Francois l’Olonnais

Francois l’Olonnais



Francois l’Olonnais (born Jean-David Nau) nicknamed ‘Flail of the Spanish’
Born: 1635
Died: 1668

Born in Les Sables-d’Olonne, Frances, Francois l’Olonnais is remembered for his cruel and bloodthirsty piracy. Along with being called the ‘Flail of the Spanish’, he is also often referred to as being the cruelest buccaneer ever (especially to the Spanish).
Around the age of 15, he was sold as a slave and taken to the Island of Martinique, in the Caribbean. Here he stayed as an indentured servant until 1660, then having earned his freedom he travelled around until finally settling in Saint-Domingue/island of Hispaniola (now in Haiti) with a group of buccaneers. These were men who lived a rough life, mainly hunting wild game, cooking it on a boucan (a special fire that gave the men their name - boucaniers or buccaneers) and then selling it, although at other times they also went pirating. L’Olonnais’s sadistic nature, combined with the cruel skills he had learnt during his servitude were perfect for the buccaneer lifestyle.  
During this time, the French and Spanish were regularly at war, with the French Governor of Tortuga (also a buccaneer) arranging many attacks on Spanish ships and towns. As a buccaneer, L’Olonnais was quickly hired to take part in these attacks, and very quickly recognised for his vicious nature (especially when it came to torturing) and ingenuity. Consequently, it also didn’t take long before he was given his own ship to captain. Then, as his attacks continued, he soon earned his evil reputation (due primarily to his habit of killing everybody on the ships he plundered) that saw many Spanish eagerly die fighting rather than risk being captured and tortured by him. 
And that, unfortunately, is about where all the stories on L’Olonnais stop being consistent. From there on they all vary, except for in one thing - they all agree that he was not a nice man!


The biographies about him though do include similar stories or similar parts of stories, they just all tend to be in different settings, at different times or in different places.
For example, many of the stories talk of an attack, or variations on an attack, when his ship was wrecked in Yucatan, Peninsula. It appears to be a story for which l’Olonnais appears most remembered for, when he and his entire crew survived the wreck, but not the Spanish attack that followed immediately afterwards. In fact, the only reason l’Olonnais wasn’t slaughtered with all the others was because he smeared his body with the blood of his dead crewmen and hid himself, without moving, among their bodies.
Then, once the Spaniards had left, he and the few remaining crewmen, plus a handful of slaves they had help escape, went to Tortuga, acquired a boat, and continued their piratical ways by hunting down the ship that had attacked them and killing the entire crew, except for one person who was spared so that he could return home and inform his Governor who had attacked the ship. 
Another story revolves around l’Olonnais capture of the town of Maracaibo. A town which locals considered at the time as being impenetrable because its fort was armed with 16 large guns aimed directly towards the coast. Francois l’Olonnais, though, chose to attack not from the ocean, but on foot from the inland side - which was not protected. Consequentially, it took less than a few hours for him and his several hundred crewmen to overrun and plunder the town. Once there, they found many of the residents had fled, so the rest they tortured to find out were the town’s riches were hidden and then killed everyone. Although some they killed, apparently, just for the fun of it. Francois l’Olonnais plundered a huge fortune from this attack before he split it with his crew and left the city.
Over his years as a buccaneer, l’Olonnais’s life continued along this theme. That is until one day, while fleeing from Spaniards, he was caught in the Gulf of Darien by natives. Then, once caught, it’s said that he was chopped in to pieces, roasted over a fire and eaten by the natives.

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