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The 10 Most Famous Pirates!

The 10 Most Famous Pirates!

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Throughout history, the high seas have been the stage for tales of adventure and lawlessness, populated by infamous figures who struck fear into the hearts of sailors and coastal towns alike. Pirates, with their distinctive flags and legendary exploits, have left an indelible mark on maritime lore. These seafaring outlaws ranged from cunning strategists to merciless marauders, each carving out their own chapter in the annals of history.

Among them, a select few have gained notoriety for their daring raids, immense fortunes, and sometimes surprising contributions to international politics. From the notorious Blackbeard, with his fearsome image and commanding presence, to the celebrated Sir Francis Drake, whose seafaring ventures were both feared and lauded, these individuals commanded fleets and personal armies, challenging empires and shaping the course of history.

Their legacies, often embellished through centuries of storytelling, continue to inspire fascination to this day. Their lives, a blend of fact and fiction, have given rise to countless books, movies, and even amusement park rides, cementing their status as the most famous pirates to roam the world’s oceans.

Notorious Pirate Captains

The annals of maritime history are replete with tales of notorious pirate captains, some of whom are known for their strategic brilliance, others for their ruthless cruelty, and a few who broke gender boundaries in a predominantly male-dominated world of piracy.


Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, was notorious for his fearsome image, which he cultivated by lighting fuses tied into his beard during battles. His flagship was the captured French slaver “La Concorde”, which he renamed “Queen Anne’s Revenge”.

Henry Every

Henry Every, also known as “Long Ben,” terrorised the sea lanes from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. His most infamous act was capturing the Mughal ship “Ganj-i-Sawai,” laden with precious treasures.

William Kidd

Captain William Kidd started as a privateer legally commissioned to hunt pirates but eventually became a pirate himself. He’s famous mainly because of the legends surrounding the buried treasure he supposedly left behind.

Mary Read

Mary Read was one of the rare female pirates who took to the seas. Disguising herself as a man, she became known for her courage and prowess in battle aboard Calico Jack’s ship.

Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny, like Mary Read, was a fierce female pirate. Noted for her fiery red hair and fierce temper, she was also part of Calico Jack’s crew and was known to be just as formidable as her male counterparts.

Bartholomew Roberts

Bartholomew Roberts, known by his crew as “Black Bart”, was one of the most successful pirates of his time, capturing over 470 vessels. He was both feared and admired for his navigational skills and preference for opulent attire.

Captain Morgan

Sir Henry Morgan was a Welsh privateer who became famous for his exploits in the Caribbean. Known for his smart tactics, he successfully led attacks on Spanish strongholds, eventually being knighted by King Charles II.

François L’Olonnais

François L’Olonnais was notorious for his brutality, especially towards Spanish prisoners. A French pirate, he operated in the Caribbean and was feared for his viciousness and penchant for torture.

Captain Samuel Bellamy

Captain Samuel Bellamy, known as “Black Sam,” was famed for his democratic principles among his crew and his capture of the Whydah Gally, a slave ship that would serve as his flagship.

Calico Jack

Calico Jack is remembered for his distinctive Jolly Roger flag—skulls with crossed swords—and for having Anne Bonny and Mary Read in his crew. His career ended when he was captured and executed in Jamaica.

Infamous Pirate Ships

The annals of piracy are filled with tales of formidable ships that have instilled both awe and fear across the seas. Among these, two ships stand out due to their notorious captains and their exploits.

Queen Anne’s Revenge

Queen Anne’s Revenge is etched into pirate legend, chiefly as the flagship of the fearsome Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. This ship began its life as a French slaving vessel, La Concorde, before Blackbeard captured and refitted it in 1717, effectively transforming it into a 40-gun warship that terrorized the Caribbean and East Coast of America.

The Royal Fortune

Another ship that has carved its name in piracy history is The Royal Fortune, captained by the celebrated pirate Bartholomew Roberts, also known as “Black Bart”. The name was applied to multiple ships he commandeered; however, the most famous Royal Fortune was a galley frigate boasting 40 guns, which Roberts used cleverly and courageously in his raids, making a significant impact during the Golden Age of Piracy.

The Golden Age of Piracy

During a period spanning roughly from the late 17th century to the early 18th century, piracy experienced a significant surge in activity, known as the Golden Age of Piracy. Pirates of this era targeted the wealthy trade routes of the Caribbean, the American eastern seaboard, the West African coast, and the Indian Ocean.

Key Factors:

  • Increased Maritime Trade: The profusion of merchant ships presented numerous targets for pirates.
  • End of European Wars: Seasoned sailors became redundant post-war, some turned to piracy.
  • Wealth of the Americas: Vast treasures from the New World made transatlantic voyages tempting for pirates.

Pirate Havens:

  • Barbados and St. Kitts: Early British colonies used as pirate bases due to their remoteness.

The era declined as nations strengthened their navies and expanded patrols, and as legal commerce became more lucrative and secure compared to piracy. Laws and trials specifically targeting piracy increased, with harsh penalties that acted as deterrents. By the 1720s, the Golden Age of Piracy was effectively coming to an end, leaving behind legendary tales and figures that define the popular image of a pirate to this day.

Pirates and Privateering

In the realm of seafaring rogues, the differences between pirates, privateers, and buccaneers often overlapped based on the context of their activities and the era in which they sailed.


Privateers were essentially authorized pirates, granted legitimacy by a government through letters of marque. They were permitted to attack and plunder ships of rival nations, blurring the lines between legal warfare and piracy. Sir Francis Drake is a notable example, having been a distinguished English admiral who carried out privateering with the full support of Queen Elizabeth I.


Buccaneers were originally hunters on the island of Hispaniola who later turned to piracy. Their name originates from the French word “boucan,” which refers to a wooden frame used for smoking meat. Buccaneers primarily operated in the Caribbean during the 17th century and were part pirate, part rebel, often attacking Spanish ships and settlements. Unlike the privateers, they did not always have the legal backing of a nation and operated more independently.

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