The pirate life wasn’t all cool hats, treasure maps, and Johnny Depp impersonations of Keith Richards. It was dangerous and bloody work. Whether they were private renegades or contract workers, pirates—both women and men—inspired tales ranging from the brutal to the downright bizarre. Shiver me timbers to these swashbuckling facts about pirates.
1. Blackbeard’s Biggest Booty Haul
In 1717, Blackbeard committed one of the largest naval hijackings in pirate history: he commandeered a 160-cannon vessel from the French Navy. He proceeded to rename it something you might recognize: the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
2. Imagine the Instagram Tutorial
Blackbeard was very image-conscious, and knew how much a pirate’s reputation rested on a first impression. Before battle, he’d dress in all black to evoke a menacing persona and put on a large captain’s hat. As a finishing touch, he’d put slow-burning fuses into his hair and beard so he could wreath himself in an ominous, demonic fog. Werk it, Blackbeard.
3. Blackbeard: Graphic Designer
Blackbeard flew a flag of his own design, which featured a skeleton with horns against a black background. The skeleton held an hourglass in one hand and carried a spear pointing to a heart dripping with blood. And you thought the flaming beard was scary.
4. It’s Important to Have Realistic Goals
Most people remember Blackbeard, but less remember his mentor: Captain Benjamin Hornigold, AKA the pirate with mixed priorities. Hornigold once took several hostages, but then let them go while demanding only “some rum, a little sugar, powder, and shott.” In another incident, he overtook a merchant ship just to demand that everyone turn over their hats.
Why? His crew had gotten drunk the night before, and they had all thrown their hats overboard in their revelry.
5. You’re Gonna Need More Booty, Mates
During one of his return trips home from ransacking and pillaging, pirates hijacked Julius Caesar’s boat. Instead of cowering, Caesar made sure they would live to regret their mistake. First, he befriended the nappers and persuaded them to double their ransom, since wasn’t he worth more than that? But he wasn’t done yet.
One his uncle paid the ransom and Caesar was free, he enacted his ingenious plot. He took a fleet of men, chased down the pirates, and slit all their throats. What’s the moral here? Know who you’re kidnapping, folks.
6. Honor Among Thieves
The ancient Greeks saw piracy as a viable profession and considered it an entirely honorable way of making a living.
7. Who Doesn’t Want Their Security Deposit Back?
Pirates like Blackbeard tended to minimize their kills—outright combat could devalue the ship they were attacking, and there’s no sense damaging a valuable ship when you can win fights with reputation alone.
8. Equal Opportunity Employer
John “Calico Jack” Rackham was known for his bright, flamboyant wardrobe and flair, but that’s not his biggest claim to fame nowadays—the 18th-century pirate also had TWO female pirates on his crew: Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
9. Golden Girls
Mary Read and Anne Bonny were actually some of the most famed female pirates of all time; they were the only two women convicted of piracy at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy.
10. Crime and Punishment
In 1241, an English pirate named William Maurice was the first person known to have been hanged, drawn, and quartered, indicating the severity with which then-King Henry III viewed the crime of piracy. Pretty severe, if you’re wondering.
11. Raiding to Retire
Not even Canada was immune to piracy. Peter Easton was a 17th-century pirate who controlled so much sea power along the Newfoundland coastline between Harbor France and Ferryland that no sovereign or state could overtake him. He retired to France with two million pounds of gold and the title of the Marquis of Savoy.
12. Activate Night Monocle!
Pirates did actually wear eye-patches, but not because they all lost them in fights. It was because they jumped above and below decks so often, it made sense for them to adjust one eye for “night-vision.” One eye would be for seeing in daylight, and when they went under deck they’d simply switch their patches and use their once-covered eye to see in the dark. Pretty smart for a pirate, eh?
13. Bow Down
Most people know Artemisia I of Caria as the femme fatale character played by Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire. But she was a real warrior woman and pirate queen who fought for the Persian king Xerxes. In all of Xerxes’ massive army, Artemisia was the only female commander.
14. Long Live the Queen
Artemisia reigned as the queen of Halicarnassus (a Greek city in modern-day Turkey) for 24 years. To put it into perspective, Alexander the Great only ruled for half as long as she did.
Artemisia was a brave warrior and leader, and she was also quite happy to rely on devious cunning to achieve victory. She allegedly sailed with two different flags on board her ship: one that was aligned with the Greeks, and another with the Persians. When she caught a Greek ship unawares, she’d fly the Greek flag to get as close as possible before showing her true colors.
16. Like a Carian Brienne of Tarth
The historian we know as Justin famously praised Artemisia for her incredible courage during combat, saying it shamed most of the men whom she fought alongside. He joked that wherever Artemisia was present in war, “you might have seen womanish fear in a man, and manly boldness in a woman.”
17. Like Woman, Like Goddess
The origin of Artemisia’s name is rooted in the Greek goddess Artemis. Interestingly, two of the goddess’s main traits were her skill at archery and her tomboy attitude. If Artemisia’s parents were hoping that she’d be inspired by her namesake, they must have been thoroughly pleased!
18. Black Flag
The black skull-and-crossbones flag was not necessarily the pirate equivalent of a “Here we Arrr!” siren. In fact, it was often the opposite: the flag meant the pirates were willing to give you safe quarter. You’d actually want to see a black flag bearing down on you—it was certainly better than the alternative…
19. Red Alert!
The term “jolly roger,” which now refers to the skull and crossbones flag commonly associated with pirates, is likely derived from the French phrase, “jolie rouge,” meaning “pretty red.” It was this red flag (not the skull flag) that meant a pirate ship was aggressive.
20. Is That Ironic?
Despite the shattering defeat of the Persian fleet at Salamis, Xerxes publicly acknowledged that of all his commanders, Artemisia of Caria had conducted herself with the most courage. In gratitude, Xerxes gave her a full suit of the finest Greek armor.
21. Don’t Need No Man!
It’s very rare in history that a woman’s name is preserved while her husband’s is not, but Artemisia of Caria falls into that niche category. We know that she had at least one child, but we have no idea who the father of that child was. We don’t even know for sure how many children she ended up having—we know far more about her marauding ways.
22. Someone’s Got a Crush…
The historian Herodotus was a huge fan boy of Artemisia. Though he’s known for heavily criticizing other commanders in the Persian army, he had nothing but admiration for her confidence in leadership, as well as her remarkable intelligence. He even openly admitted that he didn’t want to talk about any other commanders besides her.
23. Size Matters
Pirate galleys were nimble and lightly armed, but heavily manned in order to overwhelm the often minimal crews of merchant ships. Because of their agility, pirate craft were generally very difficult to hunt down. As they say, it’s not the size of the ship, but the motion of the tiny craft filled with bloodthirsty seamen.
24. Vacation From Hell
Port Royal, Jamaica was a popular retreat for 17th-century pirates—a place where a hardworking seafarer could unwind and spend his hard-earned booty on booze, gambling, and women. The city was so infamous, visitors called it “the Sodom of the new World.” Quite a namesake.
25. From Gentleman to Gentleman Pirate
Born to a rich Barbadian family in 1688, people called Stede Bonnet “The Gentleman Pirate.” With his good looks and good breeding, Bonnet duped authorities into believing he was a pirate hunter, and he used his position to attack, plunder, and burn ships himself.
26. Can’t Hold Him Down
“Black Caesar” was an African war chief-turned-slave who escaped bondage and became a ruthless pirate instead. He’s famous for raiding the Florida Keys and even working with Blackbeard’s crew (It’s called #networking).
27. Sunken Bounty
In 1996, researchers finally discovered what they believe to be the wreck of Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge. They recovered thousands of artifacts, including gold flakes, pipe stems, and part of a sword, among other fare. The inscription on the ship’s bell read “IHS Maria, año 1709,” suggesting that the ship originally came from Spain or Portugal.
28. Drake the Rake
There are some rogues throughout history whose legacies are particularly divisive. Some despise them, others idolize them. Francis Drake was one of those rogues. He was a man born for the sea, which is where he completed his most legendary exploits—and his most scandalous acts.
29. License to Seize Booty
Not all pirates were ragtag upstarts. Some—like Sir Francis Drake—were knighted allies who acted on the orders of powerful governments. A favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, Drake plundered Spanish ships and cities on the coast of Florida in the name of the crown. He also saved the failed colonists of Roanoke Island, giving them passage on his vessel. Pirates are complicated, OK?
30. Where in the Ocean Is Francis Drake?
Before his death, Drake requested that his friends and family bury him at sea in his suit of armor. They lined his coffin with lead and then dropped it into the sea several miles from the coast of Panama. To this day, we have never found Drake’s coffin and remains, despite numerous diving expeditions to solve that mystery.
31. That’s Sir Drake to You
Drake had friends in high places. After marauding around Spanish territories for England, he was knighted in the name of Queen Elizabeth I on board his famous ship The Golden Hind.
32. Wanted: Dead or Alive
The Spanish so utterly detested Drake that King Philip II of Spain once offered a reward of 20,000 ducats, or $8 million in today’s money, for his capture or death.
33. “Smaug” Was Taken
You know you’ve become an infamous character among your enemies when they give you a nickname. The Spanish did just that for Drake. In a play on his name, they called him “El Draque.” He was also given the nickname “draco,” which means “dragon” in Latin. Given his love for loot and Spanish gold, it’s hard to disagree with that moniker.
34. A Fertile Family
Somehow, Drake had 11 brothers.
35. Bang the Drum
According to popular legend, Drake took a snare drum with him when he circumnavigated the globe. Later, the drum made its way to Buckland Abbey, and the legend decreed that if England was ever in great peril, beating the drum would summon Drake to his country’s defense once again. It was predictably known as “Drake’s Drum.”
36. By the Pirates, for the Pirates
Many pirate communities operated as limited democracies, instituting a system of checks and balances similar to the one used by the present-day United States.
37. Flank the Plank
I wouldn’t plead the plank if I were you—it’s actually a common myth about the pirate penal system. Pirates were much more likely to kill you straightaway than wait around to make you walk the plank. If you were particularly unlucky, you’d meet an even darker fate. They’d maybe keelhaul you, i.e. tie you to the back of the ship and drag you through the water.
38. Build-a-Flag Workshop
Pirate flags came in many variations, offering unique and often humorous designs. Some flags featured naked men, or demons, or skeletons dancing with naked ladies. Let your freak flag fly!
39. Lady Raider
Mary Wolverston was born into the swashbuckler trade—her father was a “gentleman pirate” and Wovlerston herself married the knighted pirate Sir John IV Killgrew of Arwenack. She helped her husband out in his marauding ways, and seemed to enjoy it even more than he did.
40. From Brothel to Buccaneering
One of the most famous pirates in Asian history is Ching Shih—a Chinese woman who married pirate captain Cheng I, took control of his fleet after his death, and pursued an illustrious career. At one point, she was the leader of a fleet of more than 300 ships.
41. How It All Began
It’s never been determined what Ching Shih’s exact birthday is, but she was born in 1775.
42. Ring the Bells
Before she met Cheng I, Ching Shih was actually working as a sex worker. It’s unclear why Cheng I fell so hard for her that he married her, but some say she was just that good-looking. Others say that it was because he rightly recognized her incredible cunning and resourcefulness. Either way, it was a match made in high seas heaven.
43. Did They Also Have Water Beds?
The brothel where Ching Shih worked was actually a floating pleasure palace. In Chinese culture, these were called “flower boats,” and they would sail along the coast to pick up customers.
44. Sweet Deal
Ching Shih had no intention of being eye candy on her pirate hubby’s arm. When they first got married, it was clear that she would have 50% control of his stuff, and she was definitely an active partner in Cheng I’s piracy.
45. You and What Army?
We don’t know just how many pirates took orders from Ching Shih at the height of her power, but it was somewhere between 20,000-40,000 people. No wonder they call her a pirate queen!
46. I Don’t Know How Shih Does It
Although she was wildly successful as a pirate, Ching Shih gave up the seafaring life to “have it all” as a working wife and mom. In 1810, Ching Shih surrendered to the Qing Imperial Government, who let the pirate matriarch keep her loot. She settled down, married her step-son, and raised their children together before she died in bed at the ripe (and cool) age of 69.
47. Your Majesty
Based on the huge numbers of pirates that Ching Shih commanded and the fact that she managed to retire and live peacefully, many historians believe that Ching Shih was the most successful pirate in human history.
48. Nice Booty
Pirate treasure wasn’t always just gold and silver. Most of it was food, cloth, and animal hides. Y’know, practical stuff. In fact, the most highly-prized plunder was medicine. A doctor’s chest would be worth around $470,000 in today’s value.
49. Name a More Iconic Meet-Cute
The 17th-century French pirate Anne Dieu-le-Veut once challenged famous swashbuckler Laurens de Graaf to a duel. Either Graaf had insulted Dieu-le-Veut or he had killed her husband. Impressed by her courage, Graaf dropped his guns and proposed to her. She said yes, and together they shared a lucrative piracy career in addition to three kids. What a way to start a marriage!
50. Norway But Her Way
In the wake of the murders of her husband, son, and brother-in-law, Lady Elise Eskilsdotter reacted like any well-do-to 15th-century Norwegian noblewoman: get yourself and your remaining children into the piracy business and enact your bloody revenge against your husband’s enemies, the German merchant class of Bergen.
51. Princess #PowerMove
The Irish pirate queen Grace O’Malley was one tough cookie. Her plans as both a pirate and a resistance leader against English authority in Ireland triggered the irk of Queen Elizabeth I. But unlike many other “pirate scum,” of the day, Elizabeth held O’Malley in high regard—and even deigned to meet with her.
52. Death to the Queen?
If the sources can be trusted, the meeting between O’Malley and Queen Elizabeth was rife with tension. For one thing, O’Malley arrived at the meeting with a knife hidden on her person. When Elizabeth’s guards and courtiers were understandably alarmed at finding the knife during a body search, O’Malley explained that she carried the knife for her own protection not, you know, to assassinate Her Royal Highness.
53. Imagine All Those Popping Monocles
The secret knife discovery wasn’t the end of the tension at O’Malley and Elizabeth’s meeting. At one point, O’Malley shocked the English members of the meeting with an utterly disrespectful act. She brazenly blew her nose into a handkerchief and threw it in the fire. She actually had to tell Elizabeth that in Irish culture, a used handkerchief was immediately thrown away rather than reused.
54. Like a Kardashian
O’Malley was born into pirate royalty. Her father, Owen “Black Oak” O’Malley, was the chieftain of the clan. The family had a long history with the sea and often made a living off being part-time pirates. So really, O’Malley was only continuing the family tradition.
55. A Hasty Divorce
In 1566, O’Malley married “Iron” Richard Burke—so named for his territory’s famous ironworks. Despite her new hubby’s studly name, their marriage barely lasted a year. Allegedly, O’Malley made it clear that things were over between her and Burke when she leaned out of a window and screamed, “Richard Burke, I dismiss you!” Ouch…
56. And Don’t You Forget It!
O’Malley’s first name is an Anglicized version of her true name. Properly spelled from its Irish roots, it would actually read “Gráinne.” In Irish folklore and literature, she is also known by the name “Granuaile.” No doubt her ghost would get revenge if we didn’t point that out to you English readers.
57. Tomboy Stowaway
One legend about O’Malley’s childhood says that when she once wanted to go with her father on a voyage, she was refused because she was a little girl. In defiance, she cut her hair, dressed as a boy, and joined the crew before anyone could uncover her disguise.
58. Maternal Instincts
According to the legends, O’Malley gave birth to her third son on board a ship that was attacked by pirates just an hour later. Incredibly, the hot-blooded Irishwoman allegedly stowed her newborn inside her cabin and personally led the counter-attack—again, just an hour after giving birth. Very metal, O’Malley.
59. The Black Sheep
O’Malley’s second son was named Murrough, and he proved to be a bloodthirsty and misogynistic man. Despite all her feats, he refused to acknowledge his mother’s authority just because she was a woman, and even reportedly physically assaulted his sister on several occasions. After this, O’Malley refused to speak to him.
60. Rules and Regulations
Each pirate ship had its own code of conduct that covered details such as how loot would be divided, who did what chores, and general expectations. One of the most common rules was “no fighting onboard.” If two pirates had a disagreement, they had to wait until they were on land before going at it. Besides, it’s difficult to “step outside” when you’re on a boat.
61. Black Sam Makes Bank
According to lore, “Black Sam” Bellamy got into piracy after he fell into love with Maria Hallet, a Massachusetts maiden. Unfortunately, her parents did not approve, so he did the obvious thing: turn to a life of crime. “Black Sam” proved his worth as the richest pirate in recorded history until his ship was struck by a violent Cape Cod storm, likely killing him at the age of 28.
62. Loot Bag
The customs around splitting up pirate loot were fairly egalitarian, with most of the crew receiving an equal share and the Captain and commanding officers giving themselves slightly more. On average, a pirate could expect the equivalent of a year’s wages from each captured ship. Not too bad at all for a day’s work, right?
63. Piracy Tastes Great!
Francois l’Olonnais, a French plantation worker turned pirate, was infamous for his bloody streak. After capturing some Spanish soldiers, l‘Olonnais allegedly established that he was in charge by slicing open one Spanish prisoner’s chest, pulling out his heart, biting into it, and telling the others, “I will serve you all like, if you show me not another way.” He was still covered in the man’s blood. Yeesh.
64. Eat Your Way out of This
l’Olonnais came to a bloody (and fitting) end, however, when his crew lodged their ship at a Panama shore to find food. According to The History of the Buccaneers of America by Alexandre Exquemelin, natives subsequently seized, dismembered, and cannibalized l’Olonnais and his crew. Karma hurts, doesn’t it?
65. Little Orphan First Mate
Cheung Po Tsai was adopted into the trade by a 19th-century pirate and his wife—that is, after they captured him from his fisherman father. Whether or not he wanted to live the pirate life, he eventually made a name for himself, leading an army of over 50,000 men. Sometimes you don’t choose the pirate life, the pirate’s life chooses you.
66. A Problematic Politician? Gasp!
The infamous Henry Morgan took a break from piracy to serve as the Governor of Jamaica. Ironically, his legislature passed an anti-piracy law, where Morgan personally assisted in the persecution of pirates.
67. Die Bart Die
One famed Caribbean pirate was Bartholomew Roberts, who boasted the most captures and earned his infamy by hanging the governor of Martinique from the yardarm of his ship. His death was equally bombastic: he died after getting shot in the face with a cannon. Many viewed him as a hero after his death, and historians consider his demise as the end of the Golden Age of Piracy.
68. King George Plays Himself
King George III of England offered citizenship and land to the French pirate Jean Lafitte if he agreed to join their side. Lafitte said he needed a few days to think…and then committed a cold-hearted betrayal. He immediately sailed to New Orleans to warn American Revolutionaries that the English were coming. Good on ya, Lafitte!
69. And a Bottle of Rum
The pirate’s drink of choice was grog, a mixture of rum, water, lemon juice, and sugar. Sounds like the recipe for a fantastic weekend.
70. Aye-aye, Nerd!
William Dampier loved plundering Spanish ships almost as much as he loved science. The erudite English pirate also provided the first written instances of words like “barbecue,” “avocado,” and “chopstick,” and in his adventures in Australia he was the first European to describe the “large hopping mammals” and “midget bears with a fondness for trees” that he found there.
71. European Backpackers Are Just Like That
Dampier once voluntarily marooned himself on the coast of Thailand. He returned to England three years later with nothing to show for it but a tattooed slave prince, whom Dampier exhibited for money. So I guess you can’t say he came back with nothing.
72. Captain Curfew
Our friend Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts ran a morally tidy ship. He made his crew sign a strict, 11-point code of conduct that forbid activities like gambling, women, staying up late, and not cleaning your room. And he’s not alone: many pirates (such as the notorious Captain Kidd) were noble, honorable, complicated men…they just had a taste for life on the sea.
73. Arrr…You Not Tired of Talking Like That?
Talk like a pirate. Now stop, because they probably did not sound like that. Why would there be a uniform accent? Pirates came from all over the world! Blame Treasure Island for all that “arr”-talk.
74. Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a Pirate Bounty
The pirate career of Howell Davis was just 11 months long (from July 1718 to June 1719), in which time he gained a reputation for excessive trickery and deception. Davis disguised himself as a legitimate privateer in order trick a ship commander into dinner, where Davies held the man ransom for an impressive 2,000 pounds of gold.
75. Early Adopters
The earliest documented instance of piracy was in the 14th century BC, when the Sea Peoples, a group of ocean raiders, attacked the ships of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilizations. It’s always nice to be the first to market.
76. Big Prize
One of the biggest pirate booties ever was Captain Thomas Tew’s haul in 1692. After looting a ship, he gave each ordinary member of his crew almost $3.5 million in today’s money. Tew himself took more than double that sum.
77. No Money, Mo Problems
In contrast to Tew’s crew, an ordinary seamen in the Royal Navy received just $580 per month of today’s money. Not surprisingly, over 42,000 seamen deserted. Wouldn’t you?
78. Big Hats, Big Ballots
Most pirate captains, such as John Ward, were elected by popular vote among their crew.
79. Pirate Love
Pirate mythology paints buccaneers as womanizing, bearded hooligans with a taste for rum. In truth, pirates welcomed homosexuality and even had their own form of gay marriage. Matelotage was a civil partnership between two male pirates. Many (though not all) matelotage partners openly had intimate relations with each other, and most shared their property and lived together.
80. Doubloons? Try Deductibles!
Believe it or not, some pirates qualified for health insurance! In the 17th century, Captain Henry Morgan started one of the first all-inclusive worker health plans in recorded history. Morgan’s crew even signed a charter that guaranteed them benefits for any injury incurred in battle. That’s one progressive pirate ship.
81. Bury Your Head in Shame
Hate to burst your bubble, but treasure-burying was not a common practice among pirates. And in the few real cases, people usually rediscovered the bounty in embarrassingly swift time.
82. So Literal
The English word “pirate” is derived from the Latin term “pirata,” which means “sailor” or “sea robber,” and from the Greek word “peirates,” which literally means “one who attacks ships.”
83. The Bird Is the Word
The spelling of the word wasn’t standardized until the 18th century, so it was normal to find a bunch of “pirrots” and “pyrates” on the high seas.
84. #Tfw the Sultan Believes in You
The Barbarossa brothers Aruj and Hizir sailed North Africa’s Barbary Coast in the 1500s, terrorizing European trading vessels. They made a fearsome name for themselves, so much so that the Ottoman sultan quickly commissioned them to go legit and fight for his side.
85. They Got Around
The most widely known and far-reaching pirates in medieval Europe were the Vikings, seaborne warriors from Scandinavia who raided and looted with abandon. Though we don’t think of them as such today, they were totally swashbuckling adventurers. Their marauding took them through almost the entirety of coastal Western Europe.
86. Founding Fathers
In 1715, pirates launched a major raid on Spanish divers who were recovering gold. The leaders of the pirate force were Henry Jennings, Charles Vane, Samuel Bellamy, and Edward England, four names that would soon live in infamy. When they returned to their home base, the governor refused them entry. Not put out at all, they founded a new pirate base at Nassau instead, which soon became a notorious pirate hangout.
87. Same Idea, Bigger Guns
Piracy remains a huge problem in the 21st century, with modern-day pirates, armed with rockets and machine guns, using small motorboats to attack and board cargo ships.
88. Oh, It’s on Now
Noblewoman pirate Jeanne de Clisson sailed the high seas looking for blood. After the French government killed her husband, Clisson swore to avenge his death. She sold off the entirety of her husband’s lands, raised an army, and then trawled the English channel looking for French ships to raid and pillage—but her entire story is even wilder.
89. A Fitting Moniker
People called de Clisson “The Lioness of Brittany.” She got this nickname because she loved to raid villages or towns and slaughter their populations, leaving only a few survivors to spread the word that her wrath was not to be trifled with.
90. Starting Early
Back in the 14th century, the short lifespan of the average person meant that people started adulting at an appallingly young age. This was the same situation for de Clisson. At the age of 12, she was married to Geoffrey de Châteaubriant VIII, a 19-year old nobleman in Brittany.
91. Silver Spoon in My Mouth
In case you thought that Elizabeth Swann’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean was too unbelievable, de Clisson was also born into a noble family. Her parents were Maurice Montaigu and Letice de Parthenay.
92. Who Said War Was for the Young?
De Clisson didn’t kick off her pirate career until she was in her early 40s. Talk about a late bloomer!
93. Famous for Fifteen Minutes
Surprisingly, the infamous pirate known as Blackbeard, whose reputation would linger for centuries after his death, only had a two-year pirating career in the 1700s. Frankly, it speaks volumes about Blackbeard’s legacy that such a short amount of time was enough to cement him in human history.
94. The Hunted Becomes the Hunter
In a strange twist of fate, Blackbeard’s mentor Benjamin Hornigold found out the authorities were offering pardons to pirates, and he jumped at the chance. Except when he agreed to the pardon, he had to become a pirate hunter for the Crown. The government even commissioned him to find his old buccaneer buddy, Blackbeard, though the two men never crossed paths again.
95. I’ve Seen Better Days
Blackbeard suffered an infamous death. Lt. Robert Maynard was pursuing the pirate, and engaged him in combat when many of Blackbeard’s crew were ashore. By the time the battle was over, authorities discovered that Blackbeard’s body was riddled with five bullet wounds and at least another 20 knife slashes. Ouch.
96. The Headless Seaman
After his death, the Navy hung Blackbeard’s severed head from the bowsprit of Lt. Maynard’s ship as proof that the infamous pirate was no more (can’t miss out on collecting that reward, after all). As for the rest of Blackbeard, a legend sprung up that his headless body swam around in three circles before finally sinking.
97. Rich Boy
When Blackbeard died, he was carrying a letter from the Secretary of the Province of Carolina. This bit of trivia strongly implies that Blackbeard was literate, which has led several historians to suggest that he was from a reasonably wealthy family. We can only assume that Blackbeard never mentioned this fact, since it would have destroyed his street cred with his crew.
98. Well, Not All Love Is Welcome Aboard
Pirate code decreed that any man found “seducing one of the latter sex and carrying her to sea in disguise” would “suffer death.” Desertion was also punishable by death.
99. Cuckolding Her Way to the Top
Before she was a pirate, Anne Bonny was married to a government informant. She apparently disapproved of her husband’s snitching, and we doubt the marriage warmed after Bonny began to hang out in pirate taverns and took John “Calico Jack” Rackham as her lover. Rackham offered Bonny’s husband money to let her go, but he refused, so the lovers ran away together. The rest, as they say, is buccaneer history.
100. Fight Like a Woman
Anne Bonny and Calico Jack were the pirate power couple of the 18th century, but they had a bitter end. When the king’s men boarded their ship, it was Bonny who kept on fighting while Jack cowered under the deck. At Calico’s execution, Bonny lovingly told her partner in life and crime, “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.” Ice cold!
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