History's Most Famous Pirates

The term pirate refers to a person who commits acts of violence at sea, such as robbing ships. Pirates are some of history’s most interesting and feared figures. The public’s interest in pirates has led to the creation of many books and movies over time. While most of the pirates you have heard about did their deeds long ago, pirates are still wreaking havoc around the globe to this day. This guide will give you a brief look at history’s most famous pirates.

Anne Bonny

Many consider Anne Bonny to be the most famous female pirate in history. She was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1702. Her father was an attorney, and her mother a housemaid. Anne’s father disowned her when she married a sailor by the name of James Bonny. Anne followed James to the Bahamas, where he took a job turning in pirates in exchange for bounties. While in the Bahamas, Anne met John Rackham, a pirate also known as Calico Jack. The two fell in love and ran away together to work as pirates.

Anne Bonny later met another female pirate, Mary Read, on a ship, and the two supposedly fell in love. The trio of Bonny, Read, and Rackham and their crew were eventually captured through the efforts of the Bahamian governor and put on trial for piracy in Jamaica. Rackham was hanged, and Bonny and Read were sentenced to hanging as well. Their supposed pregnancies delayed their executions, but Read died in prison one month later. Anne Bonny’s fate is still unknown. Some believe she disappeared, while others say she escaped and remarried in South Carolina, dying at age 81 as the mother of five children.

Bartholomew Roberts

Born in Wales in 1682, Bartholomew Roberts’ is known as the Golden Age of Piracy’s top pirate. Sometimes referred to as Black Bart, Roberts captured over 470 vessels during his illustrious career as a pirate. Despite his incredible success, Roberts was not like most pirates in terms of his lifestyle. He refused to drink or gamble, preferring tea to alcohol and prayer to unsavory hobbies. His wardrobe also set him apart from others, as his clothes were described as being elegant. Black Bart’s career ended in 1722 after his HMS Swallow warship was captured off the coast of Cape Lopez near Africa. He was killed aboard the ship and thrown overboard by his crew per his prior wishes. Roberts’ remaining crew met differing fates of acquittal, prison time, hanging, or slavery.

Blackbeard

If you want to look for the most famous pirate in history, look no further than Blackbeard. His history is not completely certain, but most believe Blackbeard was born Edward Teach or Edward Thatch in England in 1680. He had an imposing appearance that was made even more intimidating by his long black beard that was braided and tied.

Blackbeard’s life on the water began as a sailor aboard privateer ships. Around 1716, he joined the crew of Captain Benjamin Hornigold. The two worked together as pirates and captured other vessels. Hornigold would eventually retire, but Blackbeard continued his ways. Blackbeard was killed in 1718 during a battle with Lieutenant Robert Maynard and some of his sailors under the order of Virginia’s governor Alexander Spotswood.

Cheung Po Tsai

Cheung Po Tsai was a famous pirate in Hong Kong during the early 1800s. He learned piracy from his adopted parents, who were also his kidnappers. During his career, Cheung Po is said to have held over 600 ships and 50,000-plus followers. He was forced to stop pirating by the Chinese government in 1810. He took a position as a captain in the Qing imperial navy, where he would ironically assume the task of fighting pirates for the government.

William Kidd

William Kidd was a sailor born in Scotland in 1645. He sometimes went by the name of “Captain Kidd” and was given the task of hunting pirates in 1696. Kidd eventually decided to rebel against his post by raiding vessels sailing in the Indian Ocean. In 1699, Kidd was arrested while returning to America. He would then be sent to England to stand trial under accusations of piracy. Kidd’s unfortunate ending came when he was hung in London. His body remained hanging in an iron cage for several years as a warning to others looking to become pirates.

Edward England

Edward England’s piracy career lasted three years from 1717 to 1720. He captured vessels along the African Coast and the Indian Ocean. His most famous ships include the The Royal James or Pearland the Fancy. England is famous for his pirate flag which consisted of a skull and bones.

Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan’s career included life as a pirate, English privateer, and governor of Jamaica. Morgan became commander of the buccaneers in 1668. As commander, he led successful raids on locations in Cuba, Panama, and Venezuela. Morgan’s Panamanian raid was his downfall, as it led to his arrest. In a twist of fate, Morgan was actually knighted in London by King Charles II in 1674. He was then sent to Jamaica to serve as deputy governor. Morgan died in relative peace as a wealthy planter despite his wild career as a pirate.