François l'Olonnais

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François l'Olonnais
Full Name: Jean-David Nau
Alias: François l'Olonnais, François l'Olonnois, François Lolonois, François Lolona, Flail of the Spanish, Bane of Spain
Origin: Kingdom of France
Occupation: Buccaneer, former indentured servant
Crimes: Piracy, murder, cannibalism
Type of Villain: Pirate, Xenophobe

"I shall never henceforth give quarter to any Spaniard whatsoever."

Jean-David Nau, later known as François l'Olonnais (circa 1630 - 1669) was a French buccaneer and pirate captain active in the Caribbean in the 1600s. After suffering a massacre of his crew by Spanish soldiers early in his career, he developed a vehement hatred of the Spanish that he carried with him all his life. L'Olonnais was known for his extreme cruelty, routinely torturing and even eating parts of captives.


Most of what is known about l'Olonnais comes from Alexandre Exquemelin's book The History of the Buccaneers of America. Exquemelin claimed that l'Olonnais, born Jean-David Nau, was born in les Sables-d'Olonne in France, traveling to the Caribbean in the 1650s as an indentured servant. When his service expired in 1660, l'Olonnais traveled to Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) to become a buccaneer (predominately French pirates operating in the Caribbean during the 1600s).

About a year after becoming a pirate, l'Olonnais was shipwrecked off the coast of Mexico, where Spanish soldiers attacked him and his crew. All of l'Olonnais' crew were killed, with l'Olonnais himself only escaping by covering himself in blood and hiding among the bodies of the dead. After the Spanish left, l'Olonnais joined up with some escaped slaves and traveled to Tortuga, where he held the town hostage, demanding a ransom from the Spanish. They sent another raiding party, but this time l'Olonnais killed them all save one, whom he sent to deliver a message to the Spanish that he had vowed eternal enmity to them.

In 1666, l'Olonnais assembled a fleet of eight ships and 440 men to attack Maracaibo in what is now Venezula. The city was defended by a fortress with a battery of sixteen cannons, but l'Olonnais simply went around the city and attacked from the undefended landward side, capturing the city in a few hours. Discovering most of the city's inhabitants had hidden their gold, l'Olonnais had them tracked down and tortured so they would tell them where they had hidden their wealth. Captives were burned alive, had pieces of flesh cut off with a sword, and had ropes tied around their heads and tightened until their eyes popped out.

After two months of pillaging, l'Olonnais moved on to San Antonio de Gibraltar, where his men killed five hundred of the city's garrison and captured the city. Though a substantial ransom was paid, l'Olonnais plundered more from the city's inhabitants and took them as slaves. After his successful raids, an additional seven hundred men signed on with l'Olonnais for an expedition to Honduras. In 1667, l'Olonnais' crew was ambushed by Spanish soldiers and he barely escaped with his life. Taking two captives, l'Olonnais cut out one of their hearts and ate it, threatening to kill the other man in the same way if he didn't show l'Olonnais a safe way to the city of San Pedro.

Although the surviving captive did as he was told, l'Olonnais was still repulsed by the defenders of San Pedro. Forced to retreat, l'Olonnais and his men continued to raid the region until he was captured in Panama by the Kuna tribe, who killed and ate him.