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18 June 2014
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Myths and Legends
The smuggling Carters of Cornwall

The Carters of Prussia Cove are among the most famous of all the Cornish smugglers. From their protected haven on the south Cornish coast they held sway over the smuggling trade from 1770 to 1807. Of this celebrated gang, brothers John and Harry Carter emerge as the principal characters, with John as the self-styled "King of Prussia" in boyhood games,
The Carters' house at Prussia Cove
The Carters' house commanded a perfect view over the cove
© Courtesy of Halsgrove Publishing
a title he retained as an adult, and the name subsequently given to his "kingdom", Prussia Cove.

Apart from a larger than life autobiography written by Harry Carter, most of what we know about the family has come through storytelling and local legend. Whatever the truth, in some of these tales we do know that the family's rise to fame and fortune coincides with a period in history when the scope for individual enterprise, particularly that outside the law, was largely unfettered.

With revolutionary wars raging in America and France, seaborne trade was wide open to criminal activity. Vessels of all nations were regularly stopped at sea with their cargoes taken as prizes and crews taken captive. While the Royal Navy blockaded foreign ports, our own merchant ships suffered at the hands of the French and American navies. For decades a kind of licensed piracy prevailed.

Words: Sadie Butler

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