William Kidd, known as Captain Kidd - New York
William Kidd, or “Captain Kidd” as he is most often remembered, was one of the most renowned
privateers and pirates of the late 17th century.
Like many pirates of his time, Kidd had originally begun his career as a privateer, commissioned by the British during the Nine Years War to defend its trade routes between America and the West Indies. He was later employed on a pirate hunting expedition in the
As was the case with many other pirate hunters however, the temptations of plunder and booty were too great to
pass by. Kidd’s crew threatened mutiny on multiple occasions if he did not commit himself to piracy, which he succumbed to doing in 1698.
Captain Kidd’s relatively short career as a pirate was very successful. Kidd and his crew captured a number of ships including a vessel called the Queda which they found to have onboard a cargo worth 70,000 pounds – one of the biggest hauls in the history of piracy.
Unfortunately for Kidd and his crew, it was now two years since he had begun his original voyage and whilst his attitudes toward piracy had evidently softened, attitudes in England had become a lot
less tolerant. The English had decided that piracy was to be stamped out and was now declared a criminal act.
They had done much the same with slavery, one minute engaging in and
condoning the trade, and years later turning on the practice with all
What ensued was one of the most notorious pirate hunts in all of history. Kidd finally arrived in the West Indies in April 1699 only to find that the American colonies were gripped by pirate fever. Up and down the coast, everyone was on the hunt for pirates, and his name was at the
head of the list.
The hunt for Captain Kidd was the first to be live documented in newspapers around the
Atlantic world. The Scottish pirate managed to negotiate a pardon from the English authorities for his actions, yet he knew his time was up. Kidd sailed for Boston, stopping along the way to bury booty on Gardiners Island and Block Island.
The New England governor, Lord Richard Bellomont, himself a (two faced) investor in Kidd’s voyage, had him arrested on 7 July 1699 in Boston. He was sent to England aboard the frigate Advice in February 1700.
Captain William Kidd was hanged on 23 May 1701. Incredibly, the first rope put around this neck broke so he had to be strung up a second time. His corpse was placed in a gibbet at the mouth of the
Thames and left to rot, as an example to other would-be pirates.
There is a scene much like this in Pirates
of the Caribbean, the Curse of the Black
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