Blackbeard

The so-called Golden Age of Piracy (1689-1718) is a storybook of rogues who robbed and murdered on the seas of the New World. One character has transcended history and sailed into legend...

Blackbeard

MAN OR MYTH?

Blackbeard did exist - his real name was Edward Teach although he sometimes went under the aliases Edward Thatch and Edward Drummond. His birth date has been estimated at 23 November 1675. One thing we know for certain is his life ended violently on 22 November 1718.

LIFE AT SEA

It is widely believed that Teach was born in Bristol. He went to sea at an early age and is said to have operated out of Jamaica as a privateer during Queen Anne's War (1702-1713) before descending into the cutthroat life of piracy.

Teach entered piracy as a crewman aboard a Jamaican sloop commanded by fellow outlaw Benjamin Hornigold. In 1716 Hornigold appointed Teach to join him as equal. He gave him command of a captured vessel called Le Concorde de Nantes, a two hundred ton frigate armed with twenty cannon. By 1717 Hornigold and Teach were among the most feared pirates of their day.

When the British Crown offered a general amnesty on piracy, Hornigold accepted this generous pardon and retired. Teach, however, set sail as a wanted man, renaming his vessel The Queen Anne's Revenge.

THE IMAGE AND THE BEARD

Teach earned his famous nickname for the most obvious reason: by all eyewitness accounts he sported an enormous black beard that covered most of his face. To add to this image of ferocity, it was said that he would weave hemp and lighted matches into his facial hair for battle.

REIGN OF TERROR

Despite being a pirate of great notoriety, Blackbeard's reign over the high seas only lasted two years. During this time he repeatedly preyed on the many shipping and coastal settlements of the West Indies and the Atlantic coast of North America.

During the winter of 1717-1718, the Queen Anne's Revenge cruised the Caribbean, hijacking ships and taking valuables, food, liquor and weapons. Very soon Blackbeard had four ships at his disposal and many men - he was truly a force to be reckoned with.

LIFE ON LAND

There have been claims Teach had as many as fourteen wives, most of them common-law. Evidence is thin on the ground, although we know his last wife was Mary Ormond of Bath, North Carolina, to whom he was married for only a very short while.

THE FINAL BATTLE

The man who was to ultimately bring about the end of Blackbeard's reign of terror was one Lieutenant Robert Maynard. Maynard found Blackbeard anchored in a North Carolina inlet on the inner side of Ocracoke Island, on the evening of 21 November 1675.

Maynard engaged Blackbeard in battle the following day. Maynard was wounded but he and his men eventually overpowered the dreaded pirate, who received a reported five musketball wounds and more than 20 sword lacerations before finally dying.

Edward Teach was decapitated and his head hung on the front of Maynard's ship The Adventure as a trophy before being stuck on a pike in Bath, North Carolina. Maynard received a £100 reward for his trouble.

THE LEGEND

Many colourful tales and legends persist, most sensationally the claim Teach's headless body, after being thrown overboard, swam around The Adventure seven times before sinking.

Blackbeard has also proved good for tourism. There is a Blackbeard Festival in Hampton, Virginia every year and the crew of the modern day British warship HMS Ranger commemorate his defeat at the annual Sussex University Royal Naval Unit Blackbeard Night mess dinner in November.