The 22nd of November 1718 AD
The fate of pirates throughout our history has often been more bound up in politics than plunder. Francis Drake ’s piratical exploits against the Spanish gained him a vast fortune which he shared with the crown, coincidentally knighted for his services. When war threatened pardons were frequently issued to pirates to convert these hardened fighters into what was effectively a naval reserve.
The legendary figure of Blackbeard, thought to have been a native of Bristol named Edward Teach or Thatch , was a skilled operative at sea and with local politicians. Famed for his long black beard and ferocious aspect – he often frightened enemies into submission – he met his end thanks to rivalry between the leaders of the crown colony of Virginia and the private colony of North Carolina. North Carolina Governor Charles Eden had recently pardoned Blackbeard, who then returned to lawless ways: Eden and other officials benefitted from piracy, declaring some legal – by good luck Blackbeard once found an abandoned - honest - French ship laden with cargo.
Governor Spotswood of Virginia decided on direct action, sending a small naval force to encounter Blackbeard. The pirate spotted the attackers and devastated them with a broadside, but Lieutenant Robert Maynard had hidden most of his men below; when Teach boarded his party was overwhelmed. The pirate captain himself fought with Maynard, who shot him but had his sword shattered as they clashed. Another naval man jumped on the pirate and gravely wounded him in the neck. Maynard finished him off, later finding five bullet wounds and 20 sword-slashes on the corpse.
Blackbeard’s head was hung from the rigging – proof to help obtain reward for the naval party – and his body thrown overboard. The pirate’s legend continued to grow, however, feeding future stories like Treasure Island – Israel Hands, one of Blackbeard’s crew, features in Robert Louis Stevenson ’s tale.
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