Tag Archives: Corsairs

St Malo

Positioned right on the edge of Brittany in the west of France, with views out over the English Channel and surrounded by thick stone ramparts, is Saint Malo, home of adventurers,  sea-farers and a fiercely independent breed of  people.

The beach at Saint Malo
The beach at Saint Malo

Jacques Cartier was born in Saint Malo in 1491. He had already completed many expeditions when, in 1535, he sailed up the Saint Lawrence River to Quebec and laid the foundations for the French settlement in Canada.

It was in Saint Malo that the notorious Corsairs made their home.  The Corsairs were to all intents and purposes pirates. However, their targets were ships belonging to countries at war with France and their piracy was authorised by the French King. The plundered ships were sold at auction and a portion of the proceeds went to the Corsair Captain. As they acted on behalf of the King, the Corsairs were exempt from the penalty for piracy which was death by hanging.

Saint Malo has a long tradition of autonomy. From 1490 to 1493, it declared itself an independent republic, taking the motto, “not French, not Breton but Malouin”.

The pride in belonging to Saint Malo and being part of its continuing traditions and connection to the sea persists even today. There are always watchers on the ramparts, people on the sands, boats bobbing in the bays and ships setting sail towards the horizon.