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The Fabulous High Seas: A Journey Through the History of Gay Pirates

Pirate Party women of the high seas card game for pride month

Ahoy, mateys! Grab your eye patches and rainbow flags as we set sail on a fabulous journey through the swashbuckling world of gay pirates.

While Hollywood often paints pirates as rough and gruff scallywags, history reveals a vibrant tapestry of diverse identities and love stories that defy the traditional stereotypes. So, buckle your swashes and hoist the Jolly Roger—we’re diving into the fascinating, and surprisingly inclusive, world of pirate history!

The Golden Age of Piracy: A Diverse Crew

The Golden Age of Piracy, spanning the late 17th and early 18th centuries, was a time of rebellion and defiance against rigid societal norms. Pirates, outcasts by nature, often formed their own codes of conduct and social structures aboard their ships, creating environments that were remarkably egalitarian and inclusive.

One of the most notable examples of inclusivity at sea is the pirate haven of Libertalia, a legendary utopian colony founded by Captain Misson and his companion Caraccioli. Although its existence remains unproven, Libertalia is said to have welcomed people of all races and creeds, including those who didn’t conform to traditional gender and sexual norms.

Love on the High Seas

Pirate ships were microcosms of society, where men and women from various backgrounds lived in close quarters. This environment fostered deep bonds and relationships, some of which were romantic and intimate.

One of the most famous pirate couples was Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Both women disguised themselves as men to join pirate crews and eventually sailed with the notorious “Calico Jack” Rackham. The exact nature of their relationship remains a topic of speculation, but historical accounts suggest a deep bond and mutual admiration. Anne and Mary’s story illustrates how pirate life allowed for more fluid and unconventional expressions of gender and sexuality.

Matelotage: The Pirate’s Pact

A significant aspect of pirate culture that highlights their unique approach to relationships is “matelotage,” a form of same-sex civil union practiced among pirates. This bond was not merely for companionship but often involved shared property, joint economic ventures, and mutual care in times of illness or injury. The term “matelot” comes from the French word for “sailor,” but within the pirate community, it signified a deeper, often romantic partnership.

The practice of matelotage reflects the pragmatic and progressive nature of pirate society. By forming these unions, pirates ensured their well-being and economic stability, while also enjoying the personal freedoms that came with these partnerships. Some historical records even suggest that matelotage was a form of resistance against the rigid and oppressive societal norms of their time.

Pirates of All Colors

Pirate crews were often racially diverse, as piracy offered an escape from the racial hierarchies and oppressions of the mainland. Many pirates were formerly enslaved people or indentured servants who found freedom and camaraderie on the high seas. This diversity extended to sexual orientation and gender identity, creating a melting pot of cultures and lifestyles.

For instance, Black Caesar, an African pirate who escaped enslavement and became one of Blackbeard’s most trusted lieutenants, exemplifies the diverse makeup of pirate crews. While there are no specific records of his sexual orientation, the inclusive nature of pirate culture suggests that individuals like Black Caesar found acceptance among their peers, regardless of their personal identities.

The Legacy of Gay Pirates

The history of gay pirates is more than just a collection of fascinating anecdotes; it’s a testament to the resilience and adaptability of human beings in the face of adversity. Pirates created societies that defied the rigid norms of their time, embracing diversity in all its forms. Their stories remind us that even in the most unlikely places, love and acceptance can flourish.
Today, the legacy of these audacious sailors lives on, inspiring books, movies, and even themed events like LGBTQ+ pirate festivals. Their tales continue to captivate our imaginations, offering a colorful and inclusive perspective on a time often romanticized for its adventure and rebellion.

So next time you raise a glass of rum and toast to the high seas, remember the brave souls who sailed against the tide of conformity, proving that the pirate’s life was indeed a life for all. Arrr, mateys!


Enjoy the lightly strategic Pirate Party: Women of the High Seas – a card game of powerful women pirates inspired from history.

Jeanne De Clisson

Jeanne De Clisson, the female pirate, woman pirate, Lioness of Brittany, pirate party:women of the high seas card game

The Lioness of Brittany: Jeanne de Clisson, and Her Black Fleet


Jeanne De Clisson, the “Lioness of Brittany,” was a fierce and fearless female pirate who terrorized the seas of France and England during the 14th century. Her story is one of revenge, courage, and cunning, and it has inspired countless tales of female empowerment and liberation.

Jeanne was born into a noble family in 1300 in Brittany, France. She lived a comfortable life as a wife and mother until her husband, Olivier III de Clisson, was executed by King Philip VI of France in 1343. The king accused Olivier of conspiring with the English and ordered his public execution by beheading.

She was devastated by her husband’s politically motivated murder and swore revenge against the French king. She sold all her possessions, raised a private army, and started attacking French ships in the English Channel. She became known as the “Black Fleet,” and her ship was painted black to symbolize her mourning and thirst for revenge.

Jeanne’s attacks were brutal and swift. She would capture French ships, kill the crew, and then spare one or two men to tell the tale of her vengeance. She even went as far as to have her ships’ hulls painted red to represent the blood of the French nobles she had killed.

Jeanne’s exploits quickly caught the attention of the English king, Edward III, who was at war with France at the time. Edward offered to support Jeanne in her quest for revenge, and she accepted his help.

Jeanne’s Black Fleet became a formidable force on the seas, and she continued to wreak havoc on French ships. Her most famous attack was against a ship owned by the French Admiral Hugues Quiéret. Jeanne captured the ship, executed the crew, and personally beheaded Quiéret with an axe. She then threw his body overboard, declaring that it was not enough to simply kill him; she wanted to make sure he would never rest in peace.

Jeanne’s reputation as a ruthless and vengeful pirate grew, and she became known as the “Lioness of Brittany.” She was feared by both French and English sailors and was considered one of the most dangerous pirates of her time.

Despite her success, Jeanne’s pirate career was short-lived. In 1356, Edward III signed the Treaty of Bretigny, which ended the war between England and France. Jeanne was left without a cause, and she retired from piracy. She later remarried and lived a quiet life in England until her death in 1359.

Jeanne’s story is a remarkable one, and it has inspired countless tales of female empowerment and liberation. She defied the expectations of her time and became a powerful figure in a male-dominated world. Her bravery, cunning, and thirst for revenge have made her a legendary figure in history.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jeanne De Clisson, there are several great resources available online. The following blog posts provide additional information about her life and adventures:

Marge Rosen

Marge Rosen


Marge is a game designer for Seaport Games.  Learn more in the About section of this website.

box for pirate party women of the high seas card game. 2-4 players ages 10+
Pirate Party: Women of the High Seas

Jeanne De Clisson is one of six vibrant, diverse, historic women pirate captains with special powers in this new pirate card game for 2-4 players.

Race to collect sets of cards by suit that include a captain and crew or sets of 3-of-a-kind. Plunder, pillage and raid from other players to take the most pirate booty to win. There’s plenty of adventure, period ships, tresure and mermaid wild cards.  Just beware the Kraken!


Did you enjoy this sea story about a legendary women pirate captain? Which pirate captains would you like to hear about?  Let us know.

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