Every Real Pirate In Black Sails & What Happened To Them

Summary

  • Black Sails is a detailed example of historical fiction, featuring real historical pirates in its main cast.
  • The fates of historical pirates such as Anne Bonny, “Calico Jack” Rackham, and Charles Vane are depicted with similarities to history.
  • Black Sails hints at the further adventures of real historical pirate Mary Read with Bonny and Rackham.


The TV show Black Sails is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island, following the exploits of Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and his crew of pirates. While the show is led by fictional characters such as Flint, the infamous Long John Silver (Luke Arnold), and the mysterious Billy Bones (Tom Hopper), characters who were real historical pirates are also among the main cast. Most of the historical pirates who appear in Black Sails operated in the Caribbean in the early 18th century, which is the show’s setting.

Most of the Black Sails characters did know each other and worked together in reality. They were hunted by historical figures including Woodes Rogers (Luke Roberts), who appears as an antagonist on the show. While they do not appear, the historical pirates Henry Avery and Samuel Bellamy are referenced by other characters. This demonstrates how Black Sails is a detailed example of historical fiction.


9 Anne Bonny (Clara Paget)

The real Anne Bonny’s fate is a mystery.

The real Anne Bonny was born in Ireland and was the illegitimate daughter of a lawyer. She married James Bonny first but left him for “Calico Jack” Rackham. Bonny joined Rackham’s crew, which included another woman, Mary Read. Black Sails depicts Bonny and Rackham as fiercely dedicated to each other, despite their tumultuous relationship. Bonny is devastated when Rackham chooses to temporarily exclude her from his partnership with Max (Jessica Parker Kennedy) in Black Sails season 2.

The real Anne Bonny disappeared from history in 1720. When Rackham’s crew was captured, Bonny and Read delayed their executions by saying they were pregnant. There is no record of Bonny’s death or release. Black Sails ends with Bonny and Rackham returning to piracy, while Max becomes the unofficial leader of Nassau. A new member of Bonny and Rackham’s crew who is implied to be Mary Read makes a brief appearance in the series finale.

8 John “Calico Jack” Rackham (Toby Schmitz)

Calico Jack was Charles Vane’s quartermaster.

Calico Jack in Black Sails

At the beginning of Black Sails, Rackham is the quartermaster of Charles Vane’s (Zach McGowan) crew. The real Rackham was likewise Vane’s quartermaster. Rackham eventually peacefully deposed Vane as captain, allowing him and his supporters to take another ship. In Black Sails, Bonny and Rackham also leave Vane’s crew to pursue other profitable opportunities.

The historical Rackham sailed with Anne Bonny and Mary Read for some time after parting ways with Vane. Rackham was executed in Port Royal in 1720. When his crew was attacked, most of the men were drunk and Bonny and Read were the only ones who put up a fight. Bonny’s famous last words to Rackham were, “If you had fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog” (via Smithsonian Magazine).

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7 Charles Vane (Zach McGowan)

Charles Vane’s Black Sails death is similar to history.

Charles Vane in Black Sails

In Black Sails, Charles Vane is depicted as a rival captain who ideologically comes into conflict with the show’s protagonist Captain Flint. He and Flint eventually come to respect one another. Vane is captured, tried, and killed in Black Sails season 3. He delivers a speech from the gallows intended to inspire a rebellion against the British. Billy Bones and some other pirates attempt to rescue Vane, while Rackham and Bonny plan to avenge his death. The real Vane was tried and hanged in Port Royal in 1721.

6 Mr. Scott (Hakeem Kae-Kazim)

Mr. Scott is not a historical pirate but was inspired by history.

Mr Scott in Black Sails

In Black Sails, Mr. Scott is a former slave who is Eleanor Guthrie’s (Hannah New) advisor at the beginning of the series, but becomes Benjamin Hornigold’s (Patrick Lyster) quartermaster. While Scott is an original character, he is representative of the role escaped slaves played during the Golden Age of Piracy. According to britannica.com, “It is estimated that up to one-third of the 10,000 pirates during the golden age of piracy were former slaves.”

In season 3, it is revealed that Scott has a wife known only on the show as the “Maroon Queen” (Moshidi Motshegwa) and a daughter named Madi (Zethu Dlomo). His wife is the leader of a community of former slaves on Maroon Island. She may be inspired by the historical figure known as “Queen Nanny,” the leader of a community in the mountains of Jamaica. Scott is shot by English soldiers while helping others escape to Maroon Island and later dies of infection in season 3.

5 Edward “Blackbeard” Teach (Ray Stevenson)

Blackbeard’s Black Sails death also alludes to history.

In season 3, Blackbeard returns to Nassau after the Guthries are deposed, where he meets his former protégé Vane. As he does in Black Sails, the real Blackbeard ran across other famous pirates, including Vane and Rackham. When Blackbeard was killed in battle, his head was hung from the bowsprit of the enemy ship, and his body was tossed overboard. According to legend, his corpse swam around the ship several times before sinking out of sight. Black Sails gives Blackbeard a similar death to history: He is keelhauled and beheaded by Rogers in season 4.

4 Israel Hands (David Wilmot)

Black Sails develops Israel Hands’ story after a fallout with Blackbeard.

Israel Hands Black Sails

Israel Hands was the long-time first mate of Blackbeard, which remains true on the show. However, Black Sails’ Hands and Blackbeard fell out when Blackbeard made Vane his apparent successor. Hands first appears in season 4 and survives by signing a treaty in exchange for a pardon along with some of the other pirates. Hands also appears as Long John Silver’s first mate in Treasure Island. In reality, Hands was not present when Blackbeard was killed, because he was recovering from Blackbeard accidentally shooting him in the leg. Hands was subsequently captured and received a pardon in exchange for information on Blackbeard’s business partners. His fate after this is unknown.

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3 Benjamin Hornigold (Patrick Lyster)

Black Sails does not show Captain Hornigold working with Blackbeard.

Benjamin Hornigold in Black Sails

Black Sails accurately depicts Benjamin Hornigold as a pirate captain collaborating with the other famous pirates of the 18th century. However, the fictional Hornigold betrays the others in exchange for a pardon and works with Rogers. He is subsequently killed by Flint. In real life, Blackbeard was Hornigold’s second-in-command before becoming the captain of his own ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The real Hornigold did accept a pardon and became a pirate hunter, working closely with the real Rogers. Hornigold died in a shipwreck in 1719.

2 Ned Low (Tadhg Murphy)

Ned Low’s Black Sails death is entirely fictional.

The real Edward “Ned” Low was a pirate captain known for his cruelty and torturing his captives. There are conflicting reports of Low’s ultimate fate: He may have been killed or set adrift by his crew after a mutiny. Low has a small but vital role in Black Sails season 2 when he captures Abigail Ashe (Meganne Young) while she is traveling to Charles Town. Abigail becomes an important hostage as Flint attempts to negotiate with her father Peter Ashe (Nick Boraine). Vane kills Low to secure Abigail. Vane stakes Low’s head on Nassau’s beach along with a sign that says “I angered Charles Vane.”

1 Mary/Mark Read (Cara Roberts)

Mary Read’s appearance hints at more adventures for Bonny and Rackham.

Mark Read in Black Sails

Mary Read appears in the finale episode of Black Sails, presumably becoming a trusted partner of Bonny and Rackham in the future. Read introduces herself as “Mark Read” to Bonny and Rackham. The real Read possibly had a romantic relationship with Bonny. She and Bonny both claimed to be pregnant when the crew was captured, but Read died in prison, most likely of a fever. If Black Sails season 5 had happened, it could have depicted the exploits of Read, Bonny, and Rackham. Overall, Black Sails is a unique piece of historical fiction that alludes to history as well as the plot of Treasure Island.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine, britannica.com

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