11 May 1771
Laskarina Bouboulina was born on 11th May 1771 in the prisons of Istanbul. Her mother Skevo gave birth during a visit to her dying husband, Stavrianos Pinotsis, who was imprisoned by the Ottoman authorities for his part in the Peloponnese revolution of 1771. After the child’s birth and the death of Pinotsis, mother and daughter returned to the island of Hydra where she lived for four years, before moving to Spetses on her marriage to Dimitrios Lazarou-Orlof
Laskarina grew up on the island of Spetses with 8 half-siblings from her mother’s second marriage and she was the undisputed leader of them all.
At the age of 17 she was wed to Dimitrios Yannouzas and after being widowed at the age of 26 married Dimitrios Bouboulis four years later. Both her husbands were Spetsiot captains who were killed in naval battles with North African pirates, and by the time she reached 40, Bouboulina was twice a widow and the mother of 7 children, three with Yannouzas and four with Bouboulis. She was also in a very unique situation for those times; after inheriting shares in ships, swathes of land, and large amounts of cash from her two husbands, she was now a very wealthy woman. She not only succeeded in keeping the fortune intact, but increased her wealth thanks to her ingenious handling of her finances, and also by becoming a partner in even more merchant ships, eventually building three of her own. One of these was the legendary Agamemnon; a 33-metre corvette armed with 18 heavy cannons, and considered to be one of the largest and fastest Greek warships of the revolution
13 March 1821
On 13 March 1821 Bouboulina raised her personal revolutionary flag on the main mast of the Agamemnon and saluted it with cannon fire in the Old Harbour. Spetses was the first island to revolt against the Ottoman Empire on April 3rd 1821 and Bouboulina, in command of her own ships, along with a squadron of the Spetses fleet, sailed west to begin the naval blockade of the fortified city of Nafplio. Her ships also took part in the naval blockade and surrender of Monemvasia, and she herself fought at the battle of Argos and the siege of Tripolis, where she met Greek General Kolokotronis and other leaders of the revolution. During this time she supplied weapons for her sailors, paid their wages and also supported their families whilst also taking it upon herself to resupply the Greek armies at Nafplio and Tripoli. By the end of the first two years of the war she had spent almost her entire fortune.
A bitter end
In 1825, Bouboulina was living almost in exile on Spetses, embittered by the warring factions of the civil war. Although she had depleted her fortune in the revolutionary cause, her deep love for her country drove her and her surviving children to start preparations for the fight against the Egyptian Admiral Ibrahim Pasha, who had already landed on Greek shores with his army. On 22nd May, before she had time to throw herself into this new battle, she was killed in a family feud when her second son fell in love with the young Eugenia Koutsis. Members of her powerful family were against the marriage because of Bouboulina’s impoverished state and also because Eugenia was already betrothed. The young couple decided to elope, taking refuge in the Yannouzas family home; Bouboulina rushed to the house and the Koutsis family arrived shortly after. They were angered at the elopement and the subsequent breaking of the girl’s betrothal, a grave insult according to the customs of the time, and were determined to retrieve her. The proud matriarch however supported the couple and refused requests for her return. Bouboulina was known for her implacable character and what started off as a family dispute turned into a heated argument. Refusing to withdraw, the Koutsis family grew ever more aggressive and demanding. Eventually, tiring of Bouboulina’s harsh words and threatening gestures, one of the girl’s relatives raised his gun, and by intent or not, ended her life with a shot to the forehead. Though several people were accused of her murder, her killer was never identified.
Laskarina Bouboulina was posthumously awarded the honorary title of Admiral by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and until recently was the only woman in world naval history to hold that rank. In 2018 the Greek state recognized her undeniable contribution to the Revolution by honouring her with the title of Vice-Admiral.