Yarrr! The pirates of Brittany!

ImageSince today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and since I’m celebrating from my sabbatical home in Bretagne (Brittany), it seems appropriate to highlight the French contributions in pirate history. Pirates hailed from the beautiful walled city of Saint Malo, as described in this Telegraph travel article:

During the 17th and 18th centuries, under letters of marque from the king of France (who shared their booty), the corsairs of St Malo roved the seas taking whatever they wanted from English, Dutch and Portuguese ships unfortunate enough to encounter them. Robert Surcouf, one of the town’s more illustrious sons, was famous for single-handedly killing 11 men in a duel with 12, leaving the last man alive to tell the tale.


The Wikipedia page for Saint Malo also offers a brief account of its swashbucking history:

Saint-Malo became notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and sometimes pirates. In the 19th century this “piratical” notoriety was portrayed in Jean Richepin‘s play Le flibustier and in César Cui‘s eponymous opera. The corsairs of Saint-Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute, but also brought wealth from further afield. Jacques Cartier, who sailed the Saint Lawrence River and visited the sites of Quebec City and Montreal – and is thus credited as the discoverer of Canada, lived in and sailed from Saint-Malo, as did the first colonists to settle the Falklands – hence the islands’ French name Îles Malouines, which gave rise to the Spanish name Islas Malvinas.

The photos on these pages don’t really do justice to the beauty of this place… I recommend perusing Flikr images of Sant Malo and nearby Mont Saint Michel. Here are a couple of photos available under the Creative Commons Attribution License:

It also seems mandatory for me to include a night image:

One last note on piracy and France: before becoming an American revolutionary, Thomas Paine was an English privateer (basically a pirate). He went on to make important contributions to the foundation of American constitutional government, and it is believed (controversially) that Paine was the first person to suggest the name “United States of America.” Subsequent to the American revolution, Paine played an influential role in the French revolution. He was awarded honorary French citizenship, and was elected to the French National Convention. Paine was also influential as a skeptical author. He earned a reputation as an Atheist due to his criticisms of organized religion in The Age of Reason, which is still widely read and is considered a classic of American literature.

Note: my travels in France are supported by the US Fulbright Commission. This weblog is not an official Department of State web site, and the views expressed do not represent the Fulbright program or the Department of State.


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