Privateers played a large role in history. They helped many a nation succeed in economic, exploration, and actual wars. The success of England becoming a world power can mainly be attributed to legalized pirating.
Imagine the scene. Spain got an early foothold in the Americas. They are plundering the people and the resources. As they grow and gain more and more gold, they grow stronger. That does not bode well for other nations such as England who are constantly at odds for each other and would love to seize power.
England is getting established in North America, but while they are beginning to explore, tension back in the Old World is escalating. It is a time of religious bloodbaths. Mary is dead which means Catholicism has been replaced by Protestantism under Elizabeth. Other Catholic rulers are not happy. Especially the ruler of Spain, Philip, who was once married to Elizabethís deceased sister. Philip wants the English throne back under his power and his religion. If he can get enough gold to fund an attack, England could be his.
Elizabeth is sitting on a new throne that is not exactly peaceful. Many are claiming that she is not legitimate and cannot wear the crown. She is bringing back the religion of her father. She is defying a manís world. She is in need of money and help if she is going to defend her crown, her country, and her life. The answer she gets is in the form of privateers.
She turned to an explorer/sea-captain by the name of Sir Francis Drake. England was technically at war with Spain, but she didnít want to be either if she could help it. The only way to do that was to cripple them before they are strong enough to attack. Elizabeth turned to her experienced friend and let him know that a little pirating on the good of England would be greatly appreciated. In fact, some silent investors might help out to ensure success. What could Drake do, but say yes to his country and his queen?
Drake led many raids against the Spanish ships. What did not sink was looted. He even attacked some Spanish settlements. Many a Spaniard spat at the sound of Drakeís name. The wealth of Spain was not piling up as quickly as Philip had hoped. Privateering was so successful that more legal pirates were employed. Sir George Clifford (an Earl), Christopher Newport, and Sir Henry Morgan are just a few that were under the service of their Queen while stealing from the Spanish.
Other monarchs frowned on privateers, while others employed them most happily. It cannot be doubted that the use of privateers helped Elizabeth defeat the Spanish when the time came for war. If Spain had received all that gold, how much more different could history have been?