Ruled by: Pirates

Until 1625, Tortuga was largely ignored by the Europeans. A few Spanish settlers had migrated here, but it was in this year that English and French settlers arrived. Unwilling to share an island so close to Hispaniola, the Spanish attacked and defeated the foreign colonists.

The Spanish built a fort to help protect the island, but soon moved the troops to Hispaniola to drive out French settlers who had migrated there. While the Spanish were away, the French returned, captured the fort, and began expanding it.

They added a second fort, Fort de Rocher, in 1630 to protect a natural harbor. Even so, the English managed to secure a foothold shortly afterward, and the two nations shared the island. Unwilling to declare open war, each side turned to piracy to raid the other, though no letters of marque were ever issued. The settlers had become true pirates.

Slavery was introduced around this time, though it lasted less than 5 years. By all accounts, the slave population quickly grew out of control, and much of the island was ungovernable. To make matters worse, the constant fighting between the two European powers allowed the Spanish to retake the island in 1635. True to their form in the region, they came, saw, conquered, and left.

With the Spanish vacated, the pirates returned, along with Dutch settlers only for the Spanish to return yet again (they didn’t want Tortuga, but neither would they allow anyone else to take it). Unfortunately for the Spanish, the settlers and pirates worked together and Spain was defeated.

In 1640, the pirates formed the Brethren of the Coast, effectively founding the first pirate nation. The all-male population grew unruly and the “governor,” appointed by the pirates, brought women to the island as a means of calming them down. Tortuga’s spiral into iniquity rapidly increased.

Tortuga remains a pirate nation, governed by pirate captains who form a sort of ruling council. The captains meet only occasionally, seeing each other as rivals, and usually only
when they need to launch a large raid or protect their freedom from a European fleet trying to cleanse the island.


Tortuga is a small, mountainous island swathed in lush jungle, with several coves and bays suitable for careening ships. The flora and fauna allow the pirates to be self-sufficient without having to soil their hands with agriculture.


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