Saturday, December 22, 2007


Traditionally, a ship flies the flag of the country that owns her, but not pirate ships. Sometimes pirates deceived passing vessels by flying the flag of a friendly country, but they also flew their own flags. The most famous of was the skull and crossbones of The Jolly Roger.

Pirates built-up a reputation for cruelty and violence. They used flags to frighten passing ships, hoping that they would surrender without too much of a fight. When giving chase, pirates often flew a white flag.
If the merchant ship refused to slow down, the pirates hoisted a red flag. The red flag signified blood. The message it sent to the resisting ship was that once the pirates boarded, no one would be spared.

The skull and crossbones flag is the most famous symbol of pirate terror. The first Jolly Roger appeared around 1700 when the pirate Emmanuel Wynne hoisted one in the Caribbean. The flag quickly caught on and other pirates designed their own versions. The Jolly Roger was flown when pirates were close to their victims and wanted to frighten them badly. No one knows the origin of the name. It may have come from the French joli rouge (pretty red), a joke description of the blood-red flag flown by earlier pirates.