Stemming from the times where during military engagement the enemy would feel no mercy when captured, “No Quarter” meant just that – certain death was imminent.
The Golden Age of Piracy is a common designation for the period of world history between the 1650s and the 1730s, when maritime piracy was a significant factor in the histories of the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, the Indian Ocean, North America, and West Africa. And it’s ironic that a mere 80 years of swashbuckling fables have had the effect of an eternal echo, seeming to take up many more chapters of the history books.
Even so, the Pirate lore was ripe with not only boasting highly intelligent, specialized, and politically savvy privateers – think modern day Special Operations Operative – it’s also true that many pirates did come from poorer urban areas in search of a way to make money and reprieve.
Be it on their ships of fortifications, pirates used flags (as we also do today) to signal intentions during times of conflict or otherwise.
We’re used to seeing the skull and crossbones on a black flag – the traditional “Jolly Roger” – although when flown, actually meant that quarter would be given if surrender was prompt – meaning those who surrendered would be spared.
The Blood Flag – a solid crimson flag – meant that regardless of the circumstances, there would be a fight to the death.
Fast forward to modern day – International Warfare laws – Article 23 (d) of the 1907 Hague Convention IV – The Laws and Customs of War on Land, states that “it is especially forbidden… to declare that no quarter will be given”. Another way of looking at things is that even though it’s war, certain customary laws of war have bound all parties during international armed conflict.