Famous pirates

Dare you encounter Blackbeard, Ned Low, Captain Henry Morgan, Anne Bonny and Mary Read?

Despite glamorous representations in film and literature, pirates were, without exception, a thoroughly dislikeable bunch and some like Edward Low were fierce killers.


Probably the most famous pirate to ever live. Blackbeard had a knack for theatricality and a startling portrait of him has ensured his image has lived on. As well as being heavily armed with knives, cutlasses and pistols, Blackbeard (real name, Edward Teach) tried to make himself look especially fearsome in order to intimidate his victims. He had wild eyes and a mass of thick tangled hair. Into his hair he twisted pieces of fuse, which he set alight during battles, so that his face was surrounded with smoke to create an even more terrifying image.

He may have regretted his fame though when the Royal Navy sent ships targeting him specifically and he was killed in battle.

Find out more about Blackbeard

Edward Low

Captain Edward (Ned) Low was born in Westminster. He was one of the most brutal men to command a pirate ship. During the 1720s he plundered ships on both sides of the Atlantic and became notorious for his savage cruelty.

He took a sadistic pleasure in cutting off the noses, ears and lips of his victims. He also tortured and murdered the entire crews of some of the ships he captured. Low was never caught and is believed to have ended his days in Brazil.

Famous female pirates

Anne Bonny/Roberts and Mary Read

The pirate Mary Read was born in London. As a young woman she joined the army in Flanders disguised as a boy soldier. She later went to sea, still dressed in male clothes, and was captured by a pirate ship commanded by ‘Calico’ Jack Rackam.

Another member of Read's pirate crew was Anne Bonny. After several plundering expeditions around the Caribbean together, their ship was captured off Jamaica and the crew were sent for trial in Spanish Town.

All the men in the crew were hanged but Mary Read and Anne Bonny were reprieved because they were both pregnant. Mary fell ill with fever soon after the trial and died in prison.

Anne Bonny took part in many attacks and fought fiercely. In 1720 she was put on trial in Jamaica and sentenced to death. Bonny claimed that Rackham would not have been hung like a dog if he had fought like a man!

Henry Morgan

Welshman Henry Morgan considered himself a privateer rather than a pirate as he operated mostly in collusion with the then Governor of Jamaica and he targeted Spanish ships. His exploits were notably bold and often bloodthirsty, none more so than the time he sailed up to the city of Panama and burned it to the ground. This was a bitter blow to Britain's then enemy Spain and Morgan was celebrated back in Britain.

Despite the dubious legality of many of Morgan's exploits he was ennobled and became the Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica for his troubles.

What was a pirate's life really like?

Discover the truth behind the legend. What was a real pirate's life actually like, and who chose to pursue this life of crime?