8 Most Fearsome and Famous Sea Pirates of All Times

Written by Mona Hadi Naeem
6 · 15 · 17
8 Most Fearsome and Famous Sea Pirates of All Times

Many of those who have watched the famous sequel “Pirates of the Caribbean” would know one name for sure – Barbossa. He was close to the original pirate and a modification of the actual name. Here’s a list of ten of the most feared pirates of old times and interesting facts about them:

The Barbarossa Brothers or Red Beard Pirates

‘Barbarossa’ in Italian means “Red Beard.” The Barbarossa Brothers sailed from North Arica’s Barbary Coast, capturing any European vessel they came across in the Mediterranean Sea. The two brothers, Aruj and Hizir targeted a Sardinian warship, two papal galleys, and Spanish boats. Aruj lost his arm to the Spanish when they engaged in a battle. In 1516, Aruj has been in charge of the Barbary Coast by the Ottoman sultan of that time. Hizir took over this post two years after his brother died. He became famous by the name “Khair-ed-Din” and spent the rest of his life fighting Christian enemies. He fought the “Holy League” fleet formed by the pope too.

Sir Francis Drake

Queen Elizabeth I, named Francis Drake “My Pirate.” He was among the privateers that the English government licensed to attack the Spanish ships. The group of privateers went by the name “Sea Dog” and made quite a name. Drake went on a famous voyage between 1577 and 1580, which made him the first English captain to circumnavigate the earth. On this voyage, he lost four out of five of his boats, raided several Spanish ports, captured several Spanish ships carrying gold, and he executed a subordinate for plotting mutiny. When he returned to England, the Queen dubbed him a knight. Eight years after that, he played a big part in defeating the Spanish Armada.

To find out why the Spanish Armada was one of the greatest failures despite being a great fleet, watch the video below:

François l’Olonnais (aka Jean-David Nau)

History says that the François L’Olonnais was one of the many famous adventurers of his time in the 1600s. He was French and became a buccaneer. State sponsored privateers and outlaws raided the Caribbean Seas during that time. He became famous for raiding Spanish ships and attacking coastal settlements. Upon arriving at the Caribbean, he made quite a fearsome reputation for his excessively cruel behavior as an indentured servant.

Alexander Exquemelin described François l’Olonnais as a man who tied a cord around the necks of his victims and strangled them until their eyes would pop or and hacked his victims to bits and pieces. Once he suspected someone of betrayal and he cut out the heart and even took a bite off it. However, in 1668, karma struck him when Exquemelin wrote that Cannibals captured him and ate him.

Henry Morgan

Henry Morgan may be the best of all the pirates known from the buccaneering period. He supposedly ordered his cohorts to lock citizens of Puerto Principe (Cuba) within the confines of a church while they plundered the town without hindrances of any sort. Then he went on to capture Porto Bello (Panama) by using priests, mayors, and women as a human shield. He led several other brutal raids against two more towns in Panama and Venezuela. In 1672, his arrest changed his life and he served the acting governor of Jamaica in 1678, and then between 1680 and 1682. The irony in his life was that the Jamaican government passed an anti-piracy law and Morgan actually assisted in the prosecution of pirates.

Captain Kidd

Captain Kidd was a Scottish sailor. His full name was Captain William Kidd, and he was one of the most respected privateers that sailed in 1696 to hunt pirated who troubled and occupied the Indian Ocean. However, he later turned into a pirate himself and started capturing vessels like the Quedagh Merchant. He also killed a subordinate with the aid of a wooden bucket, which earned him a fierce reputation. At some time on his way home, he stopped at New York’s Gardiners Island to bury treasure. At this time, a massive abandonment by his crew left him crippled with only a few companions. He had an encounter with the British East India Company and they arrested him, taking him back to England. There, they executed him and left his decaying body to hang at the banks of River Thames to serve as a notice to other pirates. The London Gazette reported this.


His birth name was Edward Teach but as a pirate, he went by the name “Blackbeard.” He intimidated his enemies with his long, braided facial hair, slinging multiple daggers and pistols across his upper body. He captured a French slave ship in 1717, and retitled the vessel to “Queen Anne’s Revenge.” He reequipped 40 guns into it, and with some extra firepower, he blockaded the port of South Carolina and Charleston. His demand was a large chest of medicines, and until the people of the town provided this, he continued occupying the area. Blackbeard died a month later while laying low when the British Navy attacked him and his crew. Legend says it took five gunshot wounds and twenty stab wounds before he took his last breath. Romanticized versions of Blackbeard have played in movies like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Treasure Island” over the past years.

Calico Jack or John Rackam

Calico Jack received pardon for his earlier piracy acts in 1719. The following year he went back to sea and seized a 12-gun sloop that he found at the Nassau Harbor (Bahamas). Among his crew were the only two women pirates that ever terrorized the Caribbean Sea. One of them was Anne Bonny who had left her husband to tie the knot with Jack. The other was Mary Read who purportedly sailed disguised as a man for quite some time. However, another pirate took over Jack’s boat while he was drunk. Only Read, Bonny, and one other man tried to resist the takeover. John Rackam hanged a month later whereas the two women escaped the noose because they were pregnant. However, Read died in prison later, but no one knows what happened to Bonny.

Madame Cheng

Cheng Yih formed the biggest pirate confederate in history in 1805. His wife, Madame Cheng, took over his business after he died two years later. She expanded it further, and approximately 70,000 men with 1,800 ships joined her command. Her husband had adopted Cheung Po Tsai, who later became Madame Cheng’s lover. Together, they attacked ships in the South China Sea, demanded protection money from coastal inhabitants, and captured seven British sailors. However, in 1810, she sought a pardon when the Chinese authorities started to crack down on piracy. In her youth, she lived as a prostitute and then ran a large opium smuggling business.

There’s more! Watch the video below:

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Mona Hadi Naeem