A happy Monday to you, Brethren. I hope that another week finds you well. To help us all through the day that is most likely to find at least some of us thinking we hate our stinking jobs, let's talk about buccaneer, megalomaniac and sociopath Francois L'Olonnais, shall we? Sounds like fun!
Born Jacques Jean David Nau some time in the first half of the 17th century, the young man who would change his name to L'Olonnais (after his birthplace in Brittany, Olon) went off to the Caribbean in 1650 to become an indentured servant on a Spanish sugar plantation. Indentured servitude, either voluntary or imposed for some criminal act, was extremely prevalent in this era and area. Men and women looking for a better life in the New World signed up to serve wealthy families or corporations for a set number of years in return for passage by ship and some supplies such as a cow or a piece of land promised as a reward when their time was done. It all sounded good at first. If a person wasn't afraid of hard work they could get to the Americas and potentially be set to start their own farm or business when the contract of indenture was over. The problem was that indenture was tantamount to slavery with a time limit. A kinder master was still Master, and a sadistic one could cripple or kill at a moment's whim. Hate the job? Tough. Your in it, perhaps for life.
Francois, who was probably one of those slightly unbalanced kind of guys to begin with, drew the short straw in the Master department. Once he arrived on what is now Cuba he experienced starvation, beatings and round the clock work for three years. When his time was up the promise of land was forgotten. Francois was set adrift, penniless and nearly naked in a foreign country. He was angry and now certifiably insane. Like so many of his comrades, he turned to the occupation of buccaneer and his particular hatred of the Spanish earned him the moniker Fleau de Espagnols: Scourge of the Spaniards.
Francois settled on the island of Tortuga where small expeditions with a handful of men earned him the admiration of the French Governor La Place. The Governor shared Francois' hatred for the Spanish and in 1660 he gave the new buccaneer a ship to captain. Francois rounded up more sailors and set out to not only earn his moniker but prove that he was indeed a sociopath.
Savvy if touched, Francois pursued only Spanish ships and killed all but one or two people aboard to ensure that his horrible tortures would be talked about around the Caribbean. Spanish merchant seamen got to a point where they were so terrified of L'Olonnais that they would simply abandon their ship rather than face his sadistic wrath. Needless to say, this made getting rich easy for Francois and keeping crewmen remarkably easy too. Although there was no love lost for Francois back on Tortuga, men readily signed up for his ships in order to partake in some of his tremendous wealth.
When another war between France and Spain broke out in 1667, Francois saw an even broader opportunity for plunder and torture. He began raiding port towns along the Spanish Main. Eventually acquiring a fleet of ships, Francois notoriously sacked Maracaibo on the Venezuelan coast and then Gibraltar off Spain. The now infamous pirate was fearless and feared and tortures such as pulling out fingers and removing still beating hearts were part and parcel of these exploits. No one was spared and women and children were particularly targeted because L'Ollonais believed they would give up the locations of treasure more readily.
Update: Your humble hostess was looking over a map of the Spanish Main this afternoon and realized that the Gibraltar in question is not The Rock off Spain but the small port town on Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. Sorry, Brethren. Carry on.
Like a modern day celebrity, Francois began to believe his own press. He assumed that he could not be defeated and took risks that led to just the opposite of success. In 1668 he made the decision to take six of his ships and raid the vast silver mines of Nicaragua. He landed and trekked well over 500 men inland where he successfully raided the mines. On the way out, though, the buccaneers were overcome by a group of warriors from the Darien tribe. These men, who lived on the coast and were familiar with Francois and his atrocities, showed no mercy to the brutal pirate.
L'Ol0nnais was painstakingly cut into pieces by the warriors who took care to keep him alive as long as possible. His parts were thrown onto a fire while he watched and some of those who escaped the horror reported that the warriors cannibalized the pirate's body. I'm thinking they probably wouldn't have troubled themselves to eat such bitter meat but who knows. Either way, its an end fit for a sociopath. Don't you think?