Pirate Flag of Henry Every-BLACK T-Shirt
The Jolly Roger is the name now given to any of various flags flown to identify the user as a pirate. The most famous Jolly Roger today is the Skull and Crossbones, a skull over two long bones set in an X arrangement on a black field. Historically, the flag was flown to induce pirates' victims to surrender readily. --------------------------- Since the decline of piracy, various military units have used the Jolly Roger, usually in skull-and-crossbones design, as a unit identification insignia or a victory flag to ascribe to themselves the proverbial ferocity and toughness of pirates.--------------------------The name "Jolly Roger" goes back at least to Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates, published in 1724. Johnson specifically cites two pirates as having named their flag "Jolly Roger": Bartholomew Roberts in June, 1721 and Francis Spriggs in July, 1723. While Spriggs and Roberts used the same name for their flags, their flag designs were quite different, suggesting that already "Jolly Roger" was a generic term for black pirate flags rather than a name for any single specific design. Neither Spriggs' nor Roberts' Jolly Roger consisted of a skull and crossbones.------------------- Richard Hawkins, captured by pirates in 1724, reported that the pirates had a black flag bearing the figure of a skeleton stabbing a heart with a spear, which they named "Jolly Roger". --------------- Another theory is that it comes from the French term "joli rouge", ("pretty red") which the English corrupted into "Jolly Roger" or simply "Hodge". While it is true that there were a series of "red flags" that were feared as much, or more, than "black flags", this seems unlikely because the red flag was not adopted from the French and it is not likely that the black flag was either, and there is no primary source reference to the name "Joli Rouge" for any flag, piratical or otherwise. Yet another theory states that "Jolly Roger" is an English corruption of "Ali Raja," the name of a Tamil pirate.--------------------------The piratical use of black flags, with skull and crossbones or other motifs upon them, predates the appearance of the term "Jolly Roger" by at least twenty years. The first known pirate use of the black flag with skull and crossbones is by Emanuel Wynne about 1700. Henry Every is frequently shown in secondary sources using the skull and crossbones on black in 1695 or 1696, but contemporary evidence for this is lacking. A piratical black flag is also attributed to Thomas Tew, who plundered Mughal shipping in 1693, but this design did not feature skull or crossbones, and its authenticity is dubious. ---------------------------- From early Roman times on through the Middle Ages, skulls and long bones were associated with death, long before they became symbols of piracy. Skulls and long bones were displayed in catacombs, monasteries, churches, church crypts and graveyards. They are the bones that resist decay the longest, and remain long after the corpse has gone. They were then carefully laid out respecting the dead. Later, skull and long bones crossed were depicted or sculpted in said places, especially above the entrances to churches and graveyards. They served as a Memento Mori, meaning "remind yourself of your own death." It was a general warning against the sin of vanity, reminding bypassers of their mortality. Thus, it became at once a common symbol of death and decay and a warning against the vagaries of fortune, as well as a first hint of an emerging sense of egalitarianism: in death, we are all equal. Thus, when appearing on pirate flags, the allusion to death would be instantly understood by any observer. ----------------------------- After 1700, the use of black flags by pirates proliferated; Johnson refers to at least a dozen pirate crews flying black flags. The piratical use of black flags was evidently far more common than the use of the skull and crossbones device upon them. Walter Kenedy is the only pirate documented by Johnson as using the skull and crossbones design without further adornment. From other sources it is known that Edward England and some 19th century Algerian corsairs used the skull and crossbones. Richard Worley may also have used the device; Johnson says that he "made a black Ensign, with a white Death’s Head in the middle of it, and other Colours suitable to it," which is consistent with, though not fully corroborative of, the skull on crossbones device traditionally attributed to Worley in secondary sources. ---------------------------- However, not all pirates used black flags, even during the 18th century. Red was also a frequently used color, as will be seen below, and during the buccaneering period of the 17th century, red flags were far more associated with pirates than black ones were.---------------------Pirates did not fly the Jolly Roger at all times. Like other vessels, pirate ships usually stocked a variety of different flags, and would normally fly false colors or no colors until they had their prey in firing range. When the pirates' intended victim was within range, the Jolly Roger would be raised, often simultaneously with a warning shot. At first sight, it might seem a bad idea to forewarn your quarry by flying the Jolly Roger. However, its use may be seen as an early form of psychological warfare. A pirate's primary aim is to capture the target ship intact along with any cargo it may be carrying. With a sufficiently bloodthirsty reputation, a pirate flying the Jolly Roger could intimidate the crew of a target ship into surrender, allowing the ship to be captured without firing a shot. For example in June 1720 when Bartholomew Roberts sailed into the harbour at Trepassey, Newfoundland with black flags flying, the crews of all 22 vessels in the harbour abandoned them in panic.