A woman’s bargain with pirates
Anne Logie remained calm as she faced the young French pirate Victor St Cyr Barbazan. He and the other pirates of the Defensor de Pedro had boarded and raided the Morning Star that morning, viciously slashing at passengers and looting everything they could find. Now, he had her trapped in a cabin with her young daughter and his nefarious intentions were very obvious. Yet unlike what would later be reported in the press, Anne did not scream. There was no point. She knew no-one was coming to save her. The pirates had locked all the crew and male passengers, including her husband, in the hold. The four other women passengers were at the mercy of Barbazan’s colleagues in other parts of the ship. There was nowhere for her to run. Perhaps a fleeting thought of leaping overboard crossed her mind but she would only drown in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and leave her young daughter behind. So instead, Anne started talking to the young pirate.
I examine Anne’s story in my new book, Atlantic Piracy in the early 19th Century: The Shocking Story of the Pirates and Survivors of the Morning Star. Everything I had read about the women’s treatment during the attack on the Morning Star by the pirates of the Defensor de Pedro referred to the ‘shrieks of the women’. Yet two eye-witness accounts I uncovered never mentioned hearing screams at all. Both were written by men locked in the hold. One specifically said, ‘nothing but a chopping [sound] was heard on deck’.
At first I speculated that the press omitted the women’s stories deliberately to protect their reputations from the stain of sexual assault. At the time, attitudes towards rape victims, especially married women like Anne, commonly blamed them for the assault. Most people believed a determined woman could stop a man from raping her if she fought hard enough. But perhaps an assault by pirates was one of the only circumstances that may have elicited such a blanket silence?
Unusually for a pirate story, there is evidence from the pirate himself. Barbazan told the Spanish authorities of the ‘beautiful wife of the Governor’ and how she offered herself to him in exchange for her husband’s life. At first read, Barbazan’s story seemed to describe the young pirate’s romanticised fantasy of how he wished the encounter had occurred. If it was true, for Anne to make such a bargain with Barbazan was legally tantamount to consent. In 19th century British law, using persuasive violence to gain a woman’s acquiescence made her an accomplice in the crime against her.
In my book, I considered Barbazan’s story through contemporary theories on how women respond to a threat to their survival. Without knowing Anne’s version of events, I determined Barbazan’s story could be true. The idea Anne would ascertain there was no stopping the rape and then rationally and deliberately exchange the use of her body for a reassurance of protection for the only other thing that mattered to her – the lives of her daughter and husband – would have made perfect sense to her under the circumstances. This strategy even has a name: tend and befriend.
The most extraordinary thing about Anne’s actions that day was that her alleged bargain with Barbazan worked. He defied his captain’s orders and did not kill her or anyone else. Instead, he and the pirates tried unsuccessfully to induce the ship to sink by drilling holes in the hull: the ‘chopping sound’. Anne and the other women rescued the men and, as a result, the Morning Star made it back to London to raise the alarm. From then on, the days of Barbazan and the pirates of the Defensor de Pedro were numbered.
This guest post was written by Sarah Craze, an independent researcher and author of Atlantic Piracy in the early 19th Century: The Shocking Story of the Pirates and Survivors of the Morning Star, now available. She is the author of The Truth behind a Pirate Legend https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/the-truth-behind-a-pirate-legend and operates @PiracyinPictures on Instagram.