the Island of England. The so-called Great Armada by the Spanish or called the Invincible Armada by the English.
After the disaster of the Great Spanish Armada, he wanted to take advantage of what he considered the moment of weakness of the Spanish fleet. He attacked the Cana
ry Islands and several cities in the Caribbean, being defeated and dying in 1595 in one of these attacks.
Francis Drake (1540-1596)
Privateer and Navigator
From a very young age he sailed with John Hawkins, making voyages from Europe to Africa and America, especially on slave-trading and smuggling expeditions.
After years of piracy and slave trade, he managed to meet with Queen Elizabeth I of England. She provided him with the most modern and largest ships in England and he became a privateer in her service.
With the help of a Portuguese pilot captured in Africa, he managed to reach the Pacific and attack the Spanish colonies. He captured by surprise the galleon del Oro, almost without firing a shot, obtaining a fabulous treasure.
In his flight from the Spanish to England, he feared being captured. Not finding a safe route back through North America, he was forced to sail around the world, crossing the Pacific Ocean.
He also participated in following the battle against the Great Spanish Armada that attempted the conquest of England.
Thomas Cavendish (1555-1592)
Imitated Drake’s exploits
He traveled through Argentina and crossed the Strait of Magellan reaching the Pacific.
However, he did not have Drake’s luck, and the Spaniards of the Viceroyalty of Chile were able to stand up to him, but did not achieve great results.
Following the route of Drake and his English crew, he also circumnavigated the globe, obtaining important booty in Peru, Mexico and the Philippines.
Walter Raleigh (1554-1618)
Established a colony in Virginia
He was one of the famous English privateers of his time. He made expeditions to the Orinoco and Guyana. He attacked Spanish towns, and was persecuted for it.
He participated in the battle against the Invincible Armada and wrote a History of the World, highly valued at the time.
Due to Spanish pressure, he was imprisoned. He had been imprisoned before, accused of treason and of being part of a conspiracy. He was executed
Henry Morgan (1635-1688)
He seized Portobello and Panama.
While the first English privateers had a certain morality. This pirate was not exactly noted for his human values. Although in the service of the Governor of Jamaica, he used any method to achieve his goals.
Belonging to a family of great military men, his uncles had high positions in the English army. He had great knowledge of military strategy and knew how to use it.
A person without any scruples, he even used women, priests and nuns to lay the scales and to be able to assault the Spanish fortifications in the Caribbean.
With a fleet of ten ships and 500 men, he attacked Cuba and made great profits.
Encouraged by the result, he decided to attack Portobello. He assaulted the city by surprise, without hesitating to use the city’s population as a human shield, until they surrendered in order to avoid hurting his own.
Once inside the city, after looting it, he dedicated himself to torturing its inhabitants, until he discovered the places where they hid the valuables.
Knowing that the Pacific colonies were not well defended, he gathered Filibusters from all over the Caribbean. With a fleet of 36 ships and 2,000 men, he crossed the Isthmus of Panama.
Despite the great difficulties of the jungle, where they encountered the hostility of the Indians, he managed to arrive almost starving. Once there, he assaulted the city of Panama.
The long muskets of the filibusters gave him an advantage due to their greater range and precision in firing. The 500 soldiers of the garrison could do little.
He occupied the city and after doing all kinds of tortures and barbarities, he left with a good booty.
He returned through the jungle, but this time with 600 prisoners, taking the booty with him. Most of them perished because of his brutality on the way back.
As was customary, in the face of such riches the King of England, Charles II, rewarded him by naming him Knight and Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.
He spent the last years of his life chasing pirates, although with a preference for the French and Dutch.
Jack Rackham (1680 – 1720)
Pirate known as Calico Jack
He became famous for his attire and for taking with him a female pirate Anne Bonny. In love with her, he stole a ship in the harbor, and engaged in piracy.
She disguised as a man accompanied him on all expeditions, earning the respect of the crew and fighting with them.
In a boarding of a Dutch ship, she met a young Englishman, who enlisted with them. Anne discovered that he was a woman, Mary Read. They became famous as women pirates.
War of attrition against Spain, John Hawkins privateer and Admiral helped in improving the English ships. Privateers Francis Drake, Thomas Cavendish, Walter Raleigh, Henry Morgan, Jack Rackham, ravaged Spanish colonies in America.
England turned its pirates into privateers to avoid direct confrontation with Spain. The populations of Mexico and the Caribbean suffered especially from their attacks.
Queen Elizabeth I of England enriched herself with the support given to her Corsairs.