Coins and ships from The Privateer War.



Denmark had for a number of years a small colony in Tranquebar in India.

A little known chapter in Tranquebar's history is the Privateer War in Bengal from 1641 to 1698.


Bengal was the land around the great river Ganges' delta. In 1641 it was a province in the empire of Shah Jahan's empire. Shah Jahan is famous because he build Taj Mahal to commemorate his favorite wife. Bengal was a big and rich country. It was ruled by a general governor, who was usually a relative of the mogul.  The individual cities were ruled by officials called governors. The country was very rich with big trading opportunities, but the population was hostile to Europeans. For the Danish there had been some problems with the trade in Bengal.

Denmark had lost three ships by shipwreck in Bengal: Jupiter in 1625, Nattergalen ca. 1628 and St.Iacob in 1640.

 The shipwreck in 1640 was due to the fact that the Danish ship St. Iacob, as it was in trouble in a storm, was denied access to the port of Pipely by the Governor, The Danish demanded compensation for the wrecked ship and its cargo, and when it was refused by the Bengals, the war began. Governor Claus Rytter started the privateer war with the ship "The Golden Sun". In April 1641 two Danish ships operated in the Bengal Bay in a combined operation of trade and privateer war. They captured a large ship that was later used use in the trade by the Danes.


Governor Willum Leyel demanded 436,500 rigsdaler in compensation for the wrecks. The Bengals rejected and he continued and intensified from the 1643 privateer war, with Christianshafn as the main ship, but also with the yachts Valdebye and Fortun. Early in 1644, a Fregatta of Bengal were conquered. In the same year, a ship of 400 t was conquered.

The little Yacth Valdebye forced at Zinzely two big Bengal ships to strand. In addition, Leyel took a number of smaller ships, the so-called sampans. September 29, 1644 (Michaelmas), a Bengal ship was conquered. It was incorporated in the Danish fleet.with the name  StMicael. In 1645, the Bengals offered 80,000 rupees in compensation. The offer was rejected and the war continued. In 1647, Governor Willum Leyel had five ships in the war against the Bengals: Christianshafn, Fortun, St. Micael, St. Peder St. Povl and Valdebye. Governor Eskild Andersen continued from 1655 the Privateer War. There came no ships from Denmark in the many years when Eskild Andersen was governor of Tranquebar. During that time, the Privateer War was an important source of income for Tranquebar.


In 1660 - 61 Eskild Andersen took a prize. The value of the prize was estimated at 80,000 pardou. The Bengals complained to the Dutch about the attacks of Danes. The Dutch asked Eskild Andersen to stop. He replied, "That he owe his king to make war with the Bengals, and he will continue."

In 1662 the war continued at full force. Eskild Andersen recruited English sailors and took more Bengal ships. There were some negotiations to stop the war. Governor Sivert Adler negotiated in 1674 with Bengal. First, Danish dealers demanded a compensation of 400,000 rd for the losses by the shipwreck of the three ships: Nattergalen, Jupiter and St. Jacobac. Bengal made counterclaims for more than 30 ships. It was agreed that the claims abolished each other and the Danes were entitled to duty free trade in Pipely and Balasore and to construct a new lodge. Peace was agreed.

 Peace did not hold. In 1682, the new governor Axel Juel resumed the war against Bengal, without gaining any benefits.

The energetic governor Von Kalnien captured several Bengal ships in 1688.


After 1690 there were no hostilities. The Danes wanted to resume trading with Bengal. The new mogul, Aurangzeb extended his kingdom to the south. The Danes feared the consequences of continued war with Bengal if Aurangzeb was to conquer South India.


In 1698, the Danish negotiator Andreas Andree was sent to Bengal, and here he concluded the following settlement:

1.         The company gave up all old claims.

2.         The Bengal renounced compensation for the more than 30 ships taken.

3.         The company should have all the commercial rights that it possessed before, and also the right to establish a lodge at the Hoogly River, the future Danmarksnagore.


This time, the peace lasted after more than 50 years of war with Bengal. There was now trade in Bengal.


Coins and ships from the war of war.


In the first 30 years Tranquebar was Danish, lead coins were minted with the names of most of the ships sailing on Tranquebar.

In the following are mentioned coins and ships associated with the war between Tranquebar and Bengal.


 Jupiter.    DAN NISB ORG   -   IVP TER                       


Jupiter was a yacth. It left Copenhagen in March 1623 together with Perlen. Upon arrival at Tranquebar in March 1624, it was the two ships that caused Tanjor General Calincut to abandon the siege of Tranquebar.

 While waiting for a cargo for the return journey, Jupiter was sent on a trade mission to Macassar on Celebes. The trip to Macassar was successful, but on the way back to Tranquebar Jupiter stranded and was wrecked in Bengal. Only 8 men of the crew saved their lives, 45 men drowned and a rich cargo was lost. This stranding was a hard blow for the company, which suffered from lack of manpower and capital.



St. Iacob.        DA NISB ORG  -   ST IACO B                      


St. Iacob was a  ship of 300 t. It left Copenhagen together with St Anna in 1635. St Iacob reached Tranquebar on September 3, 1636.

 St. Iacob  was used for a few years sailing between Masulipatam in India and the Danish offices in Bantam and Macassar in Indonesia.

On the way to India in 1640 with a rich load from Macassar, St. Iacob was driven up in the Bay of Bengal by hard winds and storm. Here the ship asked for shelter  in Pipely in Bengal, but the governor refused access to the harbor and the ship was wrecked. 16 Danish seamen died and a rich cargo was lost. From the Danish side, the Bengals were held responsible for the shipwreck and the Danes demanded 25,000 rigsdaler in compensation for the ship and 150,000 rigsdaler for the cargo.

This loss triggered the war against the Bengal.


"The Golden Sun"      DANS BORG  -   D SOL                 


In 1639, "The gilded sun" left with Christianshafn from Copenhagen.

 "The gilded sun" reached Tranquebar in September 1640. Everything was in decline, and Governor Pessart was in prison in Masulipatam.

 "The gilded Sun" under Claus Rytter began the war against Bengal.

In April 1642, "The Gilded Sun" took a big Bengal ship. The ship was named "The Bengal Prize". Perhaps the BE in the coin NIS BE refers to this Bengal ship.

 The coins D SOL and NIS BE have the same front page with the inscription DANS BORG, so the two coins must be simultaneous.


"The Bengal Prize"      DANS BORG  -   NIS BE                 


When Claus Rytter went to war with Bengal with "The Golded Sun" in 1642 he captured a large Bengal ship. The ship was incorporated into the Danish fleet and was named "The Bengal Prize".

"The Bengal Prize" sailed together with Christianshafn and Valdebye in 1643 to Emeldy in the kingdom of Colconda. Here "The Bengal Prize" stranded and wrecked


The coin NIS BE or NIJ BE is hard to interpret. Some has suggested that it refers to the small Danish port Nibe.

NIS BE is in a series of ship's coin, so I think it is a ship’s coin.  BE in NIS BE may be for Bengal, and could refer to the ship "The Bengal Prize".



DAN ISBOR G  -  CHRIS TIANS HAFN                            


Christianshafn was a ship of 400 t. It traveled from Copenhagen on 8 October 1622. It was purchased for 10,500 rigsdaler and was equipped for 56,000 rigsdaler.

 Christianshafn traveled from Tranquebar on September 15, 1923, and was back in Copenhagen on May 27, 1924. The cargo consisted of 400 barrels of peppers and some canvas. It was a costly cargo.

 Christianshafn reached Tranquebar two more times. The second time it sailed from Copenhagen soon after returning home in 1624. It served in India for a number of years and returned home from the second journey in 1635.

 The coin DANISBORG CHRIS TIANS HAFN originates from one of the first two stays in Tranquebar. 

In 1639, Christianshafn left for the third time Copenhagen together with "The Golden Sun". By the Canary Islands, the ship was damaged by a storm and sailed for shelter to Tenerife. It was seized by the Spaniards and was first released in 1643.

In September 1643, Christianshafn reached Tranquebar for the third time. It now served in India for a number of years.

 Christianshafn was Governor Willum Leyel's main ship in the Privateer War against Bengal.

It participated in the conquest of St. Micael, St Peder St Povl, a Bengali frigate and many other larger and smaller ships.

 From this last stay, two coins are known:

 Crowned C4               CH CAS 1645                                       


Crowned F3               CH 1650                                                    






Fortun was a smaller vessel that left Copenhagen on December 2, 1629, together with the warship Flensburg. By the Cap the Good Hope, Flensborg came in fight with Portuguese ships. The ship  caught  fire and blew up.

Fortun first reached Tranquebar on September 29, 1631 after a very difficult journey, where the majority of the crew died.

Fortun then served in India for a number of years. It participated with Christianshafn and other ships in the Privateer War in the Bengal Bay.


There are two coins with FORTUN on the reverse.

The first coin has the same front page as the coins TRANGEBARI, BEWINTHEBER and T DOC B.

DAN NSBO ​​RG          FOR TUNA                                          


The second coin has the same front page as the coin HOPO, a crowned C4. There are a number of years between the two coins. Perhaps the two coins do not originate from the same ship.


Crowned C4                FOR TUN                                           






Valdebye was bought in India for 1500 pagodas around 1638. It was used for a number of years.


Valdebye was in co-operation with Fortun and Christianshafn in the Privateer War  in 1643 and 1644. Some Bengal ships were conquered, two of the best ships were incorporated into the Danish Navy and were named St Micael and "St Peder St Poul".

In August 1644, Valdebye alongside Christianshafn was sent on hijacking in the Bengal Bay, where a Bengali frigate was conquered.

Valdebye was not found in 1652.


Two coins are referring to the ship Valdebye.

 DA NISB ORG               VAL DE BYE                               



Crowned C4                             WB 1647                                 




St Micael.


St. Micael was a ship conquered in the war with the Bengal. The ship was conquered September 29, 1644, Michaelmas, therefore it was named St. Micael.

In 1645 it was announced that St Micael was on a trade trip to Queda in Malaya.


Crowned C4               St MiCA EL                                        


 "St Peder St Poul"


The Yacth "St Peder St Poul" was one of the ships that were conquered during the war with the Bengal around 1645. It then participated in the Privateer War on the Danish side.

In 1647, it was on commercial journey to Macassar with a cargo of canvas and cloth. The cargo should be exchanged for cloves and sandalwood for sale in India

In 1652, "St Peder St Poul" was the only ship left in Tranquebar.


Two coins refer to the ship "St Peder St Poul":

 Crowned C4               SPSP 1646 DB                                    


Crowned F3               SPP 50                                                  



One might wonder that a small Danish colony with few ships could cope with the many ships of great and rich Bengal. The reason was the superiority of the Danish ships in navigability and not least their superior guns. There was rarely talk of fighting. The Bengals seemed to have resigned against Danish ships in advance.