has a distinct meaning in warfare, especially naval warfare
, where it was a monetary reward paid out to the crew of a ship for capturing an enemy vessel. This article covers the arrangements of the British Royal Navy
, but similar arrangements were used in the navies of other nations, and existed in the British army
and other armies, especially when a city had been taken by storm.
Royal Navy prize money
In the 16th and 17th centuries, captured ships were legally Crown property. In order to reward and encourage sailors' zeal at no cost to the Crown, it became customary to pass on all or part of the value of a captured ship and its cargo to the capturing captain for distribution to his crew. (Similarly, all belligerents of the period issued Letters of Marque and Reprisal
to civilian privateers
, authorizing them to make war on enemy shipping; as payment, the privateer sold off the captured booty.)
This practice was formalized via the Cruizers and Convoys Act of 1708. An Admiralty Prize Court
was established to evaluate claims and condemn prizes, and the scheme of division of the money was specified. This system, with minor changes, lasted throughout the colonial, Revolutionary, and Napoleonic wars.
If the prize were an enemy merchantman, the prize money came from the sale of both ship and cargo. If it were a warship, and repairable, usually the Crown bought it at a fair price; additionally, the Crown added "head money" of 5 pounds per enemy... Read More