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Time Periods => Middle Ages => Topic started by: Karl Helweg on July 23, 2017, 12:14:51 PM
Didrik Pining (1428-1491)
Didrik Pining was a notable German pirate who is believed to have been born around 1428 in Hildesheim in Germany. Hanseatic records place him a privateer or a captain working in the service of Hamburg until 1468. He was tasked with hunting down and capturing English merchant ships in the North Atlantic Ocean. Pining and his partner Hans Pothorst were known by the Hanseatic League as “pirates who did much damage to Hanse towns.” He went into the service of Denmark until Christian I of Denmark and his son John of Denmark from 1468 till 1478. It was during this period that Pining and Pothorst are said to have been distinguished as “not less as capable seamen than as matchless freebooters.”
One of the main reasons that Didrik Pining is remembered today is because some believe that Pining and Pothorst reached North America twenty years before Christopher Columbus did. In the early 1470s Pining was made leader of an expedition northward toward Greenland. He was with Porthorst and other Portuguese explorers on the long expedition. The expedition started in Bergen and then went through Iceland and continued on to Greenland and after which they discovered the “Land of Codfish” which is presumed to be Newfoundland or Labrador. In 1478 Pining was appointed Governor of Iceland which some argue was a reward for discovering the “Land of the Codfish.” The idea remains contested and debated among scholars.
From 1478 until 1481, Didrik Pining enjoyed his time as Governor of Iceland. In 1481, he was said to have “fared out of Iceland” but he was present at the funeral of King Christian I of Denmark. In 1484, he and his men were accused of having raped women and stolen money from farmers. the accusations did not stop him from becoming knighted in Norway and having a personal coat of arms which featured a grappling hook. It also did not prevent him from becoming governor over all of Iceland in 1489. His godson and nephew would succeed him in 1490. Throughout this period, he continued his life of piracy, patrolling the North Atlantic waters and playing a major roe lint eh Anglo-Danish War. Hans Pothorst was always by his side through all of his sea-faring adventures.
In 1484, he captured three ships which he brought to King John of Denmark. After which he joined John in Bergen where he was made admiral of the royal fleet. As part of his new position he led the fleet to the island of Gotland and secured it for Denmark in 1487. Pining either died or was killed in 1491 somewhere around Finnmark or the North Cape.
Klaus Störtebeker (1360-1401)
Klaus Störtebeker is credited as being Germany’s most famous pirate, despite this there are very few facts that are known about his life. His name, Störtebeker, is his surname and his nickname, as it has the meaning “empty the mug with one gulp” in Low Saxon. Apparently the name was given to him because of his ability to empty a four-litre mug of beer in a single gulp. He was born in Wismar sometime around 1360 but he did not really start making a name for himself until 1398. He was part of the Victual Brothers and it was during their expulsion from the Baltic island of Gotland that Störtebeker first enters into public record.
In the years following the expulsion, Störtebeker and other pirates captured a number of Hanseatic ships with little care to where they came from. Störtebeker was known to have a strong hold in Marienhafe, East Frisia starting in 1396. There is a tower at the Evangelical Lutheran Marienkirche in Marienhafe that still bears the name Störtebeker. With those being the only known facts about Störtebeker it is strange to think he has become so famous throughout Germany but much of that is attributed to the legend that surrounds him.
Legend says that in 1401 a Hamburgian fleet under the command of Simon of Utrecht crossed paths with Störtebeker’s force somewhere near Heligoland. Some stories suggest that Störtebeker’s ship had been sabotaged by a traitor who had poured molten lead into the links of the chain that controlled the rudder of the ship. Whatever was the case with the ship Störtebeker and his entire crew were captured. They were taken to Hamburg where they were put on trial for charges of piracy. Störtebeker and the 73 men in his crew were all sentenced to death by beheading. This is where the real legend of Störtebeker begins.
It is said that Störtebeker asked the mayor of Hamburg to spare as many of his men as he could walk by after being beheaded. The mayor was said to agree to the request and Störtebeker was beheaded. After his beheading, he was able to walk past 11 men before the executioner tripped him. The mayor still went ahead with the executions of the 11 men along with the rest of the crew. In a small bit of karma when the executioner was asked if he was tired after performing 73 executions. He replied that he could easily kill the entire Senate, he was sentenced to death and executed. The legend also says that after his execution, his ship was dismantled and it was found that the core of his masts were gold, silver and copper. The gold core was used to create the tip of St. Catherine’s church in Hamburg.
Hayreddin Barbarossa (1478 – 4 July 1546)
He began his naval career as a Barbary pirate, alongside his brothers, raiding Christian coastal villages and seizing ships across the Mediterranean. Khair-ed-Din, also known as Hayreddin Barbarossa, was so successful as a corsair that he managed to become the ruler of Algiers, and then the chief admiral of the Ottoman Turkish navy under Suleiman the Magnificent. Barbarossa started life as a simple potter's son, and rose to lasting piratical fame.
Khair-ed-Din was born sometime in the late 1470s or early 1480s in the village of Palaiokipos, on the Ottoman-controlled Greek island of Midilli. His mother Katerina was likely a Greek Christian, while his father Yakup is of uncertain ethnicity - different sources state that he was Turkish, Greek, or Albanian. In any case, Khair was the third of their four sons.
Yakup was a potter, who purchased a boat to help him sell his goods all around the island and beyond. His sons all learned to sail as part of the family business. As young men, sons Ilyas and Aruj operated their father's boat, while Khair bought a ship of his own; they all began operating as privateers in the Mediterranean.
Between 1504 and 1510, Aruj used his fleet of ships to help ferry Moorish Muslim refugees from Spain to North Africa after the Christian Reconquista and the fall of Granada. The refugees referred to him as Baba Aruj or "Father Aruj," but Christians heard the name as Barbarossa, which is Italian for "Redbeard." As it happened, Aruj and Khair both had red beards, so the western nickname stuck.
In 1516, Khair and his older brother Aruj led a sea and land invasion of Algiers, then under Spanish domination. The local amir, Salim al-Tumi, had invited them to come and free his city, with assistance from the Ottoman Empire. The brothers defeated the Spanish and drove them from the city, and then assassinated the amir.
Aruj took power as the new Sultan of Algiers, but his position was not secure. He accepted an offer from the Ottoman sultan Selim I to make Algiers part of the Ottoman Empire; Aruj became the Bey of Algiers, a tributary ruler under Istanbul's control. The Spanish killed Aruj in 1518, however, at the capture of Tlemcen, and Khair took on both the beyship of Algiers and the nickname "Barbarossa."
Sayyida al Hurra
A contemporary and ally of the Turkish pirate Barbarossa, Sayyida al-Hurra was a pirate queen and was the last woman awarded the title of al Hurra (Queen), following the death of her husband who had ruled Tétouan, Morocco. In fact, her real name is unknown. Sayyida al Hurra is a title that translates to “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.”
She ruled from 1515-1542, controlling the western Mediterranean Sea with her pirate fleet while Barbarossa roamed the eastern side. Al Hurra's inspiration to take to piracy came from a wish for revenge against the "Christian enemy" she felt had wronged her years before when Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella ran her Muslim family out of Granada. She was a feared figure for the Spanish and Portuguese, whose historical records are peppered with paperwork involving reports about her exploits and ransoms.
At the height of her power, al-Hurra remarried to the king of Morocco, yet refused to give up her seat of power in Tétouan. But in 1542, she was given no choice when her son-in-law overthrew her. The Yemen Times weighs in on her final chapter, writing, "She was stripped of her property and power and her subsequent fate is unknown."
The Lioness Of Brittany
Jeanne de Clisson's tale is one of tragedy, revenge and the showmanship. As the wife of Olivier III de Clisson, Jeanne was a happily married mother of five, and a lady of Brittany, France. But when land wars between England and France led to her husband being charged with treason and punished with decapitation, she swore revenge on the France's King Philip VI.
The widowed de Clisson sold all of her land to buy three warships, which she dubbed her Black Fleet. These were painted black, draped with blood red sails, and crewed with merciless privateers. From 1343-1356, the Lioness of Brittany sailed the English Channel, capturing the French King's ships, cutting down his crew, and beheading with an axe any aristocrat who had the misfortune to be onboard. Remarkably, despite all her theft and bloodshed, de Clisson retired quietly. She even remarried, settling down with English lieutenant Sir Walter Bentley.
Believed to have died in 1359, some say she has since returned to de Clisson Castle in Brittany, where her grey ghost walks the halls.
Captain John Crabbe
Flemish pirate best known for his successful use of a ship-mounted catapult. Once won the favor of Robert the Bruce and acted as a naval officer for England during the Hundred Years' War (after being captured by King Edward III.)