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Pirates: Libertalia

Last modified: 2007-02-10 by phil nelson
Keywords: libertalia | pirates | letters on flags | captain mission |
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[Libertalia flag]
by António Martins

See also:

There's no information on the flag, but in Pirates: Terror on the High Seas from the Caribbean to the South China Sea (consulting editor David Cordingly, Turner Publishing 1996 ISBN1570362858), Chapter 6 is on 'Libertalia: The Pirate's Utopia'. It suggests that Libertalia was a myth (thus the flag probably never existed) but looks at the reasons for its legend.
David Cohen, 22 June 1998

In "Raiders and Rebels: The Golden Age of Piracy", by Frank Sherry, ISBN:0688046843, it is asserted that it existed. Sherry even describes the flag, as shown in my drawing. He claims that Captain Misson was, perhaps, a myth, but that Libertatia did exist.

Sherry claims that this was, in a perverse way, the first democracy. He quotes "articles" by which the pirates lived. They are strangely egalitarian.

By the way, Sherry discusses pirate flags...that they were red, and rarely black. He illustrates several, some with chevrons.

Are there any other sources available?
Edward Mooney, Jr., 21 June 1998

There are, but I doubt how reliable they are. Children's' books especially conflict greatly on what pirate used what flag and what it looked like. This is also true of some books for adult readership. I have a Wordsworth Reference book (which I can't put my hands on at the moment) which is a reprint of an old account of pirates which has flag info - but the information conflicts with what's in the standard encyclopedias etc. My favourite quote on pirate flags comes from Flags at Sea by Timothy Wilson (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich - HMSO, London) ISBN 0112903894:

'The few fragments of authentic information about the flags used by pirates in the Golden Age of piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries tend to get lost in the romantic image of the ubiquitous 'Jolly Roger'. Very often it must have suited pirates not to be recognised as such and they no doubt made much use of false colours to gain surprise...'

He goes on to mention a couple of reported pirate flags - that of Bartholomew Roberts and the Barbary corsairs.
David Cohen, 22 June 1998

Libertalia was supposedly begun by Captain Misson. Misson appears in Defoe's General History of the Pyrates: Volume II. Misson was a fiction character invented by Defoe to attack the social standards of the time, including religion and greed. Misson began a war against all nations, demanding a freedom from what he sees as the evil lawmakers who wanted to oppress those they were in charge of. Libertalia was the utopian settlement Misson began, running it in the fashion of his beliefs, that all man were equal, there should be no slaves, no revenge, no unnecessary violence, no greed, no oppression by money, power or religion. Hence the flag, For God and Freedom...
Nathaniel Buchanan, 13 September 1999

from the book "L'Etat c'est moi" by Bruno Fuligni:

Conclusion :

Olivier Touzeau, 12 December 2000

Jan Rogozinski, in Pirates! (1995), reprinted as 'The Wordsworth Dictionary of Pirates', 1997, calls this story entirely fictitious. And I guess he's right - the punch-line being the flag! A pirate going into battle with a white flag?
Jarig Bakker, 12 December 2000