Of Pirates and Manatee's : The Kingdom of Bartholomew Roberts

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Chapter 1: Founding the Kingdom 1720-1729
Of Pirates and Manatee's : The Kingdom of Bartholomew Roberts

Chapter 1: The Second war of the Quadruple Alliance


Contemporary illustration of King Bartholomew I

"The Second war of the Quadruple Alliance" by Wilhelm Habsburg, 5th Duke of Nanzig

The Treaty of the Hague in 1720 had been signed with the purpose of ending conflict on the European continent for the next decade at least. But as history shows, it was not to be.

King Phillip V of Spain was a cunning figure, and though detractors would claim otherwise, was not blind to the issues his kingdom faced. The Treaty of the Hague and the prior Treat of Utrecht had taken what much of the nobility considered to be rightful territory of the Kingdom of Spain. A minor revolt in 1723 had firmly convinced Phillip that the status quo was not sustainable, and that if no action was taken the first king of the house of Bourbon could well be its last.

Thus in the two years leading up to 1725, Spain made preparations for war. Arms were stocked and plans drawn up, while fresh galleons were built in the ports of the Mediterranean sea. But the other powers at be were not blind fools, and if Spain did not wish to find itself the victim of a preemptive attack it needed to convince the rest of Europe that it had goals other than Sicily and the French throne.

Phillip accomplished this by making threatening moves towards its longtime rival in Africa, Morocco. The arab-berber kingdom had long been unstable, and the untimely death of Sultan Ismail from smallpox had lead to a civil war between his sons, which was still ongoing when Phillip declared Casablanca to be apart of the Spanish Empire. The Moroccan civil war stopped almost as swiftly as it had started and the new affirmed Sultan Abu'l Abbas responded by increasing the garrison of the city threefold and asking the Ottoman Empire, the distant if nominal protector of the Barbary states, for assistance, which while limited was given.

Phillip backed down from the situation, and Europe breathed a sigh of relief.

Until a Spanish fleet was sighted off Palermo, where it made landfall and captured the city without a fight on the 21st of June 1725. Sparking the second war of the Quadruple Alliance.



Jamaica prior to conquest


The Caribbean theatre of the war would rapidly prove to be one of the most bloody. Colonial garrisons fought each other tooth and nail as the armies of Europe clashed in France, while privateers and pirates alike targeted merchant shipping. Puerto Rico was invaded by an English force which besieged besieged the islands capital, while Hispaniola was completely occupied by Spanish forces.

One of the keys to the success of the Spanish war effort was cutting off their enemies from their colonies. While this was of little effect in the northern part of the American continent, in the Caribbean the entire region was thrown into anarchy as Spanish ships and hired privateers struck every colony they could. By February of 1726, only Jamaica remained in English hands.

Jamaica was not intended to be a target, the Island was widely reputed as both to heavily fortified and being far to valuable to the English crown for the meagre amount of men that the Spanish colonies could muster to have any hope of taking it.

But Dionisio Martínez de la Vega, the governor of Cuba, was an ambitious man. In 1725 he had made contact with one of the more odd figures of the 18th century, the pirate Bartholomew Roberts, who had been raiding English shipping in the west Atlantic for a year by the time the war started.

Roberts commanded a fleet of 7 ships by the time Governor Martínez made contact with him, and was interested at the prospect of capturing Jamaica, having hear well of the wealth the island possessed. Martínez supposedly said Roberts could make off with as much gold as his ships could carry if he assisted in seizing the island, and Roberts, not one to turn down such an offer, accepted.

On the 13th of March 1726 Spanish fleet, supported by Roberts and a collection of other pirates, landed at Port Antonio. They then began a campaign of destruction as they conquered the entire eastern half of the island within 3 months, barring Kingstown which was kept under siege.

Roberts distinguished himself greatly during the early phase of the campaign, defeating an English fleet in an ambush and adding three vessels to his armada, while also using his pirates to keep occupied territory calm. At some point during these three months, Roberts made contact with the Maroons, the escaped slaves and taino's who inhabited the uplands of Jamaica.

Guided to Nanny town by freed spanish slaves, Roberts met with "Queen Nanny", an Ashanti woman who ruled the largest group of Maroons present in Jamaica and Quao, the other major leader of the Windward Maroons. It is unknown how Roberts convinced Queen Nanny to support the Spanish, folklore claiming anything from gold to a magic pact, but when he left Nanny town, it was at the head of a thousand strong army of Maroons.


Queen Nanny, as depicted by an Illustration

Roberts led this newly formed army on a spree of raids and skirmishes. Defeating the hastily assembled army which had gathered in the western half of the Island under Duke Henry Bentinck in a pitched battle east of Negril, and with the help of the Leeward Maroons and an army of freed slaves in addition to his pirates, conquered the entire western part of Jamaica by January of 1727. This combined with the Spanish capture of Kingstown the day before Christmas meant that Jamaica was completely lost to the British.

The Spanish left much of the governance of Jamaica to the coalition of Roberts and the Maroon leaders Quao and Queen Nanny, only exerting their presence in Kingstown and the surrounding area. At some point during the following year, Roberts met the woman who history knows as Queen Ruth, a former slave who became first Roberts lover, then later his wife.

The state of affairs, with Roberts controlling the coastal settlements with his ships while the Maroons ruled the entire interior with the vast number of freed slaves, continued until July of 1729. At this point the news of the end of the Second war of the Quadruple Alliance, and the following Treaty of Cadiz, reached Jamaica. Jamaica was officially to be returned to English control in exchange for other territories, and the Spanish withdrew from the island altogether.

But this did not mean the Maroons, who had no mention in the treaty, accepted this. Panic was widespread amongst the Maroon leaders, many of whom worried about what would happen since the English were coming back. Roberts himself, immensely rich thanks to his plunder accumulated over two years, is said to have been considering abandoning the island and retiring to somewhere in Spain, when his lover Ruth, who had been with him for over a year at that point convinced him otherwise.

Folklore says that Ruth (who was a former maid in the Governors household) pointed out that the English were bankrupt from the loss of so many colonies and four years of war, and that with the destruction of the main fleet in the Bay of Biscay, they had no way of effectively challenging his or the Spanish control of the Caribbean.

Whatever actually happened, when the prospective new governor arrived at Kingston, he did not find a British colony waiting to be taxed for badly needed riches. He arrived to the sight of King Bartholomew the 1st, offering to purchase the island from the British crown.

Authors Note

For those unaware, Bartholomew Roberts was a welshmen often considered the most successful European pirate of all time, capturing 400 ships before his death off west africa in 1722. My POD for this timeline is that he survived what would have been his final battle OTL and after such a close call, he decided that heading to the Caribbean where the spanish treasure fleets were at was a better idea than picking on the west african trade.

Also whew! This was not a story I ever expected to write.
Second War of the Quadruple Alliance - Article
Second War of the Quadruple Alliance

Date 21 June 1725 – 5 January 1729
Location Europe, North America, Caribbean
Result - Spanish Victory

  • Treaty of Cadiz
  • Formation of Ibero-Frankish Union
  • Dissolution of 1st Kingdom of France
  • Formation of Grand Duchy of Lorraine-France Comte
  • Formation of Duchy of Brittany

  • Spain acquires Sicily, Bahamas, Minorca, Gibraltar, Austrian Netherlands, French Africa, French South America, French India, French Caribbean
  • Savoy acquires Provence
  • England acquires French North America
Spain (Yellow)
Great Britain (Red)
France (Non Existent)
Brittany (Blue)
Lorraine-France Comte (Green)
Holy Roman Empire (Black - Austria)
Dutch Republic (Orange)
Savoy (Dark Red)
Franco Spanish War 4.jpg
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Yikes. How does one lose that badly

By getting no Austrian support because the Ottomans are invading Hungary.

Also the Spanish army kinda obliterated the French one in a single battle, then spent about two years systematically crushing every fortress in France proper and not allowing the English or French time to regroup.

Its helps that Phillip has a good enough claim to the French throne that much of the nobility started having second thoughts about their young king after they started losing badly enough.
Chapter 2: Jamaican Purchase and Fledgling Steps 1729-33
Chapter 2: Jamaican Purchase and Fledgling Steps 1729-33

"On the Independence of nations" by Lady Jane Faithful, Professor of International Studies at Royal Bartholomew Roberts College

Jamaica, Jamdunge, Rock. These are the three most common names for the island located in the southern part of the Caribbean sea, home to the house of Roberts and the first colonial nation in the Americas to be formally independent from its parent country. But the actual events leading to the independence of Jamaica were far from the norm for colonial nations. Instead of the violent revolutions or gradual withdrawals that most regions of the Americas underwent, Jamaica had been occupied by a foreign power and its owner had no way to recover it, while the foreign power did not want it. So it was handed its complete independence almost without argument, King Bartholomew the 1st paying a mere 200,000 pounds for the island, most of which had come from the governors treasury and confiscations from wealthy plantation owners. This sense of legitimacy, though vague, made it far more palatable for European powers to do business with a nation led by an admitted and feared pirate, which King Bartholomew most certainly was.

In 1729, Jamaica was a sparsely settled island, populated mostly by enslaved africans and taino indians, who outnumbered the coastal european population 20 to 1. King Bartholomew was not even the first choice for the rulership of the island, with the maroons initially wanting to select either the warlord Quao or Queen Nanny as sovereign. But the maroons were divided at the best of times, and tensions were running high, so when the freed slave Ruth, Bartholomew's lover, suggested that instead of dividing themselves they could select the man who had freed them, Bartholomew Roberts, as the king, she was not rejected out of hand. By October of 1729 both the leeward and windward Maroons, along with the British colonists of the coastal towns, supported Bartholomew in his bid for kingship. And on the 22nd of October he was officially crowned in St Andrews Church in Kingston.

kingston 1.jpg

It must be remembered that not three years before this, Bartholomew Roberts had been a despised pirate feared across the Atlantic, and he was at heart a pirate still. Despite romantic appeals to the contrary, Bartholomew Roberts was at his core, a despot. He had one response to rebellion, death, one response to thievery of state funds, death, and one response to those challenging his authority, also death. The core of his power base were the Maroon tribes of the interior, who he granted each an earldom, the Leeward Earl and Windward Earl, to be elected from amongst the tribes. The first two were of course his main supporters, Queen Nanny and Quao. The other two key parts of his power were the 22 ships which counted as the Jamaican navy, all of them pirates or captured English vessels, and the masses of freed slaves, the peasantry amongst whom he remained immensely popular even during the low parts of his reign, thanks to edicts banning slavery and other such methods of appealing to the freed slaves. Amongst the english though, his popularity was nebulous at best. Whispers and plots often circles through Kingstown of overthrowing the tyrant pirate, and those whispers died down as one after another, traitors and conspirators began to line the gibbets in the port.

The personal life of King Bartholomew is perhaps more interesting than his reign itself. Though born a commoner Bartholomew recognised quickly several of the challenges of kingship, namely succession. Those closest to the King, his former crew and the officials who made up the court were heavily in favour of Bartholomew seeking some minor female relative of an obscure count or earl in Europe for his bride, to shore up legitimacy in the eyes of the western world. The King however, had a different opinion. Bartholomew recognised that the biggest threat to his reign was losing popularity amongst the teeming largely african descended masses, many of whom still had memories of their homes on the far side of the Atlantic. Thus it was from amongst the former slaves that Bartholomew Roberts picked his bride.

Queen Ruth.jpg
Modern Portrait of Queen Ruth, based on contemporary descriptions

"Good Queen Ruth" or simply "Queen Ruth" is believed to have been born around 1709-1710, to a enslaved Ashanti family on a plantation to the south of Port Antonio owned by the Governor of Jamaica. At some point she was transferred to Kingston where she acted as a domestic servant in the Governors household, she never learnt to read or write but did have a remarkable talent for taking in information and by the time the Second war of the Quadruple Alliance broke out she had a passable knowledge of governance.

When the combined force of pirates and Spanish soldiers made landfall at Port Antonio, Ruth along with hundreds of other slaves deserted to join them. She most likely was a camp follower for the next year or so of campaigning, probably a washerwoman, and somehow managed in late 1728 to attract the attention of Bartholomew Roberts. Contemporary sources describe their relationship as initially being similar to those typical of camp followers and a soldier in any army, but by the time of the capture of Kingstown, this had changed into more of a loving relationship and Ruth stayed with Roberts even after the army was dissolved into garrisons and the maroons returned to the mountains. Ruth's information on the many places where the Governor might have hidden his funds along with her helping to organise the freed slaves into something resembling a civilisation rather than an anarchic mob had swiftly catapulted her into Roberts inner circle. Or at any rater close enough to him that when she argued he should stay and rule Jamaica rather than return to being a pirate he listened, something his reign would prove was an accomplishment in of itself. Her persuading the Maroons to back Roberts was merely furthering her usefulness to him. All of these things made her a natural choice when Roberts was considering an influential figure amongst the Maroons and freed slaves to wed.

Bartholomew having an african lover was considered somewhat scandalous when it was just a rumour, but his taking an african, and a former slave at that, as his lawful wife in the eyes of god? It was said that every house from Kingston to Negril had something to say about it, and in amongst the upper class it was rarely something good. Nonetheless the couple married on the 22nd of December 1729, in the same church Bartholomew had been crowned in.

The marriage proved to be a fruitful one soon enough, and in April of 1731 their firstborn son Samuel Roberts entered the world, followed by a further 4 children over the next decade. But besides providing heirs to the throne of Jamaica, Queen Ruth served a far more important role in the governance of the island kingdom. The simple fact was that Bartholomew Roberts was a terrible negotiator. He was ill tempered, prone to violence when angry, and despite his charisma was a poor public speaker by the standards of the upper class. This combined with his average at best grasp of administrating his kingdom meant that Queen Ruth ended up serving as the internal diplomat with Jamaica, constantly preventing riots amongst the freedmen blacks, assuring the Maroons that their privileges would remain untouched, and convincing the merchants of Europe to buy Jamaica's valuable sugar. She also acted as a limiter on the notoriously spendthrift King Bartholomew.

Queen Ruth would continue to be a force in Jamaican politics even after the death of her husband, acting as a minister on the Royal Council till her passing in 1793, having survived her son and was grandson, indeed having been acting regent for her eldest great grandchild at the time of her death.


A drawing of Queen Ruth by her granddaughter, preserved in Kingston Museum

Authors Notes:

The whole figure of Queen Ruth comes from the fact that Bartholomew Roberts was ultimately, a Pirate. He had little administrative experience and likley few limits on his temper. In order for his rule to be successful he needed a way to get the people onside, and ultimately Ruth provides that.

I guess immigration of the Irish and Jews has tapered off temporarily?

Although I'd think Ruth would be pragmatic in acepting any those adventurous or desperate enough to join a pirate kingdom.

I guess immigration of the Irish and Jews has tapered off temporarily?

Although I'd think Ruth would be pragmatic in acepting any those adventurous or desperate enough to join a pirate kingdom.

Immigration at this point is largely a mix of whatever scoundrels want to come (escaped slaves, felons, pirates, people fleeing other colonies, political exiles from europe, and yes also jews)

A big part of this was actually me wondering "If a pirate conquered some place, what would happen?"
What was Bartholomew's epithet? Pirate King? The Mad? The Great?

In everywhere which isn't Jamaica? Either some variant of "Pirate King Roberts" or "Bloody King Roberts". In Jamaica itself things like "Good King Bartholomew" and "Roberts the Chain Breaker" are typical amongst the African populace, but amongst the whites the most common epithet is "Bartholomew the Conquerer".
What's Bartholomew's relationship with, well, Pirates? Because he's gone from being a pirate to being a King, Eg: A person who should dislike Pirates, given that their trade is plundering all the shipping that Jamaica would like to do.

Maybe he offers safe harbour if they leave Jamaica-Flagged and Jamaica-Bound shipping alone?
In everywhere which isn't Jamaica? Either some variant of "Pirate King Roberts" or "Bloody King Roberts". In Jamaica itself things like "Good King Bartholomew" and "Roberts the Chain Breaker" are typical amongst the African populace, but amongst the whites the most common epithet is "Bartholomew the Conquerer".

What about "Dread Pirate Roberts"? :p
In everywhere which isn't Jamaica? Either some variant of "Pirate King Roberts" or "Bloody King Roberts". In Jamaica itself things like "Good King Bartholomew" and "Roberts the Chain Breaker" are typical amongst the African populace, but amongst the whites the most common epithet is "Bartholomew the Conquerer".

"Black Bart" could be used mockingly by those who hate him.
"Black Bart" could be used mockingly by those who hate him.

wasn't used OTL until AFTER his death.
What's Bartholomew's relationship with, well, Pirates? Because he's gone from being a pirate to being a King, Eg: A person who should dislike Pirates, given that their trade is plundering all the shipping that Jamaica would like to do.

Maybe he offers safe harbour if they leave Jamaica-Flagged and Jamaica-Bound shipping alone?

You basically described the arrangement he has going. Though he specifically makes note to not give haven to those which sink spanish ships.
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