Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What No Pirates?

Apparently there are, since they stole my blog post before it was done. Apologies for the double post.
Behind the Book
Let me start by saying, I've always had a soft spot for pirates. I know lots of people don't and that's fine. But I loved Treasure Island as a child. Definitely had a soft spot for Long John Silver, such a great villain. And what's not to love about Johnny Depp. Oh there were others before him too, including a moving with Gina Davis that I really liked.
 HMS Kent battles a French Privateer c. 1800 (from Wikipedia)

Anyway, you can imagine my disappointment when research revealed that by the Regency, the Golden Age of pirating was done.  I mean there were pirates, in the China sea and off North Africa, but they weren't quite right dashing around off the coast of Britain and popping up in the English countryside. But I wanted to write a pirate story, I whined.

But there were privateers.

Privateers were men who owned and or captained ships and fought for their country, but not in uniform. Needless to say it was a profitable if dangerous occupation, since they got to keep their prize as long as it was deemed legitimate under their Leter of Marque. Privateering had gone on since at least the 16th century, inded it had been greatly encouraged before their were navies as we know them today, and was  still legal up until around 1856.

So how did privateering work? Governments would issue A Letter of  Marque to a ship owner. They were given permission to capture ships of the enemy, usually within a certain area, if they had reason to suspect the ship was aiding the enemy's war effort, such as carrying arms or soldiers, or supplies. Which pretty well seems to cover all possibilities.

They were a bit like sea going mercenaries I supposed and were originally called Private Men of War (shortened to privateer). They had to be careful, because governments could revoke the licence just as quickly as it was handed out, or make unexpected peace with the enemy, which left the privateer left footed if they didn't know.  If they operated without their license, they were considered pirates. Quite often an enemy would consider them a pirate, even if they did have their government's license.

If a privateer was caught by the enemies navy, the seamen were usually given the option of join the opposing navy as a sailor or be treated as a prisoner of war. A rather horrid fate.

Privateers did a great deal of damage to the opposing side and many of them came home rich.  Their pay was based on the prize system.

What sounds like a pirate, acts like a pirate, but isn't a pirate?  Why, a Regency Privateer. So I got to write my pirate story after all. and Captured for the Captain's Pleasure is it. This book is set right at the end of the war of 1812-1814 and my hero has actually been working under an American licence.

One of these day I might get to write one about a real pirate. It just won't be a Regency story.

Until Next Time, Happy Rambles