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Top 10 Pirates

Updated on July 3, 2013

Pirates seem so much fun. People like to play at being pirates, and tell stories about them. We have been doing this for hundreds of years, but most stories are either exaggerated, romanticized, or just plain lies. Don’t get me wrong, pirates make great stories, but the truth is that they were cruel men and women who lived and died short and miserable lives. Here’s a quick overview of pirates that you would NOT want to see at sea or cross cutlasses with in a cabin. Their horrors have been ranked from ten to one, with ten being just plain nasty, and one being more deadly than a crocodile with toothache!

10. Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688)

This Welshman first started off as a privateer, attacking the Spanish for King Charles. (A privateer is someone who is authorized by a government to attack foreign ships during wartime-basically, a licensed pirate.) Apparently, Morgan did such a good job that later he was made governor of Jamaica by King Charles himself. Morgan was a good soldier, but a hopeless sailor, which is somewhat comical, as he spent a lot of time on the high seas. He wrecked one ship by sailing it onto rocks, and had to cling to a rock and wait to be rescued. Embarrassing. Another recorded mishap is that he had another one of his ships destroyed-this time because some of his drunken sailors knocked over a candle in the gunpowder store, which resulted in blowing up the entire ship. Morgan lived to tell the tale, but 250 of his crew died. More like Bad Luck Morgan if you ask me.

Fun Fact: Morgan had retired from pirating once he was appointed as Governor of Jamaica in 1674. But he was so bored that he drank endless glasses of rum to pass the time. This destroyed his liver and eventually killed him.

9. Coxinga (1624-1662)

Coxinga was the son of China’s richest smuggler. He fought to defend his emperor and build a navy of 3000 ships and 250,000 fighting men. However, when the emperor was finally defeated, ironically, Coxinga turned to piracy. Now being on the run from the law, he couldn’t return to China so he decided to drive out the Dutch traders on the island of Taiwan. The Dutch refused to surrender, so Coxinga had the Dutch captives divided into groups of about 30 men and sent to villages around the camp. Once there, they were dragged out, killed and thrown into burial pits.

Fun Fact: Coxinga ended up going mad and once started screaming “Take those headless bodies out of my bedroom!” There was nothing there.

8. Roche Brasiliano (1670s)

This Dutch buccaneer lived in Brazil, then turned up in Jamaica in the 1670s to do some pirating. Brasiliano was a drunkard famous for his hatred of the Spanish. He would frequently get drunk and run down the street, beating up anyone who got in his way. He soon became a pirate captain and brought terror to Spanish shipping, as he used to plunder Spanish vessels carrying cargo of Aztec and Inca treasures, along with other resources. (This was common practise amongst most pirates, since the heavy, slow moving Spanish vessels were often easy targets.) His nastiest trick was to capture a Spaniard, tie him to a pole, and roast him alive over a fire.

7. Juan Corso (1680s)

The Spanish were not just victims of piracy. Some Spaniards, like Juan Corso, became pirates themselves-and cruel ones too. Corso became a Spanish privateer with orders to destroy the English in Jamaica. He then proceeded to gather a group of killers who robbed and murdered without any sense of pity. With his newly found band of killers, Corso toured around the Caribbean, often causing a lot of inconveniences to the English situated in Jamaica. Later in his career, Corso would also attack British and French buccaneers who stopped in Cuba in search of water and provisions. Under pressure from the Royal Navy, Corso was forced to leave Cuba, and instead resorted to capturing smaller vessels.

6. Black Bart (aka Bartholomew Roberts, c.1682-1722)

Bart was probably one of the cleverest pirates to ever set sail. He captured over 400 ships and took around £50,000,000 in loot. (That’s almost $80.5 million!) Bart started his life at sea working on a slave ship, until a pirate captured him and made Bart a slave. The hard-working Welshman earned his freedom and in time became captain of his very own ship. Once on the high seas, Bart became a force to be reckoned with. He once captured a ship and asked the captain to pay if he wanted to go free. The captain refused so Bart simply set the ship on fire-it didn’t bother him that there were 80 slaves on board. Bart was somewhat of an odd pirate because he didn’t drink-he had a clear head to plan his clever attacks. He also hated gambling and smoking on his ship.

Fun Fact: Another oddity about Bart was that he found time to preach to his crew on Sundays. His rule was “Never attack on a Sunday, it is the Lord’s day.”

5. Jeanne de Clisson (c.1300s)

In 1313, Jeanne’s husband, Olivier de Clisson, was executed on the orders of Philip the Fair, who was the King of France at the time. Jeanne decided that he was Philip the Un-fair and decided to get revenge. First, she sold off all of her lands to raise money, which she then used to buy three warships, which had been painted in black and had red sails. Admiral Jeanne began destroying Phillip’s ships and exterminating their crews, but she always left a few alive so they could run back to the King to tell the tale. Eventually Philip died, which could really have spoilt Jeanne’s fun, but instead she decided to extend the bloodshed onto his sons, as they had now taken over the French throne. After 13 violent years, the last of Philip’s sons died, and Jeanne retired.

Fun Fact: Jeanne enjoyed capturing ships with French noblemen on board, whom she would personally chop off their heads with an axe. It is said that her ghost still roams around the walls of Clisson Castle-just don’t go there if your name happens to be Philip!

4. Ned Low (died c.1724)

Low was an American pickpocket who turned to pirating. Most pirate captains at the time had rules of their own, ranging trom the sensible to the downright ridiculous. Low had his fair share of bizarre rules, such as refusing to have married men on his crew. He didn’t want any men running home to their wives. Another rule was that if a prisoner wanted to turn into a pirate, he was free to do so, only if he was unmarried. In fact, once Low shot a prisoner in the head once he learned that he had a wife. When Low wasn’t busy enforcing rules, he was also known for his extreme violence. Low once captured the Spanish galleon ‘Montcova’, and killed 53 Spanish captives with his cutlass. Then, he made one Spanish prisoner eat the heart of his decapitated friend, who he afterwards also killed. His other acts of cruelty include burning a French cook alive. Low told him, “You are a greasy fellow so you’ll fry well.”

Fun Fact: After his crew had finally got fed up of him, they mutinied and set Low adrift on a small boat. A French ship rescued him, but after they found out who he truly was, they simply hanged him.

3. Lady Mary Killigrew (1580s)

This cut-throat woman was the wife of Sir John Killigrew and they lived in Cornwall. She went on many pirating cruises along the English coast and was happy to slash and chop with her own sword. In 1583, a German merchant ship was robbed and she rowed away with jewels, silver and pieces of eight. After killing all the crew, of course. In another similar incident during the same year, a Spanish merchant ship was driven into Falmouth by storms. Lady Killigrew led a boarding party on to the vessel, killed the crew and stole the cargo. Word quickly reached Queen Elizabeth I herself, and she was furious. Lady Killigrew was tried and sentenced to be hanged along with her crew. However for some reason, the Queen changed her mind and gave her a long jail sentence instead.

2. François l’Olonoise (1660s)

L’Olonoise was a French pirate, who brought terror to the coast of South America. He tortured his prisoners and became famous for being one of the cruelest pirates of all time. His nastiest habit was cutting prisoners to bits when he lost his temper. Then, he would proceed to cut off their tongues. One story says that once he cut open a prisoner’s chest, took out his still beating heart, and started chewing on it while asking him questions. Having committed multiple acts of savagery himself, l’Olonoise’s death certainly wasn’t pretty. He faced his doom when he was shipwrecked on the island of Las Pertas. He was found by a group of local natives and was horrifically murdered and hacked to bits. Served him right.

1. Blackbeard (aka Edward Teach, 1680-1718)

Perhaps one of the most notorious pirates to ever sail the Caribbean seas, Blackbeard certainly deserves first place for being the most violent, and downright terrifying to look at. His preferred tactic was to instill fear and horror into his enemies, so they would surrender before the fight had even begun. He got his nickname from wearing plaits in his beard, so it looked like snakes were crawling all over his face and head. He also twisted smoking ropes into his plaits to add to his terrifying looks. What he may have lacked in charm and looks, he certainly made up for in violence and brute strength. It is said that Blackbeard was so strong that he could split a man from his head all the way down to his waist with a single blow from his cutlass. Blackbeard was killed in a famous hand-to-hand fight against Lieutenant Maynard of the HMS Pearl. It is said that Blackbeard was shot five times and stabbed another 20 times before he finally fell.

Blackbeard’s legacy still continues today, as he is often romanticised in novels and films, for being one of the most ruthless pirates during the golden age of piracy. It was Blackbeard’s reign of terror, in which he terrorised sailors from 1716 to 1718, that inspired so many to still be fascinated about pirates and their reckless lives that they lived.

Fun Fact: Blackbeard was sometimes known to kill members of his own crew for sport. He shot his mate Israel Hands in the knee, and crippled him for life, just for fun.


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    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 3 years ago from Tasmania

      Interesting read, well written.

    • malti001 profile image

      malti001 4 years ago from Malta

      There's always something out there that you don't know! Cheers for the input :)

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Gah! Great Hub about Pirates! I thought I knew a lot about Pirates, but only I knew of 4 of the ones you mention! I love the great Pirate movies, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Captain Blood, The Black Swan just to name a few! Thanks malti001! Shared!