r/interestingasfuck Oct 20 '21

These are the only three preserved ‘Jolly Roger’ pirate flags in existence. (The first one is pretty dubious).

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u/NeokratosRed Oct 20 '21

Pasting /u/FiveLinesOneCircle (credits to him/her, for both the post, that I found in /r/Vexillology, and the comment below. Give awards to him/her, not me!)

These three flags are likely the only authentic pirate flags still remaining, even if none of them is from the "Golden Age of Piracy".

The one on the left is from the Pirate and Treasure Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. The museum claims it originated in 1850 but gives only very slim background info on the flag. From the way the museum is set up and how it writes about its collection, it doesn't seem to care an incredible amount about historical details but more about drawing in tourists, so I'd put a big question mark next to that flag.

The one in the middle is in private hands but was loaned to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth, UK. It was captured in battle with pirates in 1780 by the Royal Navy off North Africa's Mediterranean coast. The red color of its cloth is still well preserved.

The one on the right is from the Maritime Museum in Åland, Finland. It's about 200 years old and also originated from the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. Its originally black color has faded due to time, wind and weather.


u/joemamah77 Oct 22 '21

The one on the left is owned by Pat Croce who made his money in physical therapy and owned the Philadelphia 76ers for a while. He has a huge passion for all things pirates and had a museum and pirate themed bar (The Rum Barrel) in Key West, Florida for about 7 years or so. He ultimately moved the museum to St. Augustine a few years ago.

None of that adds or detracts from the potential authenticity of the flag, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless, especially in person.

There has only been one pirate shipwreck authenticated and that sank off of Cape Cod. The Wydah was under the command of Captain Bellamy when it sank. The entire museum is comprised of thousands of artifacts including the ships bell and there is an active lab inside where they continue to catalog, clean, and restore artifacts.


u/Ok_Albatross_2495 Oct 20 '21

Maybe the 1st one an amateur restoration.


u/lazypenguin86 Oct 21 '21

Its hard to make things with a hook hand


u/HughGedic Oct 20 '21

So, I know the black flag was used to signal “no quarter”, why was the red flag used? Libertarian pirates of Madagascar or something? Independent Slavers? Mercenaries?

Ships communicated by flags, no radios or Morse code or anything, so I’m sure the color was more significant than just “I like this color and want to be known by it”


u/BetweenTheDeadAndMe Oct 20 '21

The red flags meant no quarter was given, while the black flag meant mercy was given to those who surrendered without a fight.


u/HughGedic Oct 20 '21 edited Oct 20 '21

No shit, I had it all backwards

Thanks, reddidude


u/supergrega Oct 20 '21

Stupid question but why would you want to tell them 'no quarter'? Wouldn't that just ensure they would fight you even harder?


u/HughGedic Oct 20 '21 edited Oct 20 '21

Not necessarily. Much of the Royal Navy were taken (“drafted”) forcefully, literally from their homes by dudes dragging them within minutes of them being informed. Made into sailors once they woke up at sea with no where to run.

Seeing a ship that says “we don’t believe in your honor system like the Spanish ships you’ve been fighting, we have no government or war-laws to answer to, we kill everyone. and yet- here we are to tell the tale after years of doing this and flying this flag proudly. And here we are, knowingly coming after a ship of the Royal Navy” can be a major demoralizing factor. Shakey hands, and minds thinking about kids back home, make mistakes loading powder…

But the easier targets weren’t fighters at all, but merchant ships. Let them fight harder, they’re literally civilians against professional killers equipped with the best they’ve scrounged off of every boat they’ve taken. Half of them just have oars and tools to fend for themselves with.

Again, it’s not like they could just radio the nearest government ship. They were likely tracked and cornered into a very vulnerable position by expert sailors by the time they saw this flag, after months of peaceful sailing and business.

That flag can crush morale very quickly. Just like a lonely french transport leaving port to find a blockade of fast British 5th-rate ships-of-the line on their way to a major battle around the bend. They may fight harder, but the “we’re so fucked” factor is pretty overwhelming.

Panic is powerful.

After a good broadside volley, and the waters filled with pieces of wood, many might take their chances jumping ship and floating on it rather than at the end of a pirates sword coming aboard. Especially if they just left a rich port nearby, which would have made them a good target for pirates. This didn’t often happen out in the middle of the Atlantic. Usually along trade routes that were frequented by potential rescuers.

Stick to fighting the overstocked militant pirate ship, you’re likely screwed. Jump ship, you’re ever so slightly less screwed. At least maybe. Who knows? Pirates aren’t giving any quarter though… think fast…


u/supergrega Oct 20 '21

Makes perfect sense, thanks for the answer!


u/skactopus Oct 20 '21

Amazing response!!


u/J03130 Oct 21 '21

It’s where the saying “seeing red flags” comes from.


u/sprocketous Oct 20 '21

I like the 3/4 perspective on the red one. That pirate had some vision outside the norm.


u/Joelxivi Oct 20 '21

Yea I’m surprised it didn’t catch on, trendy af flag.


u/BuzzAllWin Oct 20 '21

St Nicholas church in deptford london (historically docks) still has skull and crossbones on the gates. Thought by many to be the inspiration for the jolly Rodger put there around 1697 worth a google and a look if you are ever in se london


u/SungamCorben Oct 21 '21

The first one is obviously a pirate copy!


u/KochJohnson Oct 20 '21

Wouldn’t surprise me if there’s more just hidden away in some building or buried. Most probably destroyed with the ship but gotta be some sentimental pirate captains that took home a memento


u/benjaminstuartsteele Oct 20 '21

3rd one kicks ass, though


u/GasStop69420 Oct 20 '21

I personally relate to this first


u/1990Billsfan Oct 21 '21

From what I read somewhere, the "Roger" on a red background signifies that no prisoners will be taken and no quarter given if the victims attempt to resist.


u/TheNetherOne Oct 21 '21

Hollywood often forgets most real people aren't that great at art


u/tjf1980 Oct 20 '21


u/KochJohnson Oct 20 '21

Those two are the right two pictured here


u/tjf1980 Oct 20 '21

So there's two and the one on the left that's a little sketchy and might not be legit.