The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary British Pirates of all time. This list of famous British Pirates is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of British Pirates.
With an HPI of 80.72, Blackbeard is the most famous British Pirate. His biography has been translated into 54 different languages on wikipedia.
Edward Teach (alternatively spelled Edward Thatch, c. 1680 – 22 November 1718), better known as Blackbeard, was an English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the eastern coast of Britain's North American colonies. Little is known about his early life, but he may have been a sailor on privateer ships during Queen Anne's War before he settled on the Bahamian island of New Providence, a base for Captain Benjamin Hornigold, whose crew Teach joined around 1716. Hornigold placed him in command of a sloop that he had captured, and the two engaged in numerous acts of piracy. Their numbers were boosted by the addition to their fleet of two more ships, one of which was commanded by Stede Bonnet; but Hornigold retired from piracy toward the end of 1717, taking two vessels with him. Teach captured a French slave ship known as La Concorde, renamed her Queen Anne's Revenge, equipped her with 40 guns, and crewed her with over 300 men. He became a renowned pirate, his nickname derived from his thick black beard and fearsome appearance; he was reported to have tied lit fuses (slow matches) under his hat to frighten his enemies. He formed an alliance of pirates and blockaded the port of Charles Town, South Carolina, ransoming the port's inhabitants. He then ran Queen Anne's Revenge aground on a sandbar near Beaufort, North Carolina. He parted company with Bonnet and settled in Bath, North Carolina, also known as Bath Town, where he accepted a royal pardon. But he was soon back at sea, where he attracted the attention of Alexander Spotswood, the Governor of Virginia. Spotswood arranged for a party of soldiers and sailors to capture him; on 22 November 1718 following a ferocious battle Teach and several of his crew were killed by a small force of sailors led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard. Teach was a shrewd and calculating leader who spurned the use of violence, relying instead on his fearsome image to elicit the response that he desired from those whom he robbed. He was romanticized after his death and became the inspiration for an archetypal pirate in works of fiction across many genres.
With an HPI of 77.70, Henry Morgan is the 2nd most famous British Pirate. His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.
Sir Henry Morgan (Welsh: Harri Morgan; c. 1635 – 25 August 1688) was a Welsh privateer, plantation owner, and, later, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. From his base in Port Royal, Jamaica, he raided settlements and shipping on the Spanish Main, becoming wealthy as he did so. With the prize money from the raids he purchased three large sugar plantations on the island. Much of Morgan's early life is unknown. He was born in Monmouthshire, but it is not known how he made his way to the West Indies, or how he began his career as a privateer. He was probably a member of a group of raiders led by Sir Christopher Myngs in the early 1660s during the Anglo-Spanish War. Morgan became a close friend of Sir Thomas Modyford, the Governor of Jamaica. When diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of England and Spain worsened in 1667, Modyford gave Morgan a letter of marque, a licence to attack and seize Spanish vessels. Morgan subsequently conducted successful and highly lucrative raids on Puerto Principe (now Camagüey in modern Cuba) and Porto Bello (now Portobelo in modern Panama). In 1668 he sailed for Maracaibo and Gibraltar, both on Lake Maracaibo in modern-day Venezuela. He raided both cities and stripped them of their wealth before destroying a large Spanish squadron as he escaped. In 1671 Morgan attacked Panama City, landing on the Caribbean coast and traversing the isthmus before he attacked the city, which was on the Pacific coast. The battle was a rout, although the privateers profited less than in other raids. To appease the Spanish, with whom the English had signed a peace treaty, Morgan was arrested and summoned to London in 1672, but was treated as a hero by the general populace and the leading figures of government and royalty including Charles II. Morgan was appointed a Knight Bachelor in November 1674 and returned to the Colony of Jamaica shortly afterward to serve as the territory's Lieutenant Governor. He served on the Assembly of Jamaica until 1683 and on three occasions he acted as Governor of Jamaica in the absence of the post-holder. A memoir published by Alexandre Exquemelin, a former shipmate of Morgan's, accused him of widespread torture and other offences; Morgan won a libel suit against the book's English publishers, but Exquemelin's black portrayal has affected history's view of Morgan. He died in Jamaica on 25 August 1688. His life was romanticised after his death and he became the inspiration for pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres.
With an HPI of 76.97, Alexander Selkirk is the 3rd most famous British Pirate. His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.
Alexander Selkirk (1676 – 13 December 1721) was a Scottish privateer and Royal Navy officer who spent four years and four months as a castaway (1704–1709) after being marooned by his captain, initially at his request, on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean. He survived that ordeal, but succumbed to tropical illness years later while serving aboard HMS Weymouth off West Africa. Selkirk was an unruly youth, and joined buccaneering voyages to the South Pacific during the War of the Spanish Succession. One such expedition was on Cinque Ports, captained by Thomas Stradling under the overall command of William Dampier. Stradling's ship stopped to resupply at the uninhabited Juan Fernández Islands, west of South America, and Selkirk judged correctly that the craft was unseaworthy and asked to be left there. By the time he was eventually rescued by English privateer Woodes Rogers, who was accompanied by Dampier, Selkirk had become adept at hunting and making use of the resources that he found on the island. His story of survival was widely publicised after his return to England, becoming a source of inspiration for writer Daniel Defoe's fictional character Robinson Crusoe.
With an HPI of 75.79, Calico Jack is the 4th most famous British Pirate. His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.
John Rackham (December 26, 1682 – November 18, 1720), commonly known as Calico Jack, was an English pirate captain operating in the Bahamas and in Cuba during the early 18th century. His nickname was derived from the calico clothing that he wore, while Jack is a nickname for "John". Rackham was active towards the end (1718–1720) of the "Golden Age of Piracy" which lasted from 1650 to 1725. He is most remembered for having two female crew members: Mary Read and his lover, Anne Bonny. Rackham deposed Charles Vane from his position as captain of the sloop Ranger, then cruised the Leeward Islands, Jamaica Channel and Windward Passage. He accepted the King's Pardon in 1719 and moved to New Providence, where he met Anne Bonny, who was married to James Bonny at the time. He returned to piracy in 1720 by stealing a British sloop and Anne joined him. Their new crew included Mary Read, who was disguised as a man at the time. After a short run, Rackham was captured by Jonathan Barnet, an English privateer, in 1720, put on trial by Sir Nicholas Lawes, Governor of Jamaica, and hanged in November of that year in Port Royal, Jamaica.
With an HPI of 75.16, Mary Read is the 5th most famous British Pirate. Her biography has been translated into 37 different languages.
Mary Read (1685 – 28 April 1721), also known as Mark Read, was an English pirate. She and Anne Bonny are two famous female pirates from 18th century, and among the few women known to have been convicted of piracy at the height of the "Golden Age of Piracy". Read was born in England in 1685. She began dressing as a boy at a young age, at first at her mother's urging in order to receive inheritance money and then as a teenager in order to join the British military. She then married and upon her husband's death moved to the West Indies around 1715. In 1720 she met Jack Rackham and joined his crew, dressing as a man alongside Anne Bonny. Her time as a pirate was successful but short lived, as she, Bonny and Rackham were arrested in November 1720. Although Rackham was swiftly executed, both Read and Bonny claimed to be pregnant and received delayed sentences. Read died of a fever in April 1721, likely due to complications from the pregnancy.
With an HPI of 74.31, Bartholomew Roberts is the 6th most famous British Pirate. His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.
Bartholomew Roberts (17 May 1682 – 10 February 1722), born John Roberts, was a Welsh pirate and the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy (measured by vessels captured), taking over 400 prizes in his career. Roberts raided ships off the Americas and the West African coast between 1719 and 1722; he is also noted for creating his own Pirate Code, and adopting an early variant of the Skull and Crossbones flag. Roberts' infamy and success saw him become known as The Great Pyrate and eventually as Black Bart (Welsh: Barti Ddu), and made him a popular subject for writers of both fiction and non-fiction. To this day, Roberts continues to feature in novels, films and video games (such as Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag) as well as inspire fictional characters (such as the Dread Pirate Roberts).
With an HPI of 73.89, William Kidd is the 7th most famous British Pirate. His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.
William Kidd, also known as Captain William Kidd or simply Captain Kidd (c. 1654 – 23 May 1701), was a Scottish sea captain who was commissioned as a privateer and had experience as a pirate. He was tried and executed in London in 1701 for murder and piracy. Kidd had captured a French ship, commanded by an English captain, as a prize. He had been commissioned by the Crown as a privateer for this expedition, but the political climate of England turned against him in this case. Some modern historians, for example Sir Cornelius Neale Dalton, deemed his piratical reputation unjust and said that he was acting as a privateer. Documents found in the early 20th century in London court papers supported Kidd's account of his actions.
With an HPI of 73.46, Henry Every is the 8th most famous British Pirate. His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.
Henry Every, also known as Henry Avery (20 August 1659 – after 1696), sometimes erroneously given as Jack Avery or John Avery, was an English pirate who operated in the Atlantic and Indian oceans in the mid-1690s. He probably used several aliases throughout his career, including Benjamin Bridgeman, and was known as Long Ben to his crewmen and associates.Dubbed "The Arch Pirate" and "The King of Pirates" by contemporaries, Every was infamous for being one of very few major pirate captains to escape with his loot without being arrested or killed in battle, and for being the perpetrator of what has been called the most profitable act of piracy in history. Although Every's career as a pirate lasted only two years, his exploits captured the public's imagination, inspired others to take up piracy, and spawned works of literature. Every began his pirate career while he was first mate aboard the warship Charles II. As the ship lay anchored in the northern Spanish harbour of Corunna, the crew grew discontented as Spain failed to deliver a letter of marque and Charles II's owners failed to pay their wages, and they mutinied. Charles II was renamed the Fancy and Every elected as the new captain. Every's most famous raid, on the 7th September 1695, was on a 25-ship convoy of Grand Mughal vessels making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, including the treasure-laden Ghanjah dhow Ganj-i-sawai and its escort, Fateh Muhammed. Joining forces with several pirate vessels, Every found himself in command of a small pirate squadron, and they were able to capture up to £600,000 in precious metals and jewels, equivalent to around £91.9 million in 2021. This caused considerable damage to England's fragile relations with the Mughals, and a combined bounty of £1,000—an immense sum at the time—was offered by the Privy Council and the East India Company for his capture, leading to the first worldwide manhunt in recorded history.Although a number of his crew were subsequently arrested, Every himself eluded capture, vanishing from all records in 1696; his whereabouts and activities after this period are unknown. Unconfirmed accounts state he may have changed his name and retired, quietly living out the rest of his life in either Britain or on an unidentified tropical island, while alternative accounts consider Every may have squandered his riches. He is considered to have died sometime between 1699 and 1714; his treasure has never been recovered.
With an HPI of 71.20, Benjamin Hornigold is the 9th most famous British Pirate. His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.
Captain Benjamin Hornigold (1680–1719) was an English pirate who operated during the tail end of the Golden Age of Piracy. Born in England in the late-17th century, Hornigold began his pirate career in 1713, attacking merchant ships in the Bahamas. He helped to establish the "Republic of Pirates" in Nassau and by 1717 was the captain of one of the most heavily armed ships in the region, called the Ranger. It was at this time he appointed Edward Teach, best known in history books as "Blackbeard", as his second-in-command. Mindful not to attack British-led ships during his career, his crew eventually grew tired of the tactic and Hornigold was voted out as captain. In December 1718, Hornigold accepted a King's Pardon for his crimes and became a pirate hunter, pursuing his former allies on behalf of the Governor of the Bahamas, Woodes Rogers. He was killed when his ship was wrecked on a reef near New Spain during the hurricane season of 1719.
With an HPI of 70.73, Charles Vane is the 10th most famous British Pirate. His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.
Charles Vane (c. 1680 – 29 March 1721) was an English pirate who operated in the Bahamas during the end of the Golden Age of Piracy. Vane was likely born in the Kingdom of England around 1680. One of his first pirate ventures was under the leadership of Henry Jennings, during Jennings' attack on the salvage camp for the wrecked Spanish 1715 Treasure Fleet off the coast of Florida. By 1717, Vane was commanding his own vessels and was one of the leaders of the Republic of Pirates in Nassau. In 1718 Vane was captured but agreed to stop his criminal actions and declared his intention to accept a King's Pardon; however just months later he and his men, including Edward England and Jack Rackham, returned to piracy. Unlike some other notable pirate captains of the age like Benjamin Hornigold and Samuel Bellamy, Vane was known for his cruelty, often beating, torturing and killing sailors from ships he captured. In February 1719, Vane was caught in a storm in the Bay Islands and was marooned on an uncharted island. Upon being discovered by a passing British ship, he was arrested and brought to Port Royal where he was eventually tried and hanged in March 1721.
Pantheon has 12 people classified as pirates born between 1635 and 1695. Of these 12, none of them are still alive today. The most famous deceased pirates include Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, and Alexander Selkirk.
1680 - 1718
1635 - 1688
1676 - 1721
1682 - 1720
1695 - 1721
1682 - 1722
1645 - 1701
1659 - 1699
1680 - 1719
1680 - 1721
1690 - 1724
1689 - 1717