Piracy, The Dutch, and the Seventeenth-Century Seas

  • Virginia West Lunsford


About a third of the way through Alexander Exquemelin’s The Buccaneers of America, 2 a surgeon’s famous account of his life among the seventeenth-century Caribbean buccaneers, the reader encounters a chilling and violent anecdote about one of the author’s more nasty brethren, the sadistic and inhumane French captain, François L’Olonnais (figure 4.1):

The buccaneers… took a number of prisoners, whom they treated most cruelly, inflicting on these poor folk every torment imaginable. When l’Olonnais had a victim on the rack, if the wretch did not instantly answer his questions he would hack the man to pieces with his cutlass and lick the blood from the blade with his tongue… And if one of the poor Spaniards, driven by fear and the cruel tortures he suffered, promised to lead the buccaneers to the citizens in hiding, and then through bewilderment could not find the way, he would be inflicted with a thousand torments—and then put to death at the end of it all. After most of their prisoners had been done to death by the cruelest atrocities, the buccaneers at last found two who would lead them… [L’Olonnais]… again asked about the way. The men answered that they knew of no other road. Then l’Olonnais being possessed of a devils’ fury, ripped open one of the prisoners with his cutlass, tore the living heart out of his body, gnawed at it, and then hurled it in the face of one of the others, saying, “Show me another way, or I will do the same to you.”3


Trade Company Company Official Early Eighteenth Century Merchant Ship Dutch Public 
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  1. 1.
    Andrew Barker, A True and Certaine Report of the Beginning, Proceedings, Overthrowes, and now Present Estate of Captaine WARD and DANSEKER, the Two Late Famous Pirates …(London: William Hall, 1609; New York and Amsterdam: Da Capo Press & Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Ltd., 1968), 13.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
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© Virginia West Lunsford 2005

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