Top 10 Most Infamous Pirates of All Time

7 August 2023

Ahoy, mateys! It’s International Pirate Month so what better time to learn more about the most infamous pirates throughout history? Pirates have captured our imagination for centuries, with their tales of adventure, treasure, and the high seas. These real-life pirates were not just characters from a storybook; they were fearsome individuals who ruled to oceans with an iron fist. In this blog, we will delve into the lives of ten infamous pirates who left an indelible mark on history. From Blackbeard to Anne Bonny, these pirates were more than just criminals – they were legends.

The Golden Age of Piracy

The 17th and 18th centuries were witness to an unprecedented surge in piratical activities across the world’s oceans. Known as the Golden Age of Piracy, this tumultuous era saw the rise of notorious buccaneers who plundered merchant ships, terrorised coastal towns, and challenged the might of empires. These real-life pirates, often driven by a desire for wealth and freedom, have continued to impact us today.


The pirate Blackbeard

One name that strikes fear into the hearts of sailors is Blackbeard. Edward Teach was perhaps the most notorious pirate of all time. With a fearsome appearance, his thick black beard intertwined with slow-burning fuses, Blackbeard struck terror into his enemies. He commanded a fleet of ships and ruled the waters off the coast of the American colonies, amassing vast riches and challenging anyone who dared to cross his path. His reign of terror was cut short when he was finally captured and killed in a brutal battle with the Royal Navy.

Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny pirate

In a world dominated by men, Anne Bonny stood out as a fierce and fearless female pirate. Born in Ireland, Bonny defied societal norms and embarked on a life of piracy. She sailed alongside the notorious Calico Jack Rackham, her lover, and together they wreaked havoc on the Caribbean. Bonny’s reputation as a skilled fighter and her refusal to conform to traditional gender roles made her a legend among pirates. Eventually captured and sentenced to death, Bonny managed to escape from the gallows and disappeared from the pages of history, leaving behind a legacy of bravery and defiance.

Calico Jack Rackham

Calico Jack Rackham pirate

Since we just talked about Anne Bonny, we will move on to her crew mate, Calico Jack Rackham. Rackham was known for his flamboyant and unique appearance. He wore colourful calico clothing, earning him his nickname. His career was short-lived as he was captured and sentenced to death, however, he captured numerous ships along the way! His legacy lives on as his Jolly Roger flag (featuring a skull with crossed swords) has become one of the most iconic symbols of piracy.

Captain Kidd

Captain William Kidd pirate

Captain William Kidd started his career as a privateer, authorised by the British government to attack enemy ships during wartime. However, he soon turned to piracy, targeting not only enemy vessels but also innocent merchant ships, earning him a reputation as a ruthless and bloodthirsty pirate. Kidd’s downfall came when he was captured, put on trail, and executed. Despite his villainous reputation, the true extent of Kidd’s crimes remains a matter of debate to this day.

Bartholomew Roberts

Bartholomew Roberts pirate

Bartholomew Roberts, known as Black Bart, is often regarded as the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy. He captured over 400 ships during his career, earning him a fearsome reputation among sailors. Roberts was known for his strict code of conduct, which prohibited gambling, drinking, and fighting onboard his ship. He believed in treating his crew with fairness and respect, which gained him their loyalty. Roberts’ life came to an end when he was killed in battle with the Royal Navy, but his legacy as a legendary pirate lives on.

Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan pirate

Henry Morgan’s story is unique among pirates. He started his career as a pirate, raiding Spanish colonies and amassing great wealth. However, he eventually received a royal pardon and became a privateer authorised by the British government to attack Spanish ships. Morgan’s most famous exploit was the capture of Panama City, which resulted in a huge fortune being plundered. Later in life, he was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Jamacia, a position he held until his death. Morgan’s transformation from a pirate to privateer to governor is a testament to the complex and ever-changing life of pirates.

Mary Read

Mary Read pirate

Mary Read was another remarkable female pirate who sailed alongside Anne Bonny. What set Read apart was her disguise as a man. She successfully concealed her true identity from her fellow crew members, who only discovered her secret when they were captured. Read’s story is one of resilience and determination as she overcame societal expectations to live the life she desired. After being captured, she was sentenced to death, but she died in prison before her execution could take place. Her story serves as a reminder of the hidden histories of women who defied conventions and found freedom through piracy.

Ching Shih

Ching Shih pirate

Ching Shih, a Chinese pirate queen, commanded one of the largest pirate fleets in history. Her reign of terror in the South China Sea during the early 19th century struck fear into the hearts of merchants and naval forces alike. Ching Shih’s strategic brilliance and strict code of conduct allowed her to amass great wealth and power. Her eventual retirement and transition to a legitimate life remain a testament to her extraordinary leadership.

Edward Low

Edward Low pirate

Edward Low was a pirate whose name struck fear into the hearts of sailors. He was known for his sadistic nature and brutal treatment of his victims. Low and his crew would often torture and mutilate their captives, leaving a trail of terror in their wake. His reputation for cruelty made him one of the most feared pirates of the 18th century. Low’s reign of terror came to an end when he was captured and hanged for his crimes. His brutal legacy serves as a reminder of the darker side of piracy.

Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte pirate

Jean Lafitte was a pirate who operated in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean during the early 19th century, Lafitte and his brother, Pierre, were known for their smuggling operations and their willingness to help the United States during the War of 1812. Lafitte’s base of operations was in New Orleans, where he became a local legend. He was also known for his charm and intelligence, and his skill as a privateer made him a valuable asset to the American cause. Lafitte’s story is a testament to the complex nature of pirates, who often blurred the line between hero and villain.


The legacy of these infamous pirates continues to captivate our imaginations and inspire countless books, movies, and tales of adventure on the high seas. Their larger-than-life personas, audacious exploits, and rebellious spirits have made them enduring symbols of freedom and adventure. As we delve into the lives of these legendary buccaneers, we gain a deeper understanding of the Golden Age of Piracy and the complex motivation that drove these individuals to become some of the most infamous figures in history.

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