Top 10 Most Famous Pirates in History

The existence of pirates has been around all throughout history. Pirates have been featured in many world-wide successful movies, such as Pirates of The Caribbean. They have committed violent and heartless acts and murderers. Here are the Top 10 Most Famous Pirates.

10. William Kidd

Captain William Kidd
Captain William Kidd (source: thevintagenews.com)

William Kidd, born in Scotland in 1645, is one of the world’s most famous and most unfortunate pirates to exist. According to reports, William Kidd’s father was a seaman himself, which is why William had a dream to be a seaman and a passion for sea. He sailed to New York, USA and left his homeland for a new life. At the beginning, he became a pirate hunter and married the rich Sarah Bradley Cox and had two kids with her. His dream career and personal life became a reality.

Years later, he was given a specially designed warship equipped with crewman and weapons and was told to hunt the pirates of the red sea. After sailing, many of his skillful crewmen left him for Royal navy Ships, leaving him to hire sailors who turned out to be pirates themselves. Most of his attacks failed, and he didn’t earn any significant amount of money. In addition, during a conflict, he murdered his gunner named William Moore. After capturing an Indian ship, he was branded as a pirate.

Kidd sailed back to New York to hide, but instead he was captured and arrested. He was sentenced to death in England and during his execution, the rope they had used broke and they had to replace it and hang him properly for the second time.

9. Bartholomew Roberts

Famous Pirate: Bartholomew Roberts
Famous Pirate: Bartholomew Roberts.

Known as Black Bart, Bartholomew Roberts was one of the most successful and violent pirates who was famous for his boldness. Born in 1682 in South Wales, Roberts was enslaved while working on a British Slaver ‘Princess’. He was forced to join the crew by other pirates after a pirate called Howell Davis captured the ship he was on.

He soon became pirate Howell Davis’s favorite and realized that pirating was a good opportunity for him. After Davis was killed during an ambush, he was elected as the new ship captain and that’s when he began his pirating career.

He plundered around 400 ships, burned captured ship and enslaved hundreds of people. He was a cold blooded pirate who terrorized the seas.

8. Blackbeard

Blackbeard - Pirate Edward Teach
Pirate Edward Teach – Blackbeard

Blackbeard was a notorious pirate who has become the main subjects for movies throughout history. His appearance was unique hence why he was nicknamed Blackbeard. He had a notable long black beard that covered most of his face.

He introduced himself as Edward Teach and served in Jamaica as a privateer. After learning piracy, he worked alongside Captain Hornigold and captured many ship together. The ‘Concorde’, one of the duo’s last captures, was given to Blackbeard after Hornigold decided to retire. He name it ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’.

Blackbeard was killed during a surprise attack where he was reportedly stabbed around twenty times and shot five times.

7. Calico Rackham Jack

Calico Rackham Jack
Famous Pirate: Calico Rackham Jack.

Calico Rackham Jack was a pirate who was remembered because of his associations with two female pirate crew members. He was not a great fighter nor had been wealthy; however, he used backstabbing as a way of success. His impact that lives to this day as his Jolly Rogers flag which is the black flag with white human skull and two swords across it still is a symbol to this day.

He became a captain of a ship after accusing the captain of poor decision making and captured many smaller merchant and passenger transport vessels. After a setback, he and his crew were offered an amnesty deal by the English government to give up his piracy life. For a short while he did, until he had an affair with another pirate’s wife, Anne Bony, and decided to go back to piracy. He was joined with Mary Read, who disguised herself as a man.

6. Charles Vane

Charles Vane
Brave, but unlucky pirate – Charles Vane.

Charles Vane was an English pirate whose birth date is unknown. He was a crewman under Henry Jennings where they raided ships, vessels and camps. He became the captain of the ship after Henry Jennings took pardon from the government. In addition, he was one of the few pirates who did not accept a pardon from the king.

Vane lit the new governor of New Providence, Woodes Rogers’s ships on fire which provoked him. Roger sent a former pirate to hunt Vane down. Charles Vane managed to evade many people who tried to hunt him down.

After a bad decision where they expected little resistance, he was accused of being a coward by his quartermaster, Calico Jack Rackham and was left behind. He rebuilt his piracy life again, but a hurricane wrecked his ships and he was captured and put on trial. Found guilty, the authorities hung him on November 1720.

5. Edward England

Famous Pirates: Edward England
Famous Pirate: Edward England

Born in Ireland, Edward England worked on a sloop as a first mate. He was forced to leave the Caribbean and to sail to Africa to be able to continue his plundering.

Edward England built a whole fleet and seized many ships. He attacked two English and a Dutch ship that belonged to East Indies Company. The Captain of one of them, James Macrae, surrendered after a long battle. The first mate of Edward England wanted to kill Macrae, but it was decided by Edward that his life would be spared. The crew was not happy and marooned England on Mauritus where he died as a poor man.

4. Paulsgrave Williams

Famous Pirate: Paulsgrave Williams
Oldest Famous Pirate: Paulsgrave Williams

Paulsgrave Williams was born in 1678 on Rhode Island. He had a family and a wife that he decided to leave behind when he met Samuel Bellamy. Bellamy was a poor sailor who wanted to find sunken Spanish treasure.

After failing, the two of them decided to become pirates. It’s still uncertain why would a 38 years old wealthy many would become a pirate. He sailed for many years and seized many ships. After less than 10 years of piracy, he retired and started a new family.

3. Sayyida al Hurra

Sayyida al Hurra - Pirate Queen of Islamic West
Pirate Queen of Islamic West – Sayyida al Hurra.

Sayyida al Hurra was an important female figure in the modern age of Western Islam. Born in 1485, she was forced to flee Morocco and settled in Cahouen. After her husband’s death in 1515, she decided to make the revenge she vowed to never forget a reality. She had many successful raids and was considered to be one of the few viable pirates for negotiations.

See also; List of Notorious Female Pirates in History.

2. Thomas Tew

Famous Pirate: Thomas Tew
Famous Pirate: Thomas Tew

Reportaly born in 1680, Thomas Tew was one of the most famous red sea pirates. He came from a wealthy family and served as a privateer on English ships during his youth. He was elected as a captain of Amity Venture. Tew was supposed to attack French ships and colonies on African coast, but soon realized. “Wicked and ill-disposed person”, he was too risky and became a pirate.

He was mortally wounded during one of his attacks and was shot and killed.

1. Stede Bonnet

Most Famous Pirates
Stede Bonnet, Surrender of Bonnet, from the Pirates of the Spanish Main series (N19) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes (wikipedia)

The Incompetent Pirate, Stede Bonnet was a wealthy man who had a wife and a profitable sugar plantation. He turned to piracy for no obvious reason and was known as “pirate gentleman” because of his cultured background.

Bonnet was one of the most interesting and unique pirates in the Caribbean history. Although one of the least successful, he became very famous for some of his not-so-pirate actions. He was hanged in November 1718 for piracy alongside his pirates.

List created by: Mariam Fahmy