“In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst, is only a sour look or two at choking. No, a merry life and a short one, shall be my motto.” The Words of Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts
Bartholomew Roberts was born in Wales and is considered the most successful pirate that lived during the Golden Age of Piracy which spanned from 1650 to 1722. He invoked terror and invincibility to all who crossed his path. Even his death shook the world. The celebration of “The Blackest Day” marks his death, February 10, 1722 and the end of piracy’s Golden Age.
Why did he or anyone for that matter become a pirate? The largest source of information is from court records although a review of personal memoirs and letters also provide valuable information.
During the early 17th century almost three-quarters of a pirate ship crew was made up of seasoned seamen. Early 18th century records indicate an overwhelming majority previously served on merchant ships, warships, and even privateers.
The historian David Cordingly found that Caribbean crews were made up of 35% English, 25% colonial Americans, 20% from the West Indies (Jamaica and Barbados primarily), 10% Scottish and 8% Welsh. The remaining 2% were from Sweden, Holland, France and Spain.
But, back to Bartholomew Roberts. What motivated him to become a pirate?
The Princess, the ship on which he crewed was boarded by Welsh pirate Howell Davis. Captain Davis gave The Princess’ crew few options. Like the other on Roberts’ crew and other ships boarded by pirates, he really didn’t have much choice. He signed the charter and joined the crew rather than be killed or left on a desert island.
Some sailors made a ‘career move’ from privateer to pirate. War ‘encouraged’ people to become privateers, but once peace returned the privateers found themselves unemployed. These people had few ways of making a living. Privateering/Pirating was the life they knew and the financial benefits were still attractive. As a pirate all they pilfered they shared among themselves. Although the consequences were dire, execution, for them the alternative was dying of starvation, becoming a beggar, or a thief on land.
Bartholomew Roberts knew sailing. At 27, he had been at sea for fourteen years. Six weeks after he joined the crew, Captain Davis was ambushed and killed. Bartholomew Roberts had so impressed the pirates that they took a vote and named him the new captain.
Reluctant to be pirate, Roberts embraced his new position. It is believed that Roberts felt if he must be a pirate, it was better “being a commander than a common man.” His first order was to attack the town where Davis had been killed, to avenge his former captain.
Pirates plundered and took gold, silver, and jewels, but that wasn’t all. They also took clothing and kept those pieces that suited them either to wear at sea or as finery to wear ashore. There are records of pirates going to the gallows wearing velvet jackets, taffeta breeches, silk shirts and stockings.
Pirate captains were no different. They often dressed as a successful merchant, giving him the appearance of a gentleman. Black Bart, as Bartholomew Roberts was now called, was the fashion leader of elegance among pirate captains. According to his crew he “dressed in a rich crimson damask waistcoat and breeches, a red feather in his hat, a gold chain round his neck, with a diamond cross hanging from it.’
Unfortunately, Black Bart’s fancy clothes did not make him invincible. He was killed in the first broadside attack as grapeshot fired from Royal Navy ship cannons tore out his throat. Obeying his standing order, his men threw his body overboard.
The greatest pirate of his generation, it’s estimated that over his three-year career, Black Bart took some 400 ships. He is not as famous as some of his contemporaries, Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, or Charles Vane, but he was a much better pirate.
There were many reasons why Black Bart was successful, his personal charisma and leadership, his daring and ruthlessness and his ability to coordinate small fleets to maximum effect. Commerce came to a halt wherever he was. Fear of him and his men made merchants stay in port. He must have secretly been one of the Pirates of Britannia!
Deception and family honor are at stake – so is her heart.
Wesley Reynolds will do anything to avenge his family’s banishment from Dundhragon Castle even throw in with the notorious pirate, MacAlpin. His plan, ruin Lord Ewan’s trading network. He has a more devious plan for his father’s ‘best friend,’ the man who abandoned them at the eleventh hour. He’ll ruin the man’s most precious jewel, his daughter Darla. Wesley’s so close to ruining the trade network and succeeding he can almost taste it, but revenge is not nearly as sweet as Darla’s kisses.
Darla Maxwell, beloved by her parents has no prospects of marriage. Her father and Lord Ewan search to find her the right husband. Darla’s special gifts are frightening to many. She has visions that often come true. The murky image of a man haunts her, she’s sure it’s Lord Ewan’s soon-to-be son-in-law, but the vision morphs when she meets Wesley. The meaning couldn’t be any clearer to her, her destiny lies with Wesley.
When revelations surface indicating Wesley has been deceived and his revenge misplaced. Will he find the truth of what really happened to his family in time to stop the pirates? Will Darla ever forgive him? Will he ever forgive himself?