22 November 1718: The navy bring down Blackbeard
The notorious pirate is finally tracked down by the Royal Navy and meets a grisly end
Of all the men and women associated with the so-called ‘golden age of piracy’, none ever rivalled the legendary status of Blackbeard. Edward Teach was born around 1680. By the autumn of 1717, he is recorded as commanding a pirate sloop with six guns and some 70 men, operating around the Bahamas.
According to writers of the day, Teach was a tall, lean man, with “such a figure that imagination cannot form an idea of a fury from hell to look more frightful”, and black boots, a velvet coat and a wide hat.
But what really struck contemporaries was his black beard, “that large quantity of hair, which, like a frightful meteor, covered his whole face, and frightened America more than any comet that has appeared there a long time”. He is supposed to have worn ribbons in his hair and stuck lighted matches under his hat; if so, he must have appeared fearsomely bizarre.
Teach’s piratical career, however, did not last long. On 21 November 1718, a British naval lieutenant, Robert Maynard, tracked him down to Ocracoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina. Early the next morning, Maynard’s two sloops moved in for the kill. But Blackbeard was not going down without a fight. In his first devastating exchange of fire, he effectively disabled one of Maynard’s ships; then Teach’s ship, the Adventure, closed in for boarding.
Convinced that most of Maynard’s men had been killed, Blackbeard led his men abroad, cutlasses and flintlocks in hand. But then Maynard’s men burst out of the hold, where they had been hiding, and took the pirates by surprise. The fighting was brief but savage. Pushed back, Teach was slashed across the neck by one of Maynard’s men; then the others moved in to finish the job.
By the time it was over, Blackbeard was dead, with five bullet wounds and about 20 stab wounds. His legend, however, endures to this day.
Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries…
22 November 1761
Birth in London of Dorothy Jordan, actress. She became the mistress of the Duke of Clarence, the future William IV, and lived with him for some 20 years, bearing him ten children, one of whom is the ancestor of David Cameron.
22 November 1859
The first edition of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species was offered to the trade by publisher John Murray. The initial print run of 1,250 copies was over subscribed and a second edition was published six weeks later.
22 November 1900
British composer Sir Arthur Sullivan died in London, aged 58. Best known for the operas he produced in collaboration with William Gilbert, Sullivan also designed and patented a device to prevent injuries caused by runaway carriage horses.
22 November 1907
Cunard’s RMS Mauretania completes its maiden voyage to New York.
22 November 1928
The premiere of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero takes place at the Paris Opera with choreography by Russian dancer Bronislava Nijinska and stage designs by Alexandre Benois.