Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Private men of war issued with a letter of marque, commission or letter of marque and reprisal.
le Spahi
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Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by le Spahi »

Despite my research, I have not managed to find the answer to this question: in the years 1779-1782, which flag was flown by the Privateers of Guernsey ?
Did a Letter of Marque give the right to hoist the flag of the Royal Navy ?

Thanks to those who know !
Cy
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Re: Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by Cy »

I know nothing of this, but found the following in CAMBRIDGE NAVAL AND MILITARY SERIES BRITISH FLAGS on Project Guttenburg.
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46370/4 ... Chapter_Vb

The "private man-of-war" or "privateer" was a vessel the owner (or owners) of which had received from the Crown, or from the Lord High Admiral, "Letters of Marque and Reprisal." The occasion for the issue of such a licence, which was originally granted in the form of Letters Patent—whence the name—might be either special or general. It might be issued "specially" to some merchant who was able to prove that he had suffered certain losses from the action of the subjects of some foreign power, and who was thereupon authorised to make seizure of any ships or goods belonging to subjects of that State until he had by that means taken sufficient plunder to make good the losses formerly sustained by him, but no more. Such licences were also issued "generally" upon the outbreak of hostilities with a foreign state, to any subjects who wished to make war upon enemy vessels on the chance of making some profit by it, and who were able to give satisfactory security that they would comply with the regulations laid down for their conduct, particularly in the matter of the disposal of prizes taken. During the wars of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries merchants frequently sought Letters of Marque for their vessels, not because they wished them to take the offensive as regular privateers, but because they were thereby freed of all danger of being classed as "pirates" should they attempt to turn the tables upon any enemy that attacked them. For this reason many, perhaps most, of the ships of the East India and Guinea Companies fitted out in the seventeenth century carried Letters of Marque and displayed the Union jack.

Indeed, despite the issue of the Proclamations of 1634 and 1674, it seems that all privateers in the seventeenth century were in the habit of wearing the Union jack—sometimes with the permission of the authorities, but more often without it—with the object of making themselves look (so far as flags were concerned) as much like the king's ships as possible. The instructions for privateers issued toward the end of that century indicate that there was some infirmity of purpose on the part of the authorities in enforcing the existing law as regards the wearing of the Union jack. Thus the Instructions for privateers operating against Algiers, issued in December, 1681, provided

That the merchants, captains, and others who shall have such letters of marque or commissions as aforesaid shall not weare in their said ships our Union flagg or jack (which is intended to distinguish our owne ships of warr from all others) at no time nor upon no pretence whatsoever, unless they be warranted for so doing by an order of leave under our hands and seal of our lord high Admirall or Commissioners of the Admiralty, whereas the Instructions for Privateers fitted out against France issued in May, 1693, merely ordered that the Union jack or pendant (which actually were illegal without special warrant) should not be worn in presence of H.M. ships or in circumstances in which they might give occasion to a salute by a friendly foreign power.

That such merchants, commanders of ships, and others, who shall obtain such letters of marque or commissions as aforesaid shall not wear our colours, commonly called the Union Jack or pendant on board such ship or vessell by them fitted out in pursuance of such our commission, in company of any our men of warr, or so near any other men of warr belonging to any nation in amity with us, so as to occasion any salute from them, or in or near any port or road whatsoever.

A special distinguishing flag for privateers was first provided in the Royal Proclamation issued in July, 1694, which ordained that vessels receiving "Commissions of Letters of Mart or Reprisals" should wear, in addition to the St George's flag at the masthead and the red ensign with canton of St George at the stern, "a Red Jack with the Union Jack described in a Canton of the upper corner thereof next the staff"—the flag that Pepys in 1687 called the Budgee jack—which was in fact of the same design as the red ensign adopted in 1707, though apparently the canton occupied a larger proportion of the area of the flag in the jack than in the ensign.

Despite this precise direction, the privateer Instructions issued against France and Spain in December, 1704, contain the same instructions as those of 1693 quoted above, which presuppose that these vessels would fly the Union jack and pendant, which the Proclamation of 1694 had forbidden—but indeed, this muddle-headed attitude is not uncommon in official instructions. It is clear that privateers did carry pendants, for Woodes Rogers relates that he was ordered to strike his pendant by the 'Arundel' in August, 1708, "which we immediately did, all private commissioned ships being obliged by their Instructions to pay that respect to all her Majesty's ships and fortifications." The Distinction Jack of 1694 (subject to [126]the necessary modification of the Union in 1801) remained the distinguishing flag of a privateer until privateering was abolished in 1856
OK, it was me, probably!
le Spahi
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Re: Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by le Spahi »

Thank you very much for these precise references!

Their exploitation gave me a terrible headache - I thought I caught Covid-19 (UK variant of course ...)

Joking aside, it is very difficult to navigate these administrative arrangements (I thought that only France was capable of such a mess ...)

If I understood correctly, the answer to my question is: distinctive flag of the model described by the Royal Proclamation of 1694, that is to say the red flag with in the upper left section (at the shaft) the Union Jack quite large in size.


I found on this other link the text of the Proclamation:

Publications of the Navy Records Society - Google Books
Cy
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Re: Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by Cy »

I think it's a bit more complex.

The 1694 instructions state a Cross of St George (Red cross on white background) at the masthead.
The Red Ensign, which would be carried at the stern.
The distinguishing jack, a Jack being specifically a flag carried at the bow, on the jack staff which was carried at the end of the bowsprit.

By your time period ships didn't generally carry jacks. So would have probably just carried the Cross of St George and the Red Ensign. But thats a guess.

Cy
OK, it was me, probably!
le Spahi
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Re: Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by le Spahi »

The study of accounts and reports of combat at sea shows that privateers generally do not fly any flag or that they fly the enemy flag in order to get closer to their prey. At the last moment, they hoist their real flag (and it alone) and I think it was done on a yard halyard towards the stern (from contemporary illustrations).
So, I imagine this flag could be red with the Union Jack in an oversized canton (compared to the layout of the well-known Royal Navy flag).
It is very difficult to have certainties from regulations that were not always applied ...
Thierry
le Spahi
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Re: Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by le Spahi »

Cy wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 11:38 am I think it's a bit more complex.

The 1694 instructions state a Cross of St George (Red cross on white background) at the masthead.
The Red Ensign, which would be carried at the stern.
The distinguishing jack, a Jack being specifically a flag carried at the bow, on the jack staff which was carried at the end of the bowsprit.

By your time period ships didn't generally carry jacks. So would have probably just carried the Cross of St George and the Red Ensign. But thats a guess.

Cy
The Privateer whose flag I am trying to find out is the Privateer Brig Dragon of Guernesey, captured in September 1781 by the French frigate Friponne.

On September 12, 1781, the Guernsey Dragon (Captain John Row) flies no flag when she tries to infiltrate a Brest-Bordeaux convoy escorted by the frigate Friponne (Captain de Macnemara). Spotted by the Friponne, the privateer hoists the French flag then, after a few cannon shots, she hoists and takes down the "English flag" ("pavillon anglais" in the French report").

The question is: in September 1781, what exactly was an English flag on a privateer from Guernsey?

Thierry
Cy
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Re: Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by Cy »

The flag of England is the Cross of St George. I would assume that is what is meant
OK, it was me, probably!
le Spahi
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Re: Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by le Spahi »

From an English or a British point of view, I agree.
From a French point of view, I am not so sure... I guess that for most French sailors in 1779-1782, "an English Flag" is a flag with the Union Jack.
le Spahi
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Re: Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by le Spahi »

There is a "famous" painting of Jersey Privateer Pitt flying an upside down "Union flag" (red with the large canton). I know neither the artist nor the current location of the painting :
http://doug-jersey.freeservers.com/18th%20century.htm

The flag upside down could be a signal of distress or indicate that the Privateer has been captured (in 1781 by the French Frigate Amazone).

Thierry
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Re: Guernsey Privateers circa 1779-1782

Post by Navclio »

In the 18th century, the French routinely referred to subjects and warships of the Kingdom of Great Britain as "anglais." In reading French naval history and 18th century French naval records, I don't think I've ever seen a reference to "vaisseaux britanniques," "la marine britannique," or a "britannique" anything—it's always "anglais." A reference by a French navy officer in 1781 to a "pavillon anglaise" should not be interpreted as a reference to a white flag with a red cross, i.e., the Cross of St. George as the flag of "England." The Channel Islands, while domains of the Kings and Queens of England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, seem never to have been part of England or incorporated with England into Great Britain and the United Kingdom; I suspect they are an inheritance from King William I as Duke of Normandy, like Normandy itself for him and his first few successors. When England or Great Britain was at war with France, the King thereof could issue letters of marque to Channel Islanders in his capacity as their sovereign. As a practical matter, they would have needed to identify themselves as English or British to warships of the English (to 1704) or British (to 1801) navy, and as such when attacking French merchantmen, so flying some kind of English/British flag would make sense. But I don't have any idea what they actually did or whether they had a separate Channel Islands ensign that was known to both the French and British navies and merchant marines. I don't think 18th century flag books with hand-colored plates usually show a separate Channel Islands flag. https://www.crwflags.com/FOTW/FLAGS/ shows flags for Jersey and Guernsey as follows:
Jersey: White flag with a thin red saltire (X)--like the "cross of St. Patrick," but I doubt that that is what it is--with the crowned arms of England above the saltire (red sheild, three "leopards" = lions passant gardant, i.e., walking and looking at the observer
Guernsey before 1985: White with red cross, identical to England
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