Top 10 Famous Pirates in History

Script written by Dan Deeprose Drink up, me hearties, yoho! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Most Famous Pirates in History. For this list, we’re defining piracy as crimes and violence at sea. However, we will also include some historical figures that were officially privateers —that is, they were exactly the same as pirates, but the government sanctioned their actions, making them legitimate acts of war as opposed to criminal offences. While pirates and privateers were technically different, the line between them was often blurred, and what one country would call an honorable privateer, another would call a bloodthirsty pirate. Special thanks to our users jwiking62, Daniel Fong and Ditmas148 for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Famous Pirates in History


Drink up, me hearties, yoho! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Most Famous Pirates in History.

For this list, we’re defining piracy as crimes and violence at sea. However, we will also include some historical figures that were officially privateers —that is, they were exactly the same as pirates, but the government sanctioned their actions, making them legitimate acts of war as opposed to criminal offences. While pirates and privateers were technically different, the line between them was often blurred, and what one country would call an honorable privateer, another would call a bloodthirsty pirate.

#10: Sir Henry Morgan
c. 1635 - 1688

Though he was actually a British privateer, Sir Henry Morgan was such a fearsome and successful raider that the Spanish called him a pirate. Throughout his career, he attacked ships all through the Caribbean and eventually fought in an epic battle to capture Panama City, commanding 1200 buccaneers and thirty ships. The battle led to Morgan be arrested and dragged back to England, but the British King reacted by knighting him and making him Deputy Governor of Jamaica!

#9: Mary Read
c. 1691 - 1721

At a time when women were seen as little more than property, Mary Read wasn’t going to let that stop her. Being used to dressing up as a boy for various reasons throughout her childhood, Read disguised herself as a male to join the British Military and built a reputation for herself as fierce and skilled in battle. When peace times stilted her life in the military, Read quit and became a pirate instead! Well, more like, she was forced to, after the ship she boarded was captured. But from then on she sailed, fought and drank as hard as the male pirates. Pretty hard-core for a 17th century girl!

#8: François l’Olonnais
c. 1635 - c. 1668

Jean-David Nau, known as Francois L’Olonnais, was a true pirate of the Caribbean. Vicious and sadistic, he didn’t limit himself to raiding ships—no, he was most successful at pillaging towns. They say he ate a Spanish soldier’s heart straight from his chest! But what goes around comes around, and eventually he met a death even more gruesome than the ones he dished out—he and his crew were captured and eaten by a cannibalistic tribe in Panama.

#7: Samuel Bellamy
1689 - 1717

‘Black Sam’ Bellamy wasn’t just a pirate; he was a romantic. He started out as a poor sailor, but when he fell in love with the beautiful Maria Hallet, he turned to piracy in the hopes that riches would win her parents over. Even when he crossed over to the wrong side of the law, he was never a violent, bloodthirsty buccaneer. He captured a slave ship and proceeded to free the slaves, giving them the option to join his crew if they wanted.

#6: Anne Bonny
c. 1700 - c. 1782

Anne Bonny was only around 16 when she ran away with her pirate lover, the infamous Calico Jack – while still married to small-time pirate James Bonny. Dressed as a man, she terrorized the Caribbean at his side, having divorced her husband and married her new lover. She was apparently more bloodthirsty—and better at holding her liquor—than most of the crew (which included the previously mentioned Mary Read!). Though they were eventually arrested and sentenced to hang, it seems that Anne managed to escape that fate. No one knows if she returned to her family or if she took up a new identity and set back out to sea.

#5: Henry Every
1659 - after 1696

The man they called Long Ben was also known as the King of Pirates. He started out in the British Royal Navy, then later staged a mutiny while working on a warship and became a pirate captain. Even though he was a pirate for only two years, he amassed incredible wealth and was feared all across the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. After two years, he was so rich that he retired, and spent the rest of his life in hiding, probably living it up on an island drinking rum out of a coconut—or perhaps a skull.

#4: Sir Francis Drake
c. 1540 - 1596

Francis Drake was a privateer under Queen Elizabeth I, but that didn’t make him any less violent and ferocious than illegal pirates. He was, in fact, seen as a role model for the pirates of the later Golden Age, and one of the only pirates known to have actually buried treasure. His particular enemy was Spain, and he fought the Spanish so viciously that they dubbed him El Draque.

#3: Blackbeard
c. 1680 - 1718

Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, wasn’t just a pirate—he commanded a pirate army, and he was known to charge into battle with a sword in each hand, several loaded pistols, and lit fuses under his hat. No wonder he was feared and admired throughout the West Indies! His ship, “Queen Anne’s Revenge”, is one of the most famous pirate ships in history. Legend has it that when he was finally defeated and beheaded, his headless body swam around the ship several times before sinking.

#2: Ching Shih
1775 - 1844

Ching Shih wasn’t just a powerful pirate captain; she was also one of the most badass women in history. With her adopted son-turned-husband, Cheung Po Tsai, she had control of over 1,500 ships and 80,000pirates—which makes her pirate army one of the biggest naval armies in history. Together, they plundered ships and towns all through the South China Sea. Eventually, the desperate government offered her amnesty in exchange for peace, so she retired from piracy and started running a casino instead.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- William Kidd
c. 1645 – 1701
- Hayreddin Barbarossa
c. 1678 – 1546
- Edward Low
c. 1690 - c. 1724

#1: Bartholomew Roberts
1682 - 1722

Bartholomew Roberts, or Black Bart as he posthumously became known, sailed during the Golden Age of Piracy, and he was the most successful pirate of his time. Though not terribly bloodthirsty, he was cold-blooded, calculating and shrewdly practical, and he plundered over 470 ships during his reign—an all-time record for pirates! Though his crew called him “pistol proof”, he did eventually die in battle, and his death is said to mark the end of the Golden Age.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your favorite historical pirate? For more swashbucklin’ Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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