Forgotten History: Three Female Pirates Who Changed the Streams of History

''Sailors tell stories pirates make legends''

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I was the girl who pretended to be a pirate. Desperately yearning to set myself into the ocean, leaving everything far away behind me to never come back. Finding a new home in each new adventure, risking my life at every hour, uncertain of which storm or sunset would be my last. Fighting for my life and living to discover. I didn't have much but I was somehow proud of my rags for they represented that fate I so longed for. I sat in the porch of my little house, holding a seashell against my ear, I used to close my eyes - hearing the sounds the conch produced, sounds of the ocean, the sounds of danger and freedom.

I was born far too late. Perhaps, if I would have lived there where my dreams placed me somebody centuries ahead would have made a list of the three best female pirates and, maybe, I would be somewhere in there. I don't know about parallel realities, but in this one it is me the one who writes the aforementioned list. And I do it with the same inflamed spirit of the child who used to wave a branch, imagining it to be a silver sword.

 

Sayyida al Hurra

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Sayyida al Hurra is an Arab appellative, it means noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority. She was a royal and a pirate, the last Moroccan spouseless Queen, and yet, her real name is unknown.

Starting in the year 1515 and for a period of nearly three decades, Sayyida and her fleet controlled the Western Mediterranean Sea, while the eminent Capitan Barbarossa ruled the Eastern side. Her goals were both to keep Christianity away from the lands and oceans she governed and to obtain revenge from the disgrace she and her family suffered when they were vanished from Granada by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I.

Her power was such that even the great kingdoms of Spain and Portugal feared her. Sayyida al-Hurra was a key figure in her time. She refused to follow the orders of men and forged her own law in a world unkindly recovering from the Middle Ages.

In the year 1542 her son-in-law overthrew her. After that, she disappeared completely, nobody knows where, with whom or why. But knowing her, we can be certain her last years where everything but plain.

 

Ching Shih

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One of the most feared and perhaps the most successful pirate of all time. Raised in an impoverished environment, Ching was left with no other option but to prostitute in order to feed her family. She worked harshly in the sorrowful harbor until, one day, destiny attacked - pirates kidnaped her and before she could do anything, she was miles away from home.

Ching married the captain, Zheng Yi, who came from a long dynasty of wicked criminals and lord of a stellar fleet: 300 ships and around 20,000 to 40,000 men. Inheriting it all to her after his death on November 16th, 1807. Ching Shih had to be sharp and clever for there was a boundless horde of pirates ardent to take her place.

Her leadership was such that she managed to increase her fleet by 18,000 ships and 80,000 men. Three years later, in 1810, Ching Shih received an amnesty offer - she deeply desired to abandon piracy yet to accept the amnesty would mean surrendering to a higher authority and a sign of obscene submission. Ingeniously, Shih found her solution; she petitioned an encounter with governor Zhang Bai Ling in which she confessed her love for him and asked him to marry her. He did, and that way Ching Shih retired from piracy with her pride and wealth solely undamaged.

 

The Lioness Of Brittany

Jeanne de Clisson - lady of Brittany, France - lived a serene life; dedicated mother of five and wholehearted wife. Little she knew of the tragic and revengeful future doomed for her.

A war between England and France bursted. Her beloved husband was incriminated with treachery and, as consequence, beheaded. That day the kind and loving woman inside of her died, she swore revenge to King Philip VI of France, sold every piece of land, every jewel, each and every single item of value and purchased three warships, her Black Fleet, as she called it. A simple glance on them was enough to evoque horror and fright: The bodies of these ships were charcoal black and the sails carmine red, packed inside with nothing but the most unmerciful and barbaric of pirates; each and all in possession of sophisticated weapons of death. From the years 1343 to 1356, Jeanne, better known as The Lioness of Brittany sailed the English Channel, thirsty of vengeance, capturing countless French King's ships, dismembering his men, and decapitating any aristocrat who had the adverse fortune of being onboard. 

Jeanne retired discreetly, modestly. Shortly after she married an officer of the English Navy, Sir Walter Bentley with whom she returned to her abandoned home; the Château de Clisson, in Brittany. Where, up to these days, visitors swear to see her misty spirit roaming through the halls.

 

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

~ Christopher Columbus.

Ava