The Count of Ericeira and the Pirates

C.R. Boxer describes how the cultivated Viceroy of Portuguese India, on his way home from Goa, had a costly misadventure in the Indian Ocean.

Professor Auguste Toussaint has pointed out in his short but authoritative History of the Indian Ocean (1966) that during the period from about 1685 to 1726, the great Dutch, English, and French East-India Companies did not have a firm hold on the maritime trade of that Sea and they could not even lay down the law there, except perhaps in extremely limited areas.

Large-scale piracy, chiefly by buccaneers of European and North American origins, was rampant; and for much of this period there was a multi-national community or republic of pirates, which they named Libertalia, and which was based on Madagascar.

They attacked Arab, Indian, and European vessels indiscriminately, and they had accomplices in many Indian ports, including Dutch Cochin and English Bombay, who supplied them with information about the movements of shipping, and who often purchased part of their booty.

Many of these pirates had come out from the Bahamas and elsewhere in the Caribbean, when the British and French governments in the West Indies belatedly moved to suppress them there; but they long retained close links with friends and accomplices in American ports, including Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

They made many rich prizes in the Indian Ocean; but their most valuable and most spectacular success was the capture of the richly laden Portuguese East-Indiaman, Nossa Senhora do Cabo, with the ex-Viceroy of Goa, Dom Luis de Meneses on board, off the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) in April 1721.

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