William Kidd

Pirate

Born: 1654
Died: 1701 (execution by hanging)
Birthplace: Dundee, Scotland
Best known as:

The Scot "pirate" hanged in 1701 in London

William Kidd was a Scottish sailor who was executed in London 1701 for piracy. Little is known about him until about 1689, when he was a crew member aboard an English privateering ship in the Caribbean. (Privateers were government-sanctioned sailors commissioned to attack enemy vessels and plunder them.) Kidd somehow commandeered a French vessel and was appointed Captain by the governor of Nevis, an English colony. After more successes, Captain Kidd ended up in New York in 1690. He married a wealthy widow and stayed there until 1695, when he returned to London. Backed by powerful men in the government and with the king's consent, Kidd was commissioned to battle pirates and plunder enemies in the Indian Ocean. He embarked on the Adventure Galley in 1696, and it was a miserable trip. They found no prizes and the crew threatened mutiny -- at one point, Kidd killed a gunner, William Moore, for his mutinous talk (Kidd hit him in the head with a bucket). Eventually they found a prize in an Armenian ship, the Quedagh Merchant. Kidd took the ship and all its riches, then continued on his mission. Meanwhile, the East India Company complained to the government that Kidd's attack on the Quedagh Merchant was piracy. Kidd found out about his arrest warrant in 1699 and returned to New York. He turned himself in and was hauled back to London to stand trial. The story goes that Kidd felt confident that his powerful backers would support him, but he was found guilty of piracy and the willful murder of William Moore. He was hanged 18 May 1701, and his corpse was put on display over the Thames for nearly two years. Although he went down in history as a famous pirate, these days many scholars think William Kidd got a raw deal and was a victim of political skullduggery. Since his death, the fate of the booty he seized from the Quedagh Merchant has been a mystery, to the delight of treasure hunters.

Extra credit:

Older sources put William Kidd's birth date as 1645, but more recent scholars have settled on 1654… They had to hang Captain Kidd twice -- the rope broke the first time.

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