Talk like a pirate day Friday Hoyden: Sayyida al Hurra

It be that time o’ the year once more when we don our arrghs and polish up our mateys for tomorrow’s Talk Like a Pirate Day (19th September). It’s a great time to remind ourselves that women could be just as ruthless and brutal on the high seas as any man.

Painting of young woman in Ottoman Empire garb.

This is not Sayyida, in fact, I can’t find a proper attribution for the source, but the region/period are roughly appropriate, and she looks badass

In honour of the occasion, this year’s Pirate Hoyden is the Renaissance Moroccan Queen Sayyida al Hurra, and a magnificent example she is indeed.

She was born around 1485 in Granada which, as a city on the cusp of Spain’s blending point with North Africa, was one of the great centres of art and thought, but constantly being pulled between Christian and Muslim rule. A member of the Andalusian noble family Banu Rashid, her family relocated to Morocco after Granada fell to Christian conquest in the early sixteenth century.

This from the WISE (Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality) website:

Sayyida al-Hurra belonged to a family of Andalusian nobles who fled to north Africa after the fall of Grenada in 1492. Marrying Sultan al-Mandri, they embarked on war against the Portuguese and she ascended to power while managing her husband’s affairs. After the death of her husband in 1515, although already a prefect of Tetouán, she was bestowed the title “al-Hurra” which denoted a woman wielding sovereign power. Subsequently, she had herself named governor of the city-state.

Following the death of her husband, she wed the King of Morocco, Ahmed al-Wattasi, but she requested that he travel from Fez to Tetouán for the wedding to indicate that she had no plans on abdicating her power following their marriage.

After making contact with the Turkish corsair [isn’t corsair a great word? – A] Barbarossa, she assembled a fleet and began privateering in the western Mediterranean. It was in this endeavour that she earned for herself the title of undisputed Queen of the Pirates of the region. Perhaps using piracy to continue her first husband’s war against the Portuguese, al-Hurra used piracy to wreak havoc on Portuguese shipping lines.

She was deposed by her son-in-law in 1552, after ruling for more that thirty years.

I wish I could find better fan art for Sayyida, she seems an ideal subject, and must have had really cool weapons. She should definitely have her own RPG, at the very least.

As always, here is the link to the official International Talk Like a Pirate Day page. May the wind ever fill your sails, and the rum your tankard. Yo ho ho.

Painting of C16th Galleys fighting at seaa

Moroccan and Portuguese ships of the period, in battle

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism, history

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2 replies

  1. What an excellent choice for a pirate hoyden! And how typical that I’ve never heard of her before ever at all.


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