Monday, October 5, 2009

People: The Puritan Privateer

Because I am the lucky lass who won the Every Damn Comic of Solomon Kane Ever Contest over at the generous CRwM's wonderful blog, I decided to pull a Puritan privateer out of my bag of tricks today. Come on, what's better than hot Puritan booty after all?

Sir Christopher Myngs was born in Norfolk, England in 1625 and joined the Royal Navy as a boy. When the English Civil War broke out, Myngs jumped on Cromwell's bandwagon and was promoted to Captain shortly thereafter. He was in command of CS (that's "Commonwealth Ship") Marston Moor of 44 guns in 1655 when Cromwell tapped him to protect English interests in Jamaica.

Myngs arrived in Port Royal in January of 1656 and sized up the situation rather quickly. England had only held Jamaica for about six months and with nothing but Spanish territories all around her, the hold was tenuous at best. Myngs decided the best defense was a good offense and set to raiding Spanish settlements directly. Since England was at war with Spain (and just about everybody else) at the time, Myngs' English letter of marque made his adventures technically legal.

First, Myngs enlisted the help of the buccaneers who cruised around Jamaica. He legitimized their raids on Spanish ships and shipping and guaranteed them a safe port of call in return for their help. In May of 1656, Myngs and his buccaneer buddies raided Santa Marta, Venezuela, showing Spain that they were a force to be reckoned with. By 1657, Myngs was in command of the English navy's Jamaica squadron which now included buccaneer vessels. A win/win situation for everyone but the Spanish.

Although he failed to capture a fleet of Spanish treasure ships, in 1658 Myngs led raids on Columbia and Venezuela that netted him well over a quarter of a million English pounds. As popular leaders so frequently do, Myngs thumbed his nose at the Governor of Jamaica and shared out the entire haul with his men rather than set some aside for the government. Of course, the powers that be weren't too thrilled with Myngs' attitude and, upon his return to Port Royal, the privateer was placed in chains and shipped back to England. There to be tried for embezzlement.

Our Puritan hero was nothing if not lucky, though, and upon his arrival in England he found the Commonwealth falling apart. When Charles II returned and took the throne, the case against Myngs was dismissed. By 1662 he was back in the Caribbean as a Captain in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Centurion. It was a new world, with the British crown restored and England now at peace with Spain. Myngs just didn't see it that way, though.

Myngs, now at the head of a combined naval and buccaneer flotilla of a dozen ships that included Dutch and French pirates as well, led a raid on Santiago, Cuba followed by another on San Francisco, Mexico. Captured in the raids were not only goods and cash but fourteen Spanish ships as well. The Spanish government protested this treatment and Charles II forbid further raids. Myngs was called home and his buccaneer pals went back to their old ways.

In 1665, Myngs was promoted to Vice-Admiral. He took part in the Second Dutch War and was knighted for his bravery. Shortly thereafter, in August of 1666, he was killed by Dutch cannon fire. A fitting end, really, for someone who spent his life adventuring on the high seas.

Myngs, the Puritan privateer, died a distinguished naval hero. His legacy was not only the establishment of Port Royal as a pirate base but his policy of harassing the Spanish encouraged Henry Morgan in his piratical career which brought him ultimately to the Governorship of Jamaica. OK, Myngs was no Solomon Kane, but then who is?


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline, the Pirate Queen! Congratulations on the big win. You Rock, Cap'n! But I just gotta say one more thing... "what's better than hot Puritan booty"? That made me laugh out loud. Too funny.

Pauline said...

Ahoy Timmy and thankee! What is better than hot, Puritan booty really?

CRwM said...

Well I'll be . . . a Puritan pirate. Who knew? Thanks for the fascinating post.

Pauline said...

Ahoy CRwM! It's true. We come in all shapes, sizes and evidently religions!