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London and the pirates

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Pirate trials
London-born pirates
Captain Johnson's classic history of the pirates
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London-born pirates

Pirate origins

Captain Bartholomew Roberts
View full size imageBartholomew Roberts. © NMM
Although more British pirates were born in London than other seaports, there is no doubt that the most famous pirates were born elsewhere:

  • Henry Morgan, Bartholomew Roberts and Howell Davis were Welsh
  • Captain Kidd and John Gow were born in Scotland
  • Avery was from Plymouth
  • Blackbeard was from Bristol.

However, London did produce one of the nastiest of all pirates and also one of the very few female pirates.

Edward Low

Capt Edward Low in ye hurricane which he and all the crew had like to perish'd.
View full size imageThe London-born pirate Captain Edward Low. © NMM
Captain Edward 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.

Female pirates

Mary Read
View full size imageThe female pirate Mary Read. © NMM

The female 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.

Anne Bonny
View full size imageAnne Bonny. © NMM
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 as fiercely as any male pirate. 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! 

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Find out more
Fact fileCaptain Kidd
A seventeenth century pirate
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory Greenwich New Opportunities Fund  
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