The ''Charming Betty''

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Charming Betty

If privateers captured a French vessel and found that neither the boat nor its cargo were particularly valuable, it was accepted practice for them to take a crew member as hostage on the understanding that a ransom would be paid.

But the crew of the vessel concerned were not always particularly quick to carry out their side of the bargain and restore the release of their comrade.

So it was in 1744, when the Charming Betty captured the French barque St Charles and demanded a ransom of 2,000 livres, which was certainly more than the vessel was worth.

Thomas Garnier was chosen as a hostage and taken to Jersey where, despite several letters now in the city archives of St Malo demanding to know why he had not been ransomed, he was to languish for four years, until the money was paid in 1748.

Captain Fiott

The same Jersey privateer was active in the Channel a decade later. In 1757, under the command of Capt Fiott, it captured a French brigatine, loaded with a valuable cargo of sugar.

The following year Fiott and his crew, accompanied by Le Burnett took the Adventurer, a London vessal, away from French privateers who had captured her on a voyage from Jamaica. The prize became Fiott's and the cargo, sugar, spice, logwood, mahogany, rum, coffee and cottons fetched a great deal of money.

Returning to Jersey the Charming Betty, although short-handed after putting a prize crew on the Adventurer, captured a Dutch vessel carrying 200 tunnes of wine from Bordeaux to St Malo.

Capt Fiott was in action again in 1759 when he captured two more ships, which together with their unidentified cargoes, are known to have been sold for 30,000 livres. That was an enormous sum at the time and shows just how profitable privateering could be if the captains and their crews were both adventurous and lucky.

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