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Famous Pirate Flags

 

Famous Pirate Flags

Pirate flags were used to strike fear into the hearts of all who were unfortunate to encounter them. They also served as identification of the pirate or privateer who performed the deed. It was the seal or signature of those who bore the Jolly Roger on their ship. The first pirate flags were red. This was intended as a warning of bloodshed. In addition, it also meant that little or no quarter (mercy) would be given to those encountered. Black flags meant death; the flag would employ skulls or skeletons to enhance the effect of the mortal threat.

Edward England (unknown-1720)

Born in Ireland, Edward Seegar began as a legitimate sailor. His ship was captured by Christopher Winter in 1717 and taken to his base in Nasssau, Bahamas. Edward then decided to join the pirates, taking the alias Edward England. He became the captain of The Pearl and later captain of the Fancy. His flag was perhaps the most famous, the skull and cross-bones or Jolly Roger. In 1720 England captured The Cassandra, the crew escaped to the jungles of Madagascar. Later England and his crew captured the escaped crew members. Edward England then released the captives due to the courage they had displayed in battle. This angered England’s crew and they revolted against him. He was taken and marooned on Mauritius, an island off the coast of Madagascar. England eventually made his way back to Madagascar where he died as a pauper in 1720.

  • The Jolly Roger: This site contains the history of various pirate flags, including Edward England’s skull and crossed-bones.
  • Edward England:  More information concerning England’s Pirate career.
  • Edward England:  A comprehensive account of Edward England’s rise and fall to fame.
  • Edward England:  Good site for information regarding England’s life and the flag he used.
  • Pirate Flags: Excellent site on the history of and various flags used by the pirates.

'Calico' Jack Rackham (December 21, 1682- November 18, 1720)

Commonly known as Calico Jack, was named after the calico clothing he wore. Born of English decent in Jamaica in 1682, not much is known about his early years. One of the first accounts of Rackham is of him being a quartermaster for Captain Charles Vane in 1718 aboard the Ranger. Jack Rackham had a difference of opinion with Vane concerning whether to attack a French Man-of-war. The Man-of-war was twice as large as the Ranger and Vane decided to retreat. Rackham disagreed, Vane’s decision was final and they fled. Later Rackham called a vote and had Vane branded as a coward removed as captain. This was the beginning of Rackham’s captaincy. After some successful runs Rackham acquired the Kingston, which became Rackham’s flagship. Rackham was also famous for his relations with two female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Jack Rackham’s Jolly Roger was the skull above the crossed cutlasses.

Edward Teach aka Blackbeard (1680-November 22, 1718)

Edward Teach was born in Bristol, England in 1680. Little is known about his early years. It is known that he joined the pirate Captain Benjamin Hornigold’s crew in 1716. He earned the alias Blackbeard, named for his long black beard. He had an intimidating appearance which he would use to instill fear in his enemies. Teach was known to put lit cannon fuses under his hat and ribbons in his beard to enhance the effect. He would also put wicks laced with gunpowder in his beard and light them during battle. It was not long until Blackbeard acquired his own ship; The Queen Anne’s Revenge and soon parted ways with Hornigold to seek riches. Later he would add Stede Bonnet alias Captain Edwards to his crew. Blackbeard’s Jolly Roger was a skeleton with a spear stabbing a heart, while toasting the devil. Teach operated around Charleston, South Carolina and along the coast of North Carolina.

Henry Morgan (1635- August 25, 1688)

Admiral Sir Henry Morgan was a privateer who was born the oldest son of Cameron Morgan. Henry Morgan was a privateer, not a pirate. He considered himself a patriot in the service of the authorities of England. There was no Jolly Roger for Morgan, his flag was the flag of England. It was common practice for governments in those days to privateer (capture ships in a way similar to pirating) as an act of war. Morgan went after only Spanish ships. Though Morgan sailed many ships for England, his own ship was called The Satisfaction. After his buccaneer exploits, Morgan retired and became a wealthy planter in Jamaica, where he served as a deputy governor.

  •  Henry Morgan: Beautiful site with a complete biography and many artistic illustrations. 
  • Henry Morgan's Portrait and Bio: An excellent portrait of Henry Morgan as a young man, and a long and detailed biography.
  • Henry Morgan Concise Biography: Short but accurate and easy to understand biography of Henry Morgan.
  • Henry Morgan Report: This is a great report on Henry Morgan, which explains his various battles and details of his life.
  • Henry Morgan Flag: See a theoretical Henry Morgan’s coat of arms flag, as well as the British Flag style he would have actually sailed under. (See Privateer flag -1694

Henry Every aka John Avery (1653/59- after 1696)

Henry Every aka John Avery, John Avary, Benjamin Bridgeman, and Long Ben was a notorious pirate, known by many names. He was born in Devon England, but little is know of his early life. Every’s decent to piracy was typical, beginning with the slave trade, becoming a privateer, and eventually a pirate. Every was a tremendously successful pirate, with a knack for knowing which ships carried treasure. Every called his ship The Fancy, and his flags were a profile skull over crossbones, His early flag had a red background, but the later one was black. Avery disappeared in 1696, leaving his crew in charge of the Fancy. Though almost every member of his crew were caught and hanged, Avery was never found. Henry Every was one of the few pirates to just walk away, and quit while he was ahead. 

Bartholomew Roberts aka Black Bart (May 17, 1692- February 10, 1722

Bartholomew Roberts was born John Roberts, in Dasnewydd-Bach in Pembrokeshire Wales. He went to sea at the age of 13, working as a mate on slave ships. When his ship was attacked by the pirate Howell Davis, also of Pemborkeshire Wales, Davis forced him to join him. Roberts was at first a reluctant pirate but soon became the best friend and confidant of Davis. When Davis was killed, Roberts was elected captain, and renamed himself Bartholomew. His first act as captain was to avenge Davis mightily. Black Bart was the captain of many ships including The Royal Rover, The Fortune, the Good Fortune, and the Royal Fortune. His first flag pictures Black Bart and death holding an hourglass in their joined hands. Later due to his extreme hatred of the people of Martinique and Barbados, he created a flag which pictured Black Bart holding a dagger and a flaming sword, standing with each foot on a skull. Beneath one skull he wrote AMH which stood for A Martinique Head, and under the other skull was ABH for A Barbados Head. During his career Bart took 400 ships, acquired 51 million pounds in treasure, and seriously interfered with Spanish importing and exporting. Roberts was killed in a great sea battle off the coast of Africa when he was 40 years old.


 

 

 

 

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