Ahoy! English Heritage recruits its first female pirate

  • New Pirates! events at Pendennis, Dover and Scarborough Castles

A female pirate will take to the rigging at English Heritage properties for the first time this summer, the charity announced today (Tuesday 19 July 2022). Sword fighting 18-year-old Freyja Eagling will be the first woman to pick up a pistol and choose a life of piracy with English Heritage. Starting at Pendennis Castle in Cornwall on Tuesday 26 July, Freyja will also visit Dover Castle in Kent and Scarborough Castle in North Yorkshire as part of English Heritage’s new series of summer events, Pirates!

Serving amongst salty sea dogs is not unfamiliar territory for English Heritage’s first female pirate; 18-year-old Freyja Eagling has been performing as an historic interpreter since she was a child, appearing in many guises including medieval and Tudor characters, alongside her father and fellow re-enactor, Tim Eagling. However, this is the first time that Freyja will get to take a starring role and appear as the first female pirate at the events this summer – an opportunity she is taking very seriously.

English Heritage’s First Female Pirate, Freyja Eagling, said: "When I was growing up, other children were learning about history from a textbook but I got the opportunity to actually stay at castles and soak up their stories. I’ve just finished my A-levels but I already know that I want to continue with this as a profession – it’s in my blood.

"In order to be a pirate I’ve had to get used to dressing as a male sailor and learn how to safely use pistols and guns as part of the performance. I’ve also been learning how to sword fight for over a year now and it takes a lot of practice. It’s a skill that requires balance, speed and most importantly precision, but it will all be worth it when I can perform alongside the men – female pirates were just as fierce and I can’t wait to prove it."

Samantha Stones, English Heritage’s Properties Curator, said: "Tales of swashbuckling pirates have been around for centuries, and pirates are a big part of our culture today – from Long John Silver to Captain Jack Sparrow – but not so many people know that there were also female pirates. During the 'Golden Age of Piracy', women like Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who often dressed in men’s clothing to escape suspicion, made a name for themselves by fighting alongside the men and according to witnesses, were the fiercest members of the crew.

"We wanted to give female pirates their due and it’s brilliant that Freyja will be taking a starring role and helping us to tell these important histories at our Pirates! events this summer."

As well as seeing Freyja in action for the first time, event goers can enjoy all manner of piratical pleasures – with pirate myth busting (watch out Hollywood), black powder displays with pistols and guns and a thrilling sword fighting and combat demonstration.

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