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Famous Elizabethan Era Pirate Ships

The pirate ships used during the 17th and the 18th century were quick, well equipped and lively. These ships very often required maintenance in a protected and isolated place away from people’s attention. There were a number of ships used by the pirates that sailed the oceans and were always for a lookout for vulnerable ships.

Elizabethan Pirate Ships
Elizabethan Pirate Ships

One of the most frequently used pirate ship was the Sloop ship. This ship was primarily manufactured in Jamaica by experts in this field. Sloop ships were basically small ships which weighed about 100 tons and had the capacity of carrying 75-80 pirates. Square-Rigger was a small ship which weighed only 90 tons and carried 70 pirates.

Famous Pirate Ship


Another famous pirate ship was the Schooner ship. This ship was made for the first time in the 1700s. This ship like the sloop weighed 100 tons and would generally carry around 75 pirates.

Elizabethan Pirate ShipsElizabethan Pirate Ships

Brigantine ship had good speed, it weighed around 150 tons and was had the capacity of carrying on board around 100 pirates. This ship was better and preferred than most of the small ships. Frigate or the Man-O-War ship was another mighty ship weighing up to 360 tons and could normally carry 190 pirates.

Tudor Pirates

Naval powers gained important during King Henry VIII’s reign, who tried to develop his naval forces greatly and invested in new ships and sea weaponry. However, the practice of privateering gathered influence under Elizabeth I’s rule and formed a key part of her naval strategy. A ‘supplementary navy’ was built to bring piracy under control.

Privateers were private ships owned by merchants and authorized with a letter of Marque by the crown. It had the legal permission to attack or raid any ship in the sea that belonged to the enemies. The wealth derived from these ships were then divided between the crown and the shipowner.

In trying to tame the Spanish sea power, Elizabeth appointed a special branch of privateers, called the Sea Dogs. The Sea Dogs would travel around and attack Spanish ships whenever they saw one. They would bring back the treasures looted from these ships while in the process also causing damage to the Spanish navy.

Elizabethan ship
Elizabethan ship design

Why did Queen Elizabeth I need to rely on the pirate ships to attack the Spanish?

Queen Elizabeth, I had always been defied by the Roman Catholic church who did not accept her as the Queen. Under her rule, England had become a protestant state. They sought the help of King Philip II of Spain, which was a completely Catholic country, to help them overthrow Elizabeth and restore the Catholic faith in England.

Spain planned to attack England with its extremely powerful fleet of warships known as the Spanish Armada. But Queen Elizabeth had already been made aware this and the Spanish armada was outfoxed by the English fleets in mid-ocean.

Elizabeth relied on famous privateer Sir Francis Drake for this operation, who attacked the Spanish armada even before they could set sail towards England, causing huge damage to the fleet.

Facts About Elizabethan Pirate Ships

There were also Elizabethan Privateers or those pirates who lawfully worked for the Government and attacked the treasure ships of the enemy countries. These pirates had been given ‘Letters of marque’ by the English government.

This letter acted as a sign of consent from the government for the pirates to attack any of the enemy ships and to loot it. The letter also protected the pirates from being arrested and charged for maritime crimes.

Elizabethan Pirate Ships
Pirate Ships

Some of the Elizabethan pirate ships used by these pirates are as follows

  1. Pelican or the Golden Hind – Sir Francis Drake
  2. Gabriel – Martin Frobisher
  3. Victory – John Hawkins
  4. Other ships included the Falcon, the Dainty, Anne Ager, Tiger, the Revenge, etc.

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