Pirates have captured the popular imagination for centuries, with their tales of adventure, swashbuckling heroics, and dastardly deeds.
While piracy has existed since humans first sailed the oceans, the so-called Golden Age of Piracy occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries, when pirates roamed the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
Numerous pirates have become renowned as a result of their actions, and their names have become synonymous with piracy. To mention a few, some of the most notable pirates were Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Captain Kidd, Henry Morgan, and Bartholomew Roberts.
These legends have inspired books, movies, and even amusement park rides. Nonetheless, it is crucial to remember that pirate was a violent and unlawful enterprise that frequently ended in the harm of innocent people, and piracy’s legacy is multifaceted, encompassing both adventure and sorrow.
1. Blackbeard (Edward Teach)
Blackbeard, true name Edward Teach (or Thatch), was a legendary and feared pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy. He was born in the late 17th century in Bristol, England, and began his career as a sailor aboard merchant ships before turning to piracy.
Blackbeard is well known for his terrifying visage, which he cultivated in order to terrorize his opponents. He sported a thick, black beard that he braided and knotted with ribbons, a wide-brimmed hat, a long coat, and many guns and blades tucked into his belt.
During battle, he was known to fire slow-burning fuses in his beard, creating a smoke-filled and horrifying spectacle that made his opponents believe he was a demon.
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The blockade of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1718 was Blackbeard’s most heinous act. He kidnapped many ships and held them for ransom, lifting the blockade only after the local authorities satisfied his demands.
But, his luck ran out, and he was slain later that year in a combat with British naval forces off the coast of North Carolina.
Despite his terrifying reputation, there is evidence that Blackbeard was a more complicated character than the one-dimensional villain of popular legend. Other historians believe he was a shrewd businessman who exploited piracy to maintain himself and his crew, and that his reputation as a vicious killer was exaggerated.
There is no doubt, however, that Blackbeard’s mythology has lasted to this day, and his name has become synonymous with piracy itself.
2. Anne Bonny
Anne Bonny was an Irish pirate who lived in the Caribbean in the early 1800s. She was born in 1697 in County Cork, Ireland, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner who had relocated to the Caribbean.
After meeting and falling in love with another pirate, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny became a pirate (John Rackham). She joined his squad and rapidly earned a reputation as a fearless fighter who would take on anyone who dared to cross her. She was well-known for disguising as a man and battling with men.
In 1720, British naval forces caught Anne Bonny and Calico Jack and sentenced them to death for piracy. Anne Bonny’s execution, however, was postponed since she was pregnant. It’s unclear what happened to her after that, while some reports indicate she was released or fled from prison.
Anne Bonny’s narrative has been the topic of numerous books, films, and television shows, and she is recognized as one of history’s most famous and fearsome female pirates. Her life has inspired numerous women to defy traditional norms and forge their own paths, and her legacy is still being acknowledged today.
3. Calico Jack (John Rackham)
Calico Jack, born John Rackham, was an English pirate who operated in the West Indies in the early 18th century. He was noted for his brightly colored calico coat and extravagant and colorful attire.
Calico Jack was not a particularly successful pirate, but he rose to prominence as a result of his friendship with two of the most notorious pirates of the time: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Two women dressed themselves as men and joined Calico Jack’s company. They were famed for their bravery and fighting abilities, and they swiftly rose to the ranks of Calico Jack’s most trusted lieutenants.
After a struggle off the coast of Jamaica, British naval forces eventually captured Calico Jack and his men in 1720. He and other members of his crew were tried and sentenced to death for piracy. Anne Bonny and Mary Read were both apprehended and sentenced to death by hanging, but their executions were delayed because they were both pregnant.
Calico Jack’s legacy lives on, thanks in part to his friendship with Anne Bonny and Mary Read. He will be remembered as a colorful and captivating man who lived life on his own terms, even if it eventually led to his demise.
4. Captain Kidd (William Kidd)
Captain Kidd, true name William Kidd, was a Scottish pirate hired by the English government to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean. Kidd, on the other hand, quickly turned to piracy, assaulting a number of ships and amassing a significant sum in spoils.
Kidd rose to prominence as one of the most well-known pirates of the time, and his name became synonymous with piracy itself. His luck ran out in 1699, when he was arrested by British naval forces and hauled back to London to face pirate and murder charges.
Kidd’s trial was a media phenomenon, and he was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. His execution was made public, and his body was hung in a gibbet over the Thames River as a warning to other would-be pirates.
While Kidd’s reputation as a vicious pirate has lasted, some historians think that the English government wrongly targeted him as part of a broader political strategy. Some claim that Kidd was not a particularly effective pirate and that his reputation as a merciless killer was enhanced for government objectives.
Despite of the truth behind Kidd’s story, his fame lives on, and he remains one of history’s most famous pirates. His story has inspired numerous books, films, and other works of popular culture, and his name continues to conjure up visions of adventure, peril, and romance.
5. Henry Morgan
During the late 17th century, Henry Morgan was a Welsh pirate who operated in the Caribbean. He was born in Wales in 1635 and started out as a sailor before turning to piracy.
Morgan swiftly rose to prominence as one of the most successful pirates of his time, and he was noted for his strategic acumen and ability to outwit his adversaries. He was very effective in assaulting Spanish ships and villages, amassing a great sum in booty.
The sacking of Panama City by Morgan in 1671 was his most famous raid. He commanded a company of 1,400 pirates and buccaneers in a daring attack on the city, which was at the time one of the wealthiest in the New World. Morgan and his men made off with a fortune in gold and silver as a result of their raid.
Despite his prowess as a pirate, Morgan was finally apprehended by British officials and hauled back to England to face piracy charges. He was able to win a pardon from the monarch, however, thanks to his connections and power, and he spent the remainder of his life as a wealthy and respected planter in Jamaica.
Henry Morgan’s pirate legacy lives on, and he is regarded as one of the most successful and daring pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy. His life has inspired several books, films, and other works of popular culture, and his name continues to conjure up visions of adventure and excitement.
6. Bartholomew Roberts
Black Bart Roberts, born Bartholomew Roberts, was a Welsh pirate who operated in the Atlantic and Caribbean in the early 18th century. He is regarded as one of the most prosperous pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy.
Black Bart Roberts began his career as a merchant ship sailor, but once his ship was kidnapped by pirates, he switched to piracy. He quickly progressed through the ranks and eventually became a captain himself, famed for his strategic acumen and ability to outwit his adversaries.
Black Bart Roberts is best known for successfully capturing the Royal Fortune, a ship belonging to Martinique’s governor that he refitted with 40 cannons and renamed the Royal Fortune. Over the course of his career, he captured almost 400 ships and amassed a vast fortune in treasure.
Black Bart Roberts’ pirate career came to an end when he was murdered in a confrontation with British naval forces off the coast of Africa in 1722. Notwithstanding of his violent and unlawful acts, Black Bart Roberts is known as one of the most successful and daring pirates of his day. His legacy has influenced innumerable works of popular culture, and his name still conjures up thoughts of adventure and danger.
7. Mary Read
Mary Read was an English pirate who lived in the Caribbean in the early 1800s. She was born in late 17th-century England and spent much of her childhood disguised as a boy to inherit her grandmother’s wealth.
Mary Read, along with another female pirate, Anne Bonny, became a pirate after joining the crew of Captain Calico Jack (John Rackham). She disguised herself as a male and rapidly earned a reputation as a tough fighter who was not afraid to confront anyone who dared to challenge her.
Mary Read’s pirate career was cut short in 1720 when she and Anne Bonny were captured by British naval forces. Both women were sentenced to death by hanging for piracy, but their executions were postponed due to their pregnancy. Mary Read died in prison not long after her kid was born.
Mary Read’s pirate legend lives on, and she is known as one of history’s most famous and fearsome female pirates. Her narrative has been the topic of several novels, films, and other works of popular culture, and she continues to inspire women to defy traditional norms and forge their own paths.
8. Zheng Yi Sao
Zheng Yi Sao, sometimes known as Ching Shih, was a Chinese pirate active in the South China Sea in the early nineteenth century. She is well-known for her capacity to command a fleet of more than 300 junks and up to 70,000 pirates.
Zheng Yi Sao was born in 1775 in China’s Guangdong Province, and she began her career as a prostitute before marrying the great pirate Cheng I. After her husband’s death, she took over his fleet and swiftly rose to become one of the region’s most formidable pirates.
The Red Flag Fleet (called for the red flags hoisted on their ships) became a strong force under Zheng Yi Sao’s leadership, defeating the Chinese navy in multiple fights. Cheng Yi Sao was noted for her stringent code of behavior, which included prohibitions on stealing from the poor and providing good treatment to criminals.
Zheng Yi Sao signed a peace treaty with the Chinese government in 1810, allowing her to retire from piracy and live the remainder of her life as a wealthy and respected landowner. Her legacy as a powerful and successful female pirate lives on, inspiring women all across the world to break away from traditional gender norms and forge their own paths.
9. Jean Lafitte
During the early nineteenth century, Jean Lafitte was a French pirate who operated in the Gulf of Mexico. He was born in France in 1780 and emigrated to Louisiana in the late 18th century with his family.
Lafitte and his brother, Pierre, built a base of operations in Barataria Bay and developed a smuggler and pirate network. They became well-known for raiding Spanish ships and trafficking illicit goods into the United States.
During the War of 1812, Jean Lafitte and his men volunteered to serve the United States government, and they played an important role in the Battle of New Orleans. Their cooperation enabled the Americans to defeat the British decisively.
Lafitte continued to work as a smuggler and pirate after the war, but he fell out of favor with the American authorities and was forced to flee to the Caribbean. He died in 1823, but his fame as a daring and charismatic pirate lives on.
Several books, movies, and television plays have been written about Jean Lafitte, who is remembered as a complex figure who played a significant role in American history. His story has captivated people all over the world, and his name has become synonymous with piracy and adventure.
10. Black Caesar
During the early 18th century, Black Caesar was an African pirate who operated in the Caribbean. He was born in West Africa and sold as a slave in the Caribbean.
Black Caesar was known for his strength and cruelty, and he rapidly earned a reputation as a fearless warrior who would take on anyone who dared to cross him. He fled enslavement and joined a band of pirates, eventually rising to become one of their most trusted lieutenants.
Black Caesar and his crew were eventually apprehended by British naval troops, but he escaped and went on to become one of the most successful pirates of his time. He was well-known for raiding Spanish ships and villages, amassing a considerable fortune in booty.
Despite his prowess as a pirate, Black Caesar’s life ended violently in the early 18th century when he was betrayed by a fellow pirate and hanged by British authorities. Yet, his legacy as a daring and feared pirate lives on, and his narrative continues to inspire people all around the world.
11. Charles Vane
During the early 18th century, Charles Vane was an English pirate who operated in the West Indies. He was notorious for his ruthlessness and readiness to use violence to attain his objectives.
Vane began his career as a merchant ship sailor, but after his ship was kidnapped by pirates, he switched to piracy. He swiftly advanced through the ranks and became a captain himself, renowned for his strategic savvy and ability to outmaneuver his adversaries.
Vane and his crew were well-known for their ferocious tactics, which included attacking any ship that crossed their path and showing no mercy to their adversaries. Vane was also well-known for his navigational abilities, which enabled him to outmaneuver even the most accomplished naval leaders.
Vane’s career as a pirate ended when he was apprehended by British naval forces and hauled back to London to face piracy charges. In 1721, he was found guilty and put to death by hanging.
Charles Vane’s pirate legacy lives on, and he is known as one of the most cruel and violent pirates of his day. His narrative has inspired several books, films, and other works of popular culture, and his name still conjures up thoughts of peril and adventure to this day.
12. Edward Low
During the early 18th century, Edward Low was an English pirate who operated in the Atlantic and Caribbean. He was notorious for his excessive aggressiveness and propensity to kill anyone who got in his way.
Low began his career as a merchant ship sailor, but once his ship was kidnapped by pirates, he switched to piracy. He quickly advanced through the ranks and eventually became a captain himself, known for his harsh tactics and passion for torturing his opponents.
Low and his gang were responsible for some of the most heinous and horrific piracy crimes of their day. They frequently tortured their captives before killing them, and they showed no mercy to anyone who came into contact with them.
Low’s career as a pirate ended when he was apprehended by British naval forces and hauled back to England to face piracy charges. In 1724, he was found guilty and executed by hanging.
Edward Low’s pirate history is one of tremendous violence and brutality. His life has been the topic of countless books, films, and other works of popular culture, and he is recognized as one of the most violent pirates of his time. His acts, however, serve as a reminder of the darker side of piracy, as well as the devastation and suffering inflicted on innocent people.
13. William Fly
During the early 18th century, William Fly was an English pirate who operated in the Atlantic. He is remembered for his brief stint as a pirate and his terrible execution.
Fly began his career as a merchant ship sailor, but once his ship was kidnapped by pirates, he switched to piracy. He swiftly rose to the rank of captain, being recognized for his brutal and aggressive tactics.
Fly and his crew were involved for a number of ship attacks, but their time as pirates was brief. They were subsequently apprehended by British naval forces and sent back to Boston to face pirate charges.
Fly was found guilty and sentenced to death at his trial. He remained adamant to the end, refusing to admit or express regret for his conduct. In 1726, he was hanged, and his body was left to rot in a gibbet as a warning to other would-be pirates.
William Fly’s pirate history is one of brief and violent defiance of authority. His narrative has been the topic of some popular culture works, but he is not as well-known as other of his era’s more famous pirates.
His terrible execution, however, remains as a reminder of the harsh and unforgiving retribution that awaited anyone who turned to piracy.