A Letter of Marque or a Privateer's Commissioning Letter are truly unique and valuable maritime items of antiquity. Usually a printed document, these paper artifacts were licenses granted by a monarch or a government to privately owned vessels, enabling them under certain conditions to war against shipping interests of an enemy nation. With this authorization, a privateer would pledge to try to capture or seize enemy ships, both naval and merchant, seldom if ever with any waters being a safe harbor. Without a proper passport, a captain would risk being charged with piracy.
As its text states, this particular Letter of Marque was issued by King George III to the Master of the Ship CARMARTHEN, during the worldwide Napoleonic War campaign against the machinations of Napoleon. The entire text of the document is captured and translated in the images. The Royal Wax Seal is still present, not quite the same clarity as when issued 200-plus years ago, but the mounted figure on horseback is still evident. A classic late 18th/ early 19th Century license to perform as a privateer for Crown and Country; not to mention profit.
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