French Pirates

Probably the most famous French Pirate is Jean Lafitte ( c. 1780 – c. 1823). But there are a few others that you might recognize. Star Trek fans might recognize the name Captain Picard.

Pierre le Picard (1624–1679?) was a French pirate. He had worked with the famous Welsh pirate Sir Henry Morgan at one time before becoming the captain of his own pirate ship.

Pirates crews were quite often of mixed nationalities all speaking different languages. Pirate slag was developed to help crews understand a captain’s orders.

Before the creation of radios ship to ship communication was done with flags. This is why the command ship in a fleet was called the flag ship. Orders could be spelled out using a flag alphabet. However there were some flags that had special meaning, such as the red battle flag.

The red battle flag was the signal to attack. This was true for armies on land as well as at sea. Santa Anna’s army flew the red battle flag when they attacked the Alamo.

“By late afternoon Béxar was occupied by about 1,500 Mexican soldiers. When the Mexican troops raised a blood-red flag signifying no quarter, Travis responded with a blast from the Alamo’s largest cannon.”

From “The Battles and men of the Republic of Texas”
by Arthur Wyllie

It is believed the French pirates had a special name for the red battle flag calling it the «jolie rouge» or the “pretty red”. This was a very catchy name as and it soon was adopted even by the English speaking pirates who Anglicized jolie rouge to the name we know today; the “Jolly Roger”.