As long as there have been Pirates, people have been enthralled with their adventures on the high seas! The earliest acts of piracy date back to the 14th century BC, but most famous Pirates of our history and culture reside in the 18th Century Caribbean waters.
Anne Bonny is the famous female Pirate of the Caribbean, where she started pirating after being disowned by her family when she married small-time Pirate James Bonny. Mingling with the local Pirates in taverns in the Bahamas, Anne became more adventurous after divorcing her husband and then marrying famous Pirate John “Calico Jack” Rackham. Together with her friend Mary Read, the three captured many ships, including the famous Revenge, and brought in tons of treasure! Anne never hid her gender, although it was rare for a big-time Pirate to be female, and she was known to be very effective in combat.
Blackbeard and his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge make the most famous Pirate team in all of history. His thick, black beard and fearsome appearance were just as renowned as his treasure conquers. Blackbeard supposedly even lit fuses under his hat to scare enemies! After forming a Pirate alliance and blocking the port of Charleston, South Carolina, Blackbeard ran Queen Anne’s Revenge aground outside of Beaufort, North Carolina and temporarily retired in a small town on the North Carolina Outer Banks. He missed the Pirate life though, and went back out to sea, only to meet his end in a ferocious battle with the Royal Navy.
Calico Jack became the captain of his ship, Ranger, after the current captain decided not to pursue a large French vessel. Calico Jack and a small troop of 15 supporters branded the current captain a coward, and overtook the ship to sail on for gold and riches. He pirated around Jamaica and the West Indies with Anne Bonny and Mary Read. He was eventually captured at Dry Harbor Bay in Jamaica in 1720.
English born Henry Every or Avery was one of the most notorious Pirates of the 1600’s. He was one of the few Pirate captains that retired with his ship and all his treasure & loot without being captured or killed in battle. Avery wasn’t always a Pirate though; he actually started his career on the sea in the British Navy. After being discharged he was commissioned by Charles II of Spain to prey on French Ships and eventually became Captain of his ship, The Fancy, after the crew mutinied. Avery went on to become the richest Pirate in the world after capturing a £600,000 bounty made up of precious metals and jewels.
Mary Read was born illegitimately in late 17th century England to a sea captain’s widow. Her mother used to dress Mary as a boy in order to fool her son’s grandmother into giving the family continued financial support. Because Mary was dressed as a boy, she first found employment as a footboy and then later on a ship – which introduced her to life on the sea. It wasn’t until she met a British sea Captain that Mary started dressing as a woman, but when her husband died she boarded a ship bound to the West Indies that became overtaken by Pirates. The Pirates that overtook Mary’s ship included Calico Jack and Anne Bonny, who Mary Read became friends with and then continued on with her pirating.
Stede Bonnet pirated in the early 18th century in Barbados, and was known as “The Gentleman Pirate” since he was a fairly wealthy land owner before he turned to a life on the seas. He bought his own Pirate ship and sailed it to Nassau in the Bahamas, and when he ran into the famous Pirate Blackbeard Stede Bonnet decided to let Blackbeard lead his ship for a while. The two worked together to capture merchant ships along the East Coast, but when they failed to capture a large prize all of Stede Bonnet’s crew fled to join Blackbeard on Queen Anne’s Revenge. When Bonnet sailed his ship up the Cape Fear river to make repairs, he was captured and his days of piracy were over.
Fictional Old Ben Gunn
Ben Gunn is a fictional Pirate from the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, Treasure Island. Ben Gunn was marooned by his shipmates for three years on Treasure Island because he failed to find the treasure on the map. Ben Gunn becomes friends with Jim Hawkins, the hero in the novel, after Jim helps him escape the deserted island.
Fictional Captain Blood
Captain Blood is the hero of a 1922 adventure novel, Captain Blood: His Odyssey by Rafael Sabatini. In the beginning of the book, he doesn’t start out as a captain at all – instead he is an Irish doctor! While helping heal some wounded men at a rebellion, Blood is arrested and whisked away on a grand adventure even though he took no place in the rebellion himself. After being sentenced to slavery, Blood was taken to the Caribbean with the other convicts but his skills in medicine got him out working the fields at sugar plantations. Blood eventually escapes his captors and sails away with other convict-slaves to become one of the greatest Buccaneers in the Caribbean!
Fictional Captain Jack Sparrow
Everybody knows Captain Jack! This fictional Pirate from the Disney movie series The Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most beloved Pirates of our pop culture. Made famous by the actor Johnny Depp in the first movie, The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Captain Jack is tricky, funny and all things we love about Pirates!