Two Shackles Bill created the topic: Was The Pirate King Really a British Spy?
TALL TALES & TRUE
WAS THE PIRATE KING REALLY A BRITISH SPY?
By Two Shackles Bill
Ahoy me’hearties! Aye ave nay doubt that thar woodn’t be many of yer “Surf-boaties” oot thar that aven’t seen a “Pirates Of The Caribbean” movie in the last few lustrums. So terday aye be going ter tell yer the real pirate’s tale that thar many ol’sea dogs & bilge rats ave kept ter emselves fer eons, not want’in any landlubbers ter know. T’was dur’in the pirate reign of terror in the Caribbean, that the infamous Pirate Brethren(an early days SPECTRE)was infiltrated by a British MI-6 Spy. Yes ! An olden days James Bond.
Ter begin this thar sea epic tale it’s off ter the Spanish Maine in the Caribbean in the 1700’s. Aye’ll begin by tell’in yer aboot a swash buckling Sea Captain known ter all as the “Pirate King”. His name was Captain Benjamin Hornigold & his First Mate & best friend was the infamous Edward Teach, who later became known as “Blackbeard” the most feared pirate of all time. The pair were best friends, raiders of the sea together & some say inseparable sea companions until one day the arguments started, that thar period in time was ter be the begin’in of a huge falling out.
Some of the crew say t’was a clash of two big “ego’s” & was always bound to happen, much like av’in 2 good surf boat sweeps in the one boatshed. However, the arguments reached a peak in 1717 after their ship the “Druid Witch” captured a French Barque named the “Concorde” in the Bahamas just off the New Providence port of Nassau. Beside the cargo carried by the “Concorde” thar be a strawberry blonde buxom French “La Femme” on board bound fer Charleston Virginia ter be married & t’was known by the crew but only whispered that the pair of former best friend pirates both had eyes fer her.
Finally the last straw in the fall oot came after a drunken booze filled night of debauchery ashore in Nassau, many say over the French La Femme, but others closer ter the two Pirate Lords say the split t’was because Captain Benjamin refused to attack any ship flying the “Union Jack”. This British Ship non aggression order by Captain Ben Hornigold made Edward Teach & many of Captain Ben’s fellow pirate brethren think that Captain Ben was in fact a British Spy & working as a Privateer (Licensed Pirate) for the British Government.
But before we get our teeth inta that thar dispute, let’s go back & start right at the beginning & firstly take a wee look up Captain Benjamin’s kilt ter see wot type of man he really was, or in fact wether there was ever a real Captain Benjamin Hornigold.
Firstly there is no official record of a Benjamin Hornigold ever being born in England, however the name Hornigold appears in church records a small village on the east coast of England near Norfolk . The first official British Navy record of Benjamin Hornigold appears in British Naval records just after the Utrecht Treaty was signed ending the Spanish War of Succession which was called Queen Anne’s War in the America’s & Caribbean in 1713.
During this war Britain tried to seize as much French & Spanish land, providences & colonies as possible because Britain thought France & Spain were going to unite under one King. If this “unification” did indeed happen it would have had France & Spain controlling all the strategic ports & waterway accesses in the Caribbean & America’s.
The name Ben Hornigold first appears in British Naval records as an English Lieutenant Naval Officer who is said to have gone rogue, turned pirate & stolen a British Frigate HMS Nottingham at the end of Queen Anne’s War in the Caribbean & America’s. Lieutenant Hornigold allegedly gave himself the title Captain, then put ashore any crewman not want’in ter stay aboard & have a life as a pirate. Hornigold only enlisted pirate crew that had no family ties or no employment opportunities back home in England. Hornigold before begin’in his high seas piracy days, renamed his British captured ship the “Druid Witch“. The renamed British Frigate now had a scantily clad white robed young women with long golden hair that was fly’in in the breeze as it’s figurehead.
With the end of Queen Anne’s War, thus began what many historians & etymologists considered to be the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean, that period witnessed the rise of the swash-buckling Buccaneer. Because of Captain Ben Hornigold’s experience in the British Navy & knowledge of sea fighting tactics Hornigold became a mentor & soon became known as the “Pirate King” to many other pirates, several of whom went on to become legends. Samuel Bellamy, James Kidd & “Blackbeard” were just a few of Captain Benjamin Hornigold’s close mates. However Captain Ben was not as cruel & severe to his captured ship’s crews as were his pirate cohorts because he’d only take what he wanted & didn’t kill if it was not necessary.
Legend has it that on one raid against a Spanish Galleon the only thing that Captain Ben allowed his crew to take was the Spanish crew’s hats, this was because he’d had Teach & the ship’s Boson rouse the crew from the dockside taverns early one morning the previous day so they could catch the outgoing tide, for many of the crew the early awakening caused them to leave their hats behind in the taverns.
In 1716 “Pirate King” Captain Benjamin Hornigold’s fellow pirate fleet Captains were Charles Vane, Samuel Bellamy, Paul Williams & Frenchman Olivier La Buse together they teamed up to raid Spanish, French, Dutch & Portuguese ships, but Captain Benjamin also raided fellow pirate & keen rival Henry Jennings ships. By September 1717 Captain Ben’s actions caused there to be a “Parlay Conference” called & held in the pirate port of Nassau.
T’was during the course of the parlay council meet’in that thar Captain Benjamin Hornigold was accused by his own brethren of being a British Spy & Privateer. The resultant vote by the conference & by former allies was an over whelming “AYE” that Captain Benjamin Hornigold was indeed a British Spy & Privateer. The Pirate Council deemed Captain Hornigold not be killed but his ship seized & he be sent packing in a small dinghy & was to be forever banished & exiled from the New Providence pirate haven of Nassau.
Two best friends that became deadly rivals. Left is Capt Ben Hornigold & right is Blackbeard
For Edward “Blackbeard” Teach this was the beginning of his infamous career. The banishment of Hornigold from the Pirate Sanctum created a Captaincy vacancy which was soon filled by a unanimous vote fer Edward Teach. Now a fully fledged Pirate Captain, Teach equipped himself with the captured “Concorde” which by now was a refitted 40 gun ship. Captain Teach renamed his new ship “Queen Anne’s Revenge”, the QAR’s standard (flag) became the most feared throughout the Americas & Caribbean; it was a black flag with a white dancing skeleton that held a spear stabbing at a big red heart whilst toasting the devil with a tankard of rum.
After a few weeks of being cast into the sea in a small dinghy, Captain Ben had navigated the small dinghy to Jamaica in the British West Indies. News of Captain Ben’s arrival in Kingston Town in a dinghy soon spread from the dockside boozers & dens of iniquity to Government House. The word on the streets had travelled fast that the former “Pirate King” had been exiled & given the sack & ol’heave hoe from Nassau for being a British Spy & not pirating British Ships.
The British Governor of Jamaica Woodes Rhodes summoned Captain Ben to Government House where upon he was offered a King George II Royal Pardon by Rhodes. Captain Ben was then given a British Government Commission “ To hunt down, capture or kill any pirates operating in the Caribbean & surrounding seas”. To help accomplish this he was given a British 38 gun plus 4 cannonades Frigate HMS Ranger, which Hornigold had refitted with extra spinnaker sails created through booms so she would be fast with the wind & a raised forecastle built in the bow for his sniper Royal Marines
Now an official British Officer in His Majesty’s Navy, Captain Benjamin Hornigold took to his commission like a duck does to water. Over the next couple of months Captain Ben pursued his ex-pirate brethren all over the seas off the east coast of America, Bahamas, Gulf Of Mexico & the Caribbean.
As a rat catcher Captain Ben was excellent mainly because he had once been part of the rat pack & knew of their lairs, habits & hide-outs. Charles Vane & “Blackbeard” were his two highest priorities & whilst he never caught either he did manage to catch 13 of his old pirate captain mates & thar ships. Some other pirate Captains of course resisted capture & thar ships were blown out of the water , those not killed wer placed in irons. A few Pirate Captains that thar did surrender had their ships confiscated & were then along with thar crews taken to Kingston Town & put on Public Trial. Those found guilty of Piracy, rape & pillag’in were then publically hanged.
The last anyone ever heard of Captain Benjamin Hornigold was in late 1719. His ship HMS Ranger was seen by a merchant ship mak’in way ter Jamaica, Hornigold’s ship HMS Ranger was at that moment in time involved in a naval gun battle & tacking duel with his ol’mate & now fiercest adversary Blackbeard aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Both ships wer locked in this battle of death & tack’in duel that saw both ships heading on a course towards the Pirate Haven of Nassau, which of course was the Pirate Capital of the Caribbean. The lookouts on the merchant ship watched the pair of duel’in frigates disappear over the horizon.
A few days later the HMS Ranger was reportedly sighted on the eastern horizon heading due south away from Charleston by a “slaver ship” which was making fer port safety at Charleston in South Carolina with strong fresh’in storm winds on it’s stern. The HMS Ranger was head’in towards the ris’in seas & strong southerly storm winds . The on cumm’in storm, strong winds & big seas soon engulfed the entire Carribean, most ships in the storm vicinity were already mak’in fer port or safe anchorage.
After the storm & big seas abated a rumour, which first started as Chinese Whispers in dock side taverns but soon spread to the general public throo Merchant Shipping & British Navy circles, was that the ship HMS Ranger had hit a reef north of Nassau during the storm & that Captain Ben & all his crew had perished to Davey Jones’s Locker drown to the man.
Many other seafarer’s that were not Merchant Navy or British Navy, that were close pirate friends of Hornigold, said that the rumour of the sink’in of HMS Ranger was just a ruse & ploy by the British Government because Hornigold had grown tired of chasing & seeing his ol’pirate mates killed or being executed & that Hornigold wanted out because he thought he had done his bit for King & County & wanted to return to his family & life in England. So thar yer go me’hearties, wot der you think? But first yer must ask yerself these questions:-
a) Dee yer think Captain Benjamin Hornigold was indeed an early days MI-6 spy working in the Americas & Caribbean after the end of the Queen Anne’s War, his mission, “keep a look oot fer England interests?”
b) Dee yer think that thar the name Benjamin Hornigold wer jest invented by the British Government?
c) Dee yer believe Hornigold wer just pretending to be a pirate, but was infact a British Privateer?
d) Why dee Hornigold only plunder the French, Portuguese & Spanish as well as fellow Pirate Ships?
e) Wer Hornigold act’in as a pirate so his actions cood be disavowed by the British Government?.
f) Dee yer think the the pirates wer hunted doon because they were pirates or because they had figured oot Hornigold wer in fact a British Spy in the Caribbean?
g) Dee yer think that thar if the story aboot Hornigold being a British Spy got bach ter the French & Spanish Governments , the War in the Caribbean & America’s may have re-ignited?
Nearly 12 months to the day after the supposed sinking of the HMS Ranger, a strange event occurred. A British Naval Frigate entered the port of Kingston Town in Jamaica. This British Frigate arriving in port caused many an ol’sea dog & bilge rat ter raise an eyebrow because they couldn’t help but notice the uncanny resemblance to Captain Benjamin’s ship HMS Ranger, it too had a raised forecastle in the bow & extra spinnaker boom sailing masts fitted, however the name on the ship was HMS Rebourne.
So thar yer go me’heartie’s, the tale of the famous Pirate King, next time aye’ll tell yer aboot “Blackbeard’s Reign of Terror”, so ter then dinny ferget ter be keep’in a weather eye ter the horizon fer me sails & watch oot fer the starter's gun & yer bouy turns.
These 2 artist impressions show on the left, Benjamin Hornigold gett’in his “Commission & Orders” from the Governor of Jamaica Sir Woodes Rhodes to hunt doon Pirates. Right:- Capt Hornigold aboard the Druid Witch before being thrown oot & exiled from the Pirate Brethren & set adrift in a surf boat type dinghy.