- "Letters of Marque. You will offer what amounts to a full pardon. Jack will be free, a privateer in the employ of England."
"Somehow I doubt Jack will consider employment the same as being free."
- ―Cutler Beckett and Will Turner[src]
A Letter of Marque and Reprisal, commonly known as a Letter of Marque, was a warrant or commission from a national government or monarch usually authorizing a designated agent to search, seize, or destroy specified assets or personnel belonging to a party which has committed some offense under the laws of that nation. This official document pardons the recipient of prior crimes against the Crown and grants the recipient a commission as a privateer in the employ of the king and country.
- "These Letters of Marque, they are signed by the King?"
"Yes, and they're not valid until they bear my signature and my seal."
- ―Elizabeth Swann and Cutler Beckett.[src]
Letters of Marque were also a means of employing a person as a privateer, during the time of war. The Letters were usually issued by governments and colonial governors of England, France, Spain, Holland, Portugal, and Denmark. During the 17th century, England used Letters of Marque to recruit buccaneers like Henry Morgan to fight their Spanish enemies in the Caribbean.
The East India Trading Company was known to use Letters of Marque after 1707. One of Jack Sparrow's many crimes was "falsification of Letters of Marque and Reprisal", Lord Cutler Beckett offered one such document, amounting to a full pardon, to William Turner in exchange for Jack's compass. He was also prepared to employ Jack himself as a privateer for England, though Turner believed Jack would never agree, since he likes his freedom. Beckett's Letters of Marque were signed by the King George II, and would not be legalized unless they bore Beckett's mark and seal. They were ultimately claimed by James Norrington as one half of the trade that secured Beckett possession of the heart of Davy Jones. This earned Norrington a full reinstatement into the Royal Navy, and a promotion as an admiral of the Company.
Sometime after the War Against Piracy, Hector Barbossa joined the British Royal Navy as a privateer. He served King George faithfully, but that was just part of his plan to get revenge on Blackbeard, a pirate who cost him his right leg and the Black Pearl. After Barbossa killed Blackbeard, he took his sword and his ship for himself. As he sailed for Tortuga, Barbossa triumphantly tore up his Letters of Marque as a sign for his return to piracy.
Behind the scenes
- "The Letters of Marque—the letters Jack gave to you. Hand them over! Come, no time! Beckett used his ring to stamp this, yes?"
"The symbol is the same, from the same ring. Might it work?
"It might. Magic is funny that way."
- ―Hector Barbossa, Elizabeth Swann, and Tia Dalma[src] (original screenplay)
- The official website for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest stated that King George I had signed the Letters of Marque. However, because of the supposed time placement of the first three films as between the 1720s and 1750s, as well as King George II's appearance in On Stranger Tides, this is incorrect. In The Complete Visual Guide, the King who signed the letters was only referred to as "King George".
- In the first screenplay draft of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Beckett gives Jack them during the parley meeting. However, Jack hands Will the Letters, which was ultimately used as one of the nine pieces of eight, as the previous version of Chevalle's piece of eight was Magellean's ring (the Letters of Marque were stamped with it).
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (First mentioned as Letters of Marque and Reprisal)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (First appearance)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
- Pirates of the Caribbean (film series)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Complete Visual Guide
- The Secret Files of the East India Trading Company
Notes and references
- ↑ Pirates of the Caribbean Online
- ↑ Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
- ↑ The Secret Files of the East India Trading Company
- ↑ Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
- ↑ Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
- ↑ Powerful letters signed by King George I, giving pirates permission to become a privateer, or pirate hunter. It is the coveted blank check to freedom
- ↑ Pirates of the Caribbean: The Complete Visual Guide