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Jan Janszoon van Haarlem

1st President of Salè
In office

Grand Admiral of Salè
In office

Governor of Salè (ceremonial)
In office
Appointed by Sultan Zidan Abu Maali

Governor of Oualidia
In office
Appointed by Sultan Mohammed esh Sheikh es Seghir

Born c. 1570
Haarlem, North Holland, Netherlands
Died 1641
Nationality Dutch, Moroccan
Children Lysbeth Janszoon van Haarlem, Anthony Janszoon van Salee, Abraham Janszoon van Salee, Philip Janszoon van Salee, Cornelis Janszoon van Salee
Occupation Pirate
Religion Christianity, Islam

Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, commonly known as Murat Reis (circa 1570 - post 1641) was the first President and Grand Admiral of the Corsair Republic of Salè, Governor of Oualidia, and a Dutch pirate, one of the most notorious of the Barbary pirates from the 17th century; the most famous of the "Salè Rovers".


Early life

Jan Janszoon van Haarlem was born in Haarlem, North Holland, Netherlands in 1575. Little is known of his early life, except that he married young and had a child, Lysbeth Janszoon van Haarlem. His surname was toponymic, indicating his family was from the upper class.[1]


In 1600, Jan Janszoon began as a Dutch privateer sailing from his home port, Haarlem, working for the state with letters of marque to harass Spanish shipping during the Eighty Years' War. Working from the Netherlands was insufficiently profitable, so Janszoon overstepped the boundaries of his letters and found his way to the semi-independent port states of the Barbary Coast of north Africa, whence he could attack ships of every foreign state: when he attacked a Spanish ship, he flew the Dutch flag; when he attacked any other, he became an Ottoman Captain and flew the red half-moon of the Turks or the flag of any of various other Mediterranean principalities. During this period he had abandoned his Dutch family.[2]

Capture by Barbary corsairs

Janszoon was captured in 1618 at Lanzarote (one of the Canary Islands) by Barbary corsairs and taken to Algiers as a captive. There he turned "Turk", or Muslim (as the Ottoman Empire had some limited influence over the region, sometimes Europeans erroneously called people of the region "Turks"). It is speculated the conversion was forced.[3] The Ottoman Turks maintained a precarious measure of influence on behalf of their Sultan by openly encouraging the local Berber communities to advance themselves through piracy against the European powers, which long were opposed to the Ottoman Sultan and empire. After Janszoon's conversion to Islam and the ways of his captors, he sailed with the famous corsair Sulayman Rais, also known as Slemen Reis (originally a Dutchman named De Veenboer[4] for whom Janszoon knew before his capture who,[5] as Janszoon himself, had chosen to convert to Islam) and with Simon de Danser. But, because Algeria had concluded peace with several European nations, it was no longer a suitable harbor from which to sell captured ships or their cargo. So, after Sulayman Rais was killed by a cannonball in 1619, Janszoon moved to the ancient port of Salé and began operating from it as a Barbary corsair himself.

Republic of Salé

The Salé fleet totaled about eighteen ships, all small because of the very shallow harbor entrance.

The port was nominally subject to the Sultanate of Morocco, but (as Salé had become very prosperous through piracy) shortly after Janszoon’s arrival, the pirates decided to declare Salé an independent republic governed by fourteen pirate warlords and an elected president, who was also the Admiral of the piratical navy. Janszoon was elected their first president.

Even the Sultan of Morocco, after an unsuccessful siege of the city, acknowledged its semi-autonomy. Contrary to popular belief that Sultan Zidan Abu Maali has reclaimed sovereignty over Salé and appointed Janszoon the Governor in 1624, the Sultan merely approved Janszoon's election as President by formally appointing him as his ceremonial Governor of Salé.[6]

Under Janszoon's leadership, business in Salé thrived. The main sources of income of this republic remained piracy and its by-trades, shipping and dealing in stolen property. Historians have noted Janszoon's intelligence and courage which reflected in his leadership ability. He was forced to find an assistant to keep up, resulting in the hiring of a fellow countryman from The Netherlands, Mathys van Bostel Oosterlinck, who would serve as his Vice-Admiral.[7]

Janszoon had become very wealthy from his income as piratical admiral, payments for anchorage and other harbor dues, and the brokerage of stolen goods. The political climate in Salé worsened toward the end of 1627, so Janszoon quietly moved his family and his entire piratical operation back to semi-independent Algiers.

Plea from Dutch family

Janszoon would become bored by his new official duties from time to time and again sail away on a pirate adventure. In 1622, Janszoon and his crews sailed into the English Channel with no particular plan but to try their luck there. When they ran low on supplies they docked at the port of Veere, Zealand, under the Moroccan flag, claiming diplomatic privileges from his official role as Admiral of Morocco (a very loose term in the environment of North African politics). The Dutch authorities could not deny the two ships access to Veere because, at the time, several peace treaties and trade agreements existed between the Sultan of Morocco and the Dutch Republic. During his anchorage there, the Dutch authorities brought to the port Janszoon's Dutch first wife and his Dutch children to persuade him to give up piracy; the authorities did the same to many of the pirate crews, but they utterly failed to persuade the men.[8] Janszoon and his crews left port not only intact but with many new Dutch volunteers despite a Dutch prohibition of piracy.

Notable raids



Ólafur Egilsson was captured by Murat Reis the Younger

In 1627, Janszoon hired a Danish “slave” (most likely a crew member captured on a Danish ship taken as a pirate prize) to pilot him and his men to Iceland, where they raided the Icelandic city Reykjavík. Initially they managed to steal only some salted fish and a few hides, so they decided to make the raid profitable by kidnapping potential slaves. The number of slaves kidnapped from Iceland is disputed, with figures as high as 400, and as low as 8.[9] This raid became known in Iceland as "The Turkish abductions". In the harbor of the capital, he attacked a ship and captured several of its crew. On the way back to Morocco, Janszoon also took a Dutch vessel and seized more unfortunates, also destined for sale into slavery in Salé.

Accounts by enslaved Icelanders who spent time on the corsair ships claimed that the conditions for women and children were normal, in that they were permitted to move throughout the ship, except to the quarter deck. The pirates were seen giving extra food to the children from their own private stashes, and that the women were treated with dignity when giving birth on board the ships, being afforded privacy and clothing by the pirates. The men were put in the hold of the ships, and had their chains removed once the ships were far enough from land. Despite popular claims, Icelander accounts failed to mention any rapes inflicted on slaves.[10]

Sack of Baltimore

Having sailed for two months and with little to show for the voyage, Janszoon turned to a captive taken on the voyage, a Catholic named John Hackett, for information on where a profitable raid could be made. The residents of Baltimore, a small town in West Cork, Ireland, were resented by Catholics because they were Protestants. Hackett would direct Janszoon to this town. Janszoon sacked Baltimore on June 20, 1631, seizing little more than 108 persons whom he doomed to be sold as slaves in north Africa. Janszoon took no interest in the Celts and released them, only enslaving English. Shortly after the sack, Hackett was arrested and hanged for his crime. Upon arrival in Africa, the women made no complaints of abuse to the custom officers. In Irish history, Hackett is considered an Irish patriot, but in English history, a traitor. Only two of the Irish villagers ever saw their homeland again.[11]

Capture by Knights of Malta

Fort Saint Angelo in Valletta, Malta

In 1635, near the Tunisian coast Murat Reis was outnumbered and surprised by a sudden attack he and many of his men were captured by the Knights of Malta, he spent the next five years in the Islands notorious dark dungeons in which he was held he was mistreated and cruelly tortured, the effects of his imprisonment became dearly costly to his health and wellbeing. In 1640 he barely escaped after a massive Corsair attack, which was carefully planned by the Dey of Tunis in order to rescue their fellow sailors and Corsairs. He was greatly, honored and praised upon his return in Morocco and the nearby Barbary States.

Escape and return to Morocco

He returned to Morocco in 1640 and was appointed Governor of the great fortress of Oualidia, near Safi, Morocco. He resided at the Castle of Maladia. In December, 1640, a ship arrived with a new Dutch consul, who brought Lysbeth Janszoon van Haarlem, Janszoon’s daughter by his first Dutch wife, to visit her father. When Lysbeth arrived, Janszoon "was seated in great pomp on a carpet, with silk cushions, the servants all around him"[12] she had also noticed that Murat Reis the great Corsair lord had become an old and feeble man. Lysbeth stayed with her father until August, 1641, when she returned to Holland. Little is known of Janszoon thereafter; he likely retired at last from both public life and piracy. The date of his death remains unknown.

Marriages and issue

In 1596, by an unknown Dutch woman, Janszoon's first child was born, Lysbeth Janszoon van Haarlem.

After becoming a privateer, Janszoon met an unknown woman in Cartagena, Spain, who he would marry. The identity of this woman is historically vague, but the consensus is that she was of some kind of mixed-ethnic background, considered "Moorish" in Spain. Historians have claimed her to be nothing more than a concubine, others claim she was a Muslim Mudejar who worked for a Christian noble family, and other claims have been made that she was a "Moorish princess."[13] Through this marriage, Janszoon had four children: Abraham Janszoon van Salee (b.1602), Philip Janszoon van Salee (b. 1604), Anthony Janszoon van Salee (b.1607), and Cornelis Janszoon van Salee (b. 1608).

It is speculated that Janszoon married for a third time, to another Moorish woman in Morocco, in 1624.

Popular culture

In 2009, the stage act "Jan Janszoon, de blonde Arabier" toured The Netherlands. It was written by Karim El Guennouni, and based on Janszoon's life as a pirate.[14]

Notable descendants

It is claimed that Janszoon had many prominent descendants in America and Great Britain.[15] Notable descendants through Anthony and his wife include William Henry Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, John Vernou Bouvier III, John H. Hammond, Princess Lee Radziwill, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, Gloria Vanderbilt, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough; Jamie Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford; Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, John Spencer-Churchill, 10th Duke of Marlborough; Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill, John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough; Lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth II, Rosemary Mildred Spencer-Churchill; George Spencer-Churchill, Earl of Sunderland; Christopher Denys Stormont Finch-Hatton, 16th Earl of Winchilsea; Daniel James Hatfield Finch-Hatton, 17th Earl of Winchilsea, 12th Earl of Nottingham; Countess Gladys Vanderbilt Széchenyi of Hungary, Countess Ferdinandine Széchenyi of Austria, Countess Sylvia Széchenyi of Hungary, and:


Janszoon was also known as Murat Reis the Younger. His Dutch names are also given as Jan Jansen and Jan Jansz; his adopted name as Morat Rais, Murat Rais, Morat; Little John Ward, John Barber, Captain John, Caid Morato were some of his pirate names.


  1. ^ "Murad Reis", The Everything Pirates Book, p. 36, Retrieved 29 sept 2009.
  2. ^ "Murad Reis", p. 36
  3. ^ "Murad Rais", Pirate Utopias, p.96, Retrieved 29 sept 2009.
  4. ^ "De Veenboer", Zeerovery, Retrieved 29 sept 2009.
  5. ^ "Murad Reis", p. 36
  6. ^ "Murad Rais", p.98
  7. ^ "Murad Rais", p. 98
  8. ^ "Murad Rais", p.99
  9. ^ "Murad Rais", p. 100
  10. ^ "Murad Rais", p. 129
  11. ^ "Murad Rais", p. 121, 129
  12. ^ "Murad Rais", p.140
  13. ^ "Anthony Jansen van Salee", Pirate Utopias, p. 206, Retrieved 29 sept 2009.
  14. ^ "Jan Janszoon knipoogt naar het heden", 8 Weekly, Retrieved 30 sept 2009.
  15. ^ "Sex and the City", Bill Greer, Retrieved 1 oct 2009.


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