Pirates of the Caribbean’s Dead Men Tell No Tales is being released next week, and it got me thinking about real pirates from history. I wondered what they’re really like and ended up on another deep dive through the internet. Here are some of the most interesting pirates I came across.
I thought I’d start off with a pirate that was actually in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Blackbeard’s actual name was Edward Teach, as it was in the On Stranger Tides film. He’s regarded as the most terrifying pirate in history. He was a large man and wore lots of daggers and guns on his coat. He had a long black beard that he tied with black ribbons and he weaved fuses into his hair and lit them before going into battle so that smoke would plume about him. Many surrendered to him outright and without a fight because of his menacing look. From 1716 to 1718, Blackbeard, aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, terrorized the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean seas. He was finally stopped by Lieutenant Robert Maynard and his crew in a bloody battle that ended with Blackbeard being shot and stabbed to death. Blackbeard’s head was then suspended from Lieutenant Maynard’s ship as a warning to others.
Cheng I Sao
Another character in the films, Mistress Ching, was portrayed in At World’s End and was most likely based on Cheng I Sao. Born Shi Xiang Gu, she was working in a Chinese brothel until she married the successful pirate, Cheng I. Together they commanded a fleet that included about 500 ships and 30,000 crew members. After her husband’s death, Cheng I Sao took over and grew her fleet to almost 2,000 vessels and 80,000 men, the largest pirate fleet in history. To govern the many pirates under her command, Cheng wrote a detailed code of conduct, which included punishing a rapist by beheading him and slicing off the ears of any deserters. The Chinese government was out to get her and when they did, she simply surrendered, but on the condition that she would get to keep her riches. Cheng I Sao was able to live out her life comfortably into old age.
Francois L’Olonnais was a French pirate during the 1600s. From my research, he was the most ruthless pirate that ever lived. Along with his pillaging, he and his cohorts raped and killed many along the way. Not only did he kill people, but he had several methods of torturing his prisoners to get them to tell him where their valuables were hidden. His torture methods included burning them with matches, slicing their skin off, dismembering, and tying a rope around his captives’ heads and tightening it until their eyes popped out. He’s even known to have cut out an enemy’s heart and eat it! It turns out that karma did come for him, though. A native Darien tribe ended up capturing him and hacking him to pieces and burning him. Some say they even ate him.
It wasn’t until Captain William Kidd that buried treasure became a thing. The King of England sent Captain Kidd to stop pirates who were attacking British ships. Kidd would then loot the ships and divide the riches among himself, his investors, and the King. In doing so, Captain Kidd ended up becoming a pirate himself. Kidd’s crew eventually resented the fact that they weren’t attacking English ships. Kidd eventually gave in and they would attack any ship they could. King William finally ordered Kidd to be captured and brought to trial for his piracy. However, before he was caught, Captain Kidd allegedly buried his vast treasure for safe keeping and hopefully to use as leverage. But Kidd was still bought to trial and sentenced to death by hanging. Today, people are still searching for his hidden treasures and lots of literature are based on Captain Kidd’s buried treasures.
I'm a mother of two and constantly searching for ways to have adventures and create memories as a new family. I love all things Disney, I'm obsessed with family costumes, and I will find any excuse to celebrate.
Lisa is part of the Purecostumes.com Digital Ideation team.
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