I came across the group of people known as the "Sea Beggars" in Charles Boxer's 1965 text The Dutch Seaborne Empire, and just from the name I knew that I was going to have to learn more about these militant nautical rebels. Something along the lines of pious pirates, the Sea Beggars were a motley collection of Calvinist Dutch nobles, urban working class workers, and unemployed riff-raff who opposed Spanish rule in the Netherlands during the sixteenth century.
The Sea Beggars owe their name by an attempt to discredit them with the French term ces gueux ("beggars"), and they proudly modified the would-be epithet to Gueux de mer ("Sea Beggars"). While engaging in acts of piracy against Spanish shipping, the Sea Beggars nonetheless believed themselves to be among the unconditional elect, and thus their criminal acts were performed in God's name.
Illustration of the 1566 raid on Amsterdam's Haarlemmerpoort by the Sea Beggars
The Sea Beggars played an important role in the 1572 Dutch revolt against the Spanish, capturing the towns of Brielle and Flushing in that year, as well as setting an example of successful rebellion. In addition, this group of religious privateers also harassed Spanish shipping and ports as far away as Cuba, and they sound like they were tougher than a crew of New York movers.
M.B. Synge's 1909 text The Awakening of Europe contains lyrics from a sea ditty that was sung by the Sea Beggars:
Long live the Beggars! Christians, ye must cry.
Long live the Beggars! pluck up courage then.
Long live the Beggars! if ye would not die.
Long live the Beggars! shout, ye Christian men.
—Beggar's Song (1570)