Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Reality of Pirates in 1717 – Not Quite Pirates of the Caribbean by Claire Ashgrove

Today on History Undressed I'd like to introduce you to our guest author today, Claire Ashgrove! She's talking pirates...

Good morning everyone.  Thank you so much for hosting me today!  I wanted to do a little fact versus reality comparison for you all today, in relation to my debut historical romance, Bound by Decency.

The Reality of Pirates in 1717 – Not Quite Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney has done a great deal to influence our perception of a pirate and tell us what a pirate should, or should not be.  We all love Jack Sparrow – who wouldn’t with Johnny Depp behind the name?  But the truth is, the reality of pirates aren’t quite what the production companies would like us to believe.  Let’s break a few myths, shall we?

1.  The Dialect – They really speak like this, yes? 

We have a national Talk Like A Pirate Day, how could it be otherwise?  Truth is… no.  The exaggerated rrs and the catch-phrases we all associate with pirates originate not from history annals, but from Long John Silver, 1954.  Did pirates have a brogue?  Probably.  In fact, most likely.  And it was also most likely a similar variation of the Cockney accent.  The poor, uneducated British man’s speech.  If not, they’d possess the natural English brogue we associate with the land.  In short—if they were educated, they’d speak like our ladies and lords we love of Regency romance.  If they were uneducated and (typically) poor, it would resemble more Eliza Doolittle.

2.  All Pirates Were Drunks – Um… well… yes and no. 

To examine this, water has to be considered. Finding potable water on board a ship was really hard.  They might leave port with several barrels, but bacteria would set in, or they’d flat run out.  Which left them with cleaner, healthier rum, wine, whiskey, and alcohol in general.  So yes, indeed, they drank a lot of spirits. 

But here’s the crux:  Every agreement that crews drew up reference severe penalties for failure to adhere to duties or abandon posts, and some reference penalties for being drunk at the time of engagement.  Given that it’s rather obvious if a person is truly drunk, it stands to reason attention to duties often suffers, the drawback to being drunk isn’t often worth the indulgement.  Who really wants to die for drinking past 8 bells?  So it stands to reason that while alcohol infused their daily lives, drinking was done in moderation aboard ship, with attention to sobriety.  (Five glasses consumed over a day, as opposed to five in an hour).  The real partying came when the ship was at port.

3.  Pirates Wanted Gold, And They Buried it Too!

Ahh… the romance of fiction.  Did pirates want gold?  Well—do you?  Of course they wanted gold, and they certainly wouldn’t leave it behind on a ship they raided.  But the vast majority of pirating didn’t involve riches.  It involved the simple things needed for survival on a ship.  Recall that spoiled water?  Yup, they’d raid because they needed fresh.  This goes hand-in-hand with rotten food, tobacco, medicines, guns, ammunition, and things like canvas for battered sails. 

Then there’s the whole burying these treasures part.  Ignoring the fact that most of what they stole were consumables, we can thank Treasure Island for this common misconception.  Fact is, no legitimate treasure map has ever been found.  Nothing exists to suggest they buried riches, and for men who partied hard in port—they spent what they acquired as fast as they could.  Buried treasure doesn’t really fit the bill.  Unless you’re speaking of the rare incident when excessive coin was discovered.  In such cases, a pirate captain who naturally would’t trust his crew to watch over the take, might hide his riches.  But he would do so in a place he could readily get to.  Which nixes the idea of complex pirate maps.

So, there you have it.  A peek at the reality of pirates in the early 1700s.  Disney has given us great memories, but before you claim Sparrow as the epitome of pirate life, consider some of these more unromantic facts!


Giveaway Details:

Claire will be giving away a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card to one random commenter during the tour.  Follow the tour – the more times you comment, the better your chances of winning!  Complete schedule can be found here.


Claire Ashgrove has been writing since her early teens and maintained the hobby for twenty years before deciding to leap into the professional world. Her first contemporary novel, Seduction's Stakes, sold to The Wild Rose Press in 2008, where she continues to write steamy, sexy stories for the Champagne and Black Rose lines. Adding to these critically acclaimed romances, Claire’s paranormal romance series, The Curse of the Templars debuted with Tor in January 2012. For those who prefer the more erotic side of romance, she also writes for Berkley Heat as the National Bestselling Author Tori St. Claire.

She is an active member of Romance Writers of America, and her local RWA chapters, Heartland Romance Authors, Midwest Romance Writers, North Texas Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers.

Claire lives in Missouri with her two toddler sons, and too-many horses, cats, and dogs. In her “free” time, she enjoys cooking, winning at Rummy, studying Ancient Civilizations, and spending quiet moments with her family, including the critters. She credits her success to her family's constant support and endless patience.
To learn more about Claire, visit her on the web at www.claireashgrove.com, or www.toristclaire.com


Bound by Decency -- Book One: The Flying Gang Series
After inheriting a portion of Spain’s Royal Inheritance, Cain left The Flying Gang for a chance at honest wealth. With the secrets of his piracy tucked away, he achieved his lofty aspirations. But when his partner and best friend betrays him to the Royal Navy, Cain’s dreams are ripped to shreds. He’s left with his ship, the tattered remnants of a stolen future, and a piece of Spanish mystery. Wanted by three nations and destined for the gallows, he returns to the legendary band of buccaneers for one purpose -- vengeance.

 Kidnapped by the formidable Cain, India Prescott discovers he intends to kill the man she’s to marry. Cain’s story reveals betrayal. Treachery that extends to her as well. Although she holds the key to retribution, India refuses to become another man’s pawn. Freedom lies before her, the liberty to shrug off propriety, make her own decisions, and claim her destiny. But when she uncovers goodness in Cain’s soul and he awakens passion in her heart, she must combat the chains of convention once more.

Only this time India's not fighting society. She’s battling a pirate bent on keeping her decency intact.


For a moment, he could do nothing more than stare. Richard had said his intended was lovely, but somehow, Cain had never pictured her as a beauty. Yet now, as she stood before him, her chest heaving with indignation and her hair a sopping mess, he realized Richard had once again played him false. India Prescott wasn’t merely lovely. She was breathtaking.
“What in the name of Mary do you think you’re doing?” she snapped. “My father will see you hang for this.”
Her sharp tongue yanked Cain out of his stupor. He collected himself quickly, and for the first time since his arrest, gave into a broad grin. “Indeed, he will have to get in line.”
India’s eyes widened a fraction, but anger drew delicate brows downward, and those sky-blue eyes narrowed. “I see no amusement in this. Do you have any idea who I am?”
As a rumble of laughter broke through the men within earshot, Cain’s humor subsided. His smile faded, and he reached out to twine a thick lock of her hair around his finger. Turning his wrist, he wrapped the silken length around his hand, slowly bringing her closer. So close that the wet fabric straining across her breasts dampened his shirt. The heat of her skin grazed his. “I know well who you are, Miss Prescott.” He ran the back of his free hand across her dainty collar bone, over the slope of her shoulder, then lifted it to draw his thumb across her parted lips. The audible catch of her breath ricocheted through him. So she was not unaffected by him. Good. He could use it to his advantage.
His gaze held hers. A flicker of fear passed behind her eyes, but to her credit, she didn’t shrink away. She stood straight and proud, even as she shivered in the stirring breeze. Courage Cain didn’t often encounter from the gentle born. God’s teeth, men far stronger and larger than she didn’t hesitate to grovel at his feet. Yet she, no bigger than a lark, defied him with stubborn silence.
To drive her subservient position as his captive home, he tightened his hold on her hair until she winced. Leaning forward, he lowered his mouth to her ear. “You are the daughter of a powerful man and presently my prisoner, to do with as I will.” Stepping back, he untwined his hand and smirked.
India’s palm cracked across his cheek. “Rot in hell!”


Alexandriaweb said...

The cockney accent is not (and has never been) "The poor, uneducated British man’s speech."
It is a working class, regional accent from a very small part of England, so yes if the pirate in question originally came from London then they would have spoken a variation of cockney, but if they came from another part of Britian then they would not.
What we know as "Pirate speech" is an exaggerated form of Yorkshire accent, and given that there were a lot of major ports in and around Yorkshire at the time then it is also very likely that some pirates spoke with a Yorkshire accent (but it would have been a lot more toned down than what we hear in movies), further north and you would hear the Geordie dialect of North Eastern England and North of that the Scottish accents (starting with Borders that isn't that much different to Geordie), before becoming Lowland (the soft accents of the people around Edinburgh) and then Highland (the harsher tones of Glasgow).
There are a lot of accents in Britain, and there have been for hundreds of years.

Claire Ashgrove said...

Thank you for sharing your insight so succinctly, Alexandriaweb. Glad you were able to help substantiate the truth that the Hollywood accent isn't real.

Chelsea B. said...

I was almost positive pirates wern't actually like Capain Hook
;-) But, ya know, if they were, say, to look like Johnny Depp, I think it would make being catured a little bit easier *winkwink*
In all seriousness, THANK YOU for sharing, Claire! I really enjoyed reading your post :-)


Pauline said...

Some good points from Alexandriweb but, in all fairness, what we know now as "pirate speech" came from a very specific source: the character actor Wallace Beery in his portrayal of Long John Silver in the 1934 movie version of "Treasure Island."

Though many "Golden Age" pirates were from Britain - and Devon in particular - just as many came from all over the globe.