noun(usually letters of marque) historical
1A licence to fit out an armed vessel and use it in the capture of enemy merchant shipping and to commit acts which would otherwise have constituted piracy.
- Semi-official entrepreneurs, carrying government-signed letters of marque and reprisal, and known as privateers, also were a significant force in commerce raiding up until the nineteenth century.
- If, for example, a French vessel seized a British ship, then a letter of marque could be granted that would allow the legal seizure of an item of like value from any French vessel on the high seas.
- Her business and diplomatic skills proved crucial after a raid on the Catholic-led colony early in 1645 by a ship captain armed with letters of marque from England's Protestant Parliament.
Late Middle English: Law French marque, from Old French marque 'right of reprisal'.
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