Arr harr me hearties! To celebrate the release of my latest novel, The Devil and Edward Teach, I present here five horrible facts (and myths) about pirates.
1. No pirate ever made anyone walk the plank. It never happened! Or, at least if it did, it was never mentioned. Oh, sure, there were plenty of pirates who did much worse to their victims than plank walking, but more of that later. The myth about pirate prisoners being made to walk the plank is thought to have been started by Howard Pyle, with this illustration published in 1887 in Harper’s Monthly.
2. Plenty of men became pirates, but what about the women? Anne Bonny is the most famous, going from being the daughter of a rich plantation owner to becoming a ruthless pirate. Trapped in a miserable marriage in New Providence, Anne was romanced by John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackam, who was seeking a royal pardon for his former piratical career. Unable to persuade her husband to divorce her, Anne ran away with Rackam. At night, with a handful of ‘Calico Jack’s’ old cronies, they slipped aboard a sloop in the harbour. Anne, dressed as a sailor, surprised the two crewmen left on board and threatened to “blow your brains out” if they tried to resist. Soon enough ‘Calico Jack’ was up to his old tricks again, and the two lovers became a scourge of the Caribbean.
3. Edward Lowe, although not as famous as most other pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries, was perhaps the most cruel. He once let all crew members of a captured ship free, apart from the cook, who, ‘looking like a greasy fellow’, he tied to the mainmast and set on fire, letting him burn to death. In another notorious episode he sliced the lips off a Portuguese captain and broiled them in front of him, and then made him eat them. Whilst still hot! Oh, and then he murdered him. Nice.
4. Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, finally met his nemesis in Lieutenant Robert Maynard, who had been hunting him for days through the Ocracoke Inlet. Despite suffering five bullet wounds and twenty knife wounds, he fought on until finally dropping dead at Maynard’s feet. Maynard then ordered his head to be cut off and hung from the bowsprit of his boat. Blackbeard’s body was then thrown overboard. Despite being dead and decapitated, legend has it that Blackbeard’s corpse swam around Maynard’s sloop three times before sinking from view beneath the waves.
5. Captain William Kidd, after being convicted of piracy in 1701, was hung not once, but twice for his crimes. All right, the rope broke the first time, that’s why they hung him again. Then his corpse was painted with tar and bound in chains, and the head set in a metal harness, so that the bones would stay in place when the tissues rotted, and he was hung from a gibbet at Tilbury Point as a warning to sailors entering the Thames, against pursuing a career in piracy. Kidd’s corpse slowly rotted away, the gulls pecked at it, and the frost prized it apart. He hung there for several years. It is rumoured that Kidd buried a significant stash of treasure somewhere, but no one has ever found it.
I hope you enjoyed those brief anecdotes about pirates. One day I may write more about Anne Bonny, and the other notable female pirate Mary Read, and their adventures with ‘Calico Jack’.
If you would like to read my Kindle novel, The Devil and Edward Teach, in which Blackbeard meets his ultimate adversary, please follow the link to Amazon.