We have seen them in movies, we have read about them in books. But did such daring, dangerous and vicious pirates actually exist in real life? The answer is a big yes. Today we bring you the 10 greatest pirates from the past.
10. Stede Bonnet (c.1688–1718)
Stede Bonnet was sometimes regarded as “The Gentleman Pirate” because he came for a wealthy English family. He had a military experience but none with sailing vessels. Despite of this he decided to become a pirate. Bonnet worked with a number of pirates including Blackbeard. He was captured once, pardoned and returned to pirating and captured again. This time he was brought to trail, charged and sentenced to death. Bonnet was hanged in 1718.
9.Grace O’Malley (c. 1530–c.1603)
Born in Ireland, O’Malley was a well educated woman. When her father died, she took over his international trading and shipping business and later the family land and other properties that resulted in making her quiet rich. She became even richer when she started pirating. Her ships at the Galways had to pay taxes to continue trading. So O’Malley decided to extract taxes from ship travelling from water bodies off her land in exchange of safe passage. Whoever resisted were tortured or killed. Grace O’Malley is so significant a character in the 16th century Irish history, that in Irish folklore, O’Malley is sometimes regarded as “The Sea Queen of Connacht.”
8. Henry Every (1659–1696)
Henry Every was a pirate from England around the mid-seventeenth century. Regarded as “The King of Pirates” by his contemporaries, he has pulled off some of the most profitable pirate raid in history. Early in his life he served in the Royal Navy and after retirement Every began slave trading but soon went to being marine again. Following a number of events Every found himself working under the English pirate Thomas Tew. After Tew died in battle while trying to raid a Mughal ship, Every took command and captured precious stone worth £600,000. Rumours have it that later he either retired and died peacefully or all his wealth was plundered and he died as a beggar.
7.Ching Shih (1775–1844)
One of the most ferocious pirates of all time, Ching Shih lived in China under the rule of Qing Dynasty in early 19th century. Shih worked in a brothel before being captured by pirates. She ended up marring a notorious pirate named Cheng I who came from a family of pirates. And that’s how her career at piracy began. After Cheng I died, Shih took control of the leadership. She ran 300 pirates ships manned by thirty to forty thousand pirates. Being one of the greatest pirates from the past, Shih is featured in numerous movies, books and video games.
6. Jacquotte Delahaye
Jacquotte Delahaye was born in Haiti and was a buccaneer – pirates who attacked Spanish ships in the Caribbean in 17th century. She is one of the few known female buccaneer in history. Delahaye’s father was French and after he was murdered, Delahaye decided to become a pirate. There are many legendary stories after her name – how she had little money and took care of her slightly-retarded brother, how she faked her own death, and once in order to throw pursuers off track, Delahaye pretended to be a man and live like that for years. Several years later Delahaye was shot dead.
5.Edward Low (ca.1690–ca.1724)
Also called Captain Edward Ned Low, he lived during what was called the Golden Age of Piracy. As a young man he was a lowly thief trying to take care of his family. After his wife died of childbirth he joined pirates. He has a short and successful career. He had numerous ships under his command and raided hundreds of ships, looted them, burned them and sunk them into the depth of the sea. Being one of the most vicious pirates to have ever live, Low was known to kill and torture his victims as well. His death occurred in 1724 in circumstance that are still under speculation.
4. Calico Jack (1682-1720)
His original name is John Rackham, and he was an English pirate. He was active during the Golden Age of Piracy operating mainly around the Bahamas and Cuba. He was the one to design the Jolly Roger flag (the pirate ship flag with a skull and two bones) and make it popular during the early 18th century. Jack was also known for having female pirate crew members on board of his ship – Anne Bonny and Mary Read. There was a coupe in which Jack was deposed but he soon bounced back until in 1720, when a pirate hunter named Jonathan Barnet caught Jack. He was later hanged.
3. Christina Anna Skytte (1643-1677)
Christina Anna Skytte of Dudenhof was a baroness as we as a pirate hailing from Sweden. Skytte was born in a noble family with politicians and poets as her cousins and relatives. Her brother Gustav Skytte began handling a pirate ship in the year 1657. They secretly plundered ships sailing across the Baltic Sea. Soon Gustav brought Christina and her fiancé Gustaf Drakes on board as business partners. Together they were a ruthless gang who killed another partner when he suggested withdrawing his partnership. In 1662, when the pirates attacked and sunk a Dutch merchant ship, Christina and group were caught and prosecuted.
2. Edward Teach (c.1680-1718)
Better known as Blackbeard, he is one of the greatest pirates from the past. He was active between the years 1716 to 1718 and operated somewhere around the eastern coast of the American colonies and also near the West Indies. Little is known about Teach’s early life but he has engaged in numerous acts of piracy during his active career. He had a fearsome appearance which got him the nickname, “Blackbeard”. He used his appearance to strike fear into the hearts of people. Surprising there are no records of Teach ever killing or torturing anyone. Consequently, after his death the legend of Teach has been romanticised in popular culture.
1. Mary Read (1690-1721)
She was an English pirate operating during the Golden Age of Piracy (i.e. the early 18th century). Born sometimes around the late 17th century, Reads father was a sea captain. She was an illegitimate child and in order to hide her existence her mother dressed up like her older brother after his death.
She later joined the British military in male disguise and proved herself valuable at the battlefield. She fell in love with a soldier, married and after he died, she captured got by pirates. In 1720 she joined Calico Jack as a male pirate where she meet another female pirate Anne Bonny. Only a few people knew of Read’s true identity including Anne Bonny. On November 15, 1720, Jack ship was caught and the pirates were put into prison. Read suffered from a violent fever while in prison and died.