On my travels for the past few days, I have been reading a book which tells the story of a quite astonishing part of British history of which I was previously unaware. In ‘White Gold’, Giles Milton records the appalling details … of a seaborne Islamic jihad against Britain which lasted for no less than two centuries…
Corsairs from a place in Morocco called Sale — who became known in Britain as the ‘Sally Rovers’ — sailed up the Cornish coast in July 1625, for example, came ashore dressed in djellabas and wielding damascene scimitars, burst into the parish church at Mount’s Bay and dragged out 60 men women and children whom they shipped off to Morocco. Thousands more Britons were seized from their villages or their ships and dispatched to the hell-holes of the Moroccan slave pens, from where they were forced to work all hours in appalling conditions building the vast palace of the monstrous and psychopathic Sultan, Moulay Ismail, who tortured and butchered them at whim. Most of them perished, but the book records the survival of a tenacious Cornish boy Thomas Pellow, who survived 23 years of this ordeal and whose descendant, Lord Exmouth, finally ended the white slave trade when he destroyed Algiers in 1816.
I think I read a romance novel about this, once. Except it was Italy, not Cornwall, and just one lovely English woman, not 60 men, women and children, and a harem, rather than appalling conditions, and the sultan wasn’t monstrous and psychopathic but handsome and rather tender on the inside.
Ah, romance novels. So deliciously ridiculous.