Flags of skulls on green backgrounds terrorised the shores of Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, England, Wales, Ireland, Scandinavia, Russia, Georgia, the Netherlands and Germany, as North Africa pirates captured 1-1.25 million whites slaves from the 16th to the 19th centuries. White Gold by British historian Giles Milton is a book that puts paid to the lie of the lyrics, “Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves: Britons never, never, never shall be slaves”, penned in the early 18th century when Moroccans still mercilessly beat and arbitrarily executed their British slaves.
The book focuses on the megalomania and sadism of Moulay Ismail, ancestor of the current King of Morocco and sultan of Morocco for 55 years, who was quick to lethally punish by his own hand for perceived slights all and any – from his sons, to a Jewish merchant who had financed his rise to power, an admiral – not to mention slaves for his entertainment. It notes how often Christian slaves were enticed into conversion with semi-freedom and sometimes with brutal beatings that brought them to the brink of death (some died martyrs). Those who remained slaves built his palace in Meknes, which dwarfed Louis XIV’s Versailles.
None was safe from sudden execution, but Jews occupied the highest posts in government, the sultan’s Black Guard – slaves captured from Guinea – provided his personal protection, oversaw his white slaves and formed the backbone of his army, and Christian apostates-turned “Moors” manned a number of his big guns. The only person who seemed not to fear the sultan was his most conniving wife, a black woman.