The Basque Corsairs

Basque privateers: an astonishing story

To begin this article, let’s explain the difference between a privateer, and a pirate…A privateer worked on behalf of the king, as a kind of “official” who attacked and plundered enemy ships… One of the reasons for this activity were “letters of marque”: permission granted by the king to pursue enemies and appropriate their goods. A Corsair thus had the King’s permission to rob another king. A pirate, on the other hand, worked on his own account, without permission, illegally. In the 16th century, France was one of the first countries to use privateers against its enemies.

Etienne Pellot, Hendaye privateer

The last known privateer was Etienne Pellot, born on September 1, 1765 in Hendaye, and nicknamed the Basque Fox.

Renowned for his courage and successes, he was taken prisoner on several occasions, but always managed to escape. He was even made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, and every year in January, on the occasion of the patron saint’s feast day, he is honored with a medal. In Hendaye (Fêtes de la Bixintxo), a parade is organized in his honor: the students of Hendaye, dressed as Pellot the Corsair, come together to celebrate the “Return of the Last Corsair of Hendaye”. Watch a video from the local TVPI channel about the Fêtes de la Bixintxo:

Finally, we also wanted to pay tribute to the history of the Basque Corsairs, in our own way… That’s why you’ll find little nods to the sanitary facilities during your vacation at Camping Village Eskualduna.

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