- Edward Kenway: "Maybe Hornigold was right. Maybe the world does need men of ambition to stop the likes of you from mucking it all up."
- Charles Vane: "Or maybe you just don't have the stones to live with no regrets."
- ―Edward Kenway and Charles Vane, 1719.
Charles Vane (c. 1680 – 1721) was an English pirate captain who sailed the West Indies on his brigantine, the Ranger. He made a name for himself by targeting English, Spanish, and French industry ships from 1716 until 1719, and was notorious for his harsh treatment of merchant seafarers and soldiers alike.
Like his compatriots Benjamin Hornigold, Edward Thatch and Edward Kenway, Vane worked as a privateer under the British crown. As late as 1715 he operated under the command of privateer Henry Jennings, who was most notable for attacking Spanish ships salvaging cargo from the Spanish Treasure Fleet shipwreck site. However, with the Treaty of Utrecht making the life of a privateer unsustainable, Vane sailed for Nassau in 1716.
At some point in late 1715, Vane's Ranger launched a preemptive attack on El Arca del Maestro, a Spanish galleon captained by the French buccaneer Julien du Casse. However, the Ranger was no match for the galleon, and was forced to retreat.
Joining the Pirate Republic
After arriving in Nassau in 1717, where he and Jack Rackham informed Edward Kenway of a large prize in a nearby fort, Vane became a leading member of Nassau's pirate community. In May of the same year, sobered and enraged by the rum shortage in Nassau, Vane recklessly attacked the ships of the area and was only saved through the timely intervention of Alonzo Batilla. The French pirate was sent by Christopher Condent to stop Vane from dooming himself and the Pirate Republic with him by attracting too much attention on Nassau.
In March 1718, Vane was organizing a raid on Harbour Island. He gathered an army and intended to loot the island before the Royal Navy would. He also marooned the island's Deputy Governor, Richard Thompson on a deserted islet, since Thompson refused to tell the pirate where his gold was located. Meanwhile, Alonzo Batilla was looking for Thompson, in the hope to find out more on the whereabouts of La Buse. Vane was then confronted by Alonzo, who demanded he surrendered Thompson. Vane refused and sent his flotilla to attack Alonzo, who in turn sank his fleet. Vane then tried to escape by dropping a trail of mines but to no avail, since Alonzo catched up to him and after a short battle, he was defeated. At last Vane surrendered, telling Alonzo the location of Thompson.
In July 1718, he was present when Woodes Rogers arrived in Nassau to offer its residents the King's pardon, absolving them of their crimes if they chose to give up piracy. Unlike Benjamin Hornigold, Vane was not keen on accepting the pardon, and worked with Kenway to orchestrate an escape from the barricaded Nassau. Together, they planned to build a fireship with gunpowder to clear the blockade.
While Kenway stole the gunpowder from the British, Vane managed to secure the pine pitch. However, they overheard that Commodore Peter Chamberlaine intended to disregard Roger's orders and destroy all pirate ships in Nassau's harbors. In order to ensure the success of their plan, Vane suggested that Kenway deal with Chamberlaine.
After Chamberlaine was assassinated, Vane met up with Edward to load the gunpowder aboard Rackham's ship, the Royal Phoenix. Before they left, Vane violently berated Rackham for smoking a pipe near the gunpowder. The fireship proved to be successful, destroying the ships blockading one of Nassau's harbors, allowing the Jackdaw and the Ranger to escape, with Vane shouting oaths and insults back at the foundering British.
Mutiny and marooning
- "It were your bloody imagination that landed us here, Kenway! I'll be damned if I let that mind make one more decision for me!"
- ―Charles Vane, while threatening Edward Kenway, 1719.[src]
When Edward Thatch announced his retirement from piracy, Vane sailed to North Carolina in a bid to dissuade him, and convince Thatch to help take back Nassau. However, his efforts were in vain and he departed, empty-handed and cursing Thatch.
After Thatch's death at the hands of the British, Vane decided to help Kenway find the Observatory. The pair tailed the Royal African Pearl, a slave ship belonging to the Royal African Company, in the hopes of finding information on the Sage Bartholomew Roberts. Vane recklessly fired on the Pearl, apparently heedless of the danger such an action posed to the slaves below deck. However, the slave ship outgunned the Ranger by a significant margin and returned fire, crippling Vane's ship and leaving it dead in the water.
Vane and his crew were rescued by Kenway, who brought his Jackdaw alongside the Ranger, and joined them in the subsequent battle and capture of the Royal African Pearl. They learned from the Pearl's captain that Roberts crewed a ship called the Princess and could be found in Kingston, with Vane subsequently shooting out the captain's left hip. Seconds later, Rackham and the surviving crew mutinied against Vane and Kenway, commandeering the Jackdaw and marooning both of them on Isla Providencia. During their time on the island, Vane's behavior became increasingly erratic; he took to hiding in the jungle, emerging only to steal food that Kenway had gathered.
Growing frustrated with Vane's actions, Kenway pursued the man, and Vane fiercely retaliated with an arsenal of recovered weaponry. Despite this, Edward managed to neutralize Vane – but spared him – abandoning the man on the island while he escaped by commandeering a passing fisherman's schooner.
Imprisonment and death
Some time later, a British ship arrived, but its captain recognized Vane and refused to save him. Several weeks later, another British vessel arrived and Vane was allowed aboard. Unfortunately, the captain of the first ship happened to be aboard as well and spotted Vane after only a few days at sea. He then pointed him out to the captain and had him arrested on the spot before taking Vane to Port Royal, where he remained for the next two years.
Kenway, who was also captured due to Bartholomew Roberts' treachery, managed to escape his gibbet and found Vane, who by now had gone completely mad, in his cell singing "Down Among the Dead Men." Knowing that Vane's state of mind was beyond repair, Kenway left him behind, lamenting how he wished the pair could have parted as friends.
Shortly after Edward's escape, Vane was hanged for piracy on 29 March 1721. His body was later left on display in a gibbet outside the harbor as a warning to other pirates.
Personality and characteristics
Charles Vane was a rude, foul-mouthed, sadistic, hateful, and self-centered pirate. Unlike his peers, he was not very interested in the principle of liberty beyond the freedom to indulge in hedonism. His language was frequently vulgar and profane, and he delighted in insulting others. He trusted virtually no one, not even his friends. His mental health gradually degraded during his time being stranded on Isla Providencia. His speech and actions became more frantic, driven by paranoia. He also developed a habbit of singing sea shanties to himself on the island. Particularly "Down Among the Dead Men." When Edward found him in a Jamacian prison two years later, Charles merely mumbled the words to the shanty and never acknowledged Edward's presence.
- Vane's death is historically anachronistic, as Mary dies before Vane, but in reality, Vane was executed in March 1721 while Mary died in April 1721.
- "Down Among the Dead Men", a sea shanty that Vane sings on Isla Providencia, is popularly attributed to the English poet John Dyer. However, this too is anachronistic, as Dyer only began writing poetry - much of which was later adapted into song - in 1721, well after Vane's marooning on the island.
- Charles Vane is the only character who uses abusive language with Jack Rackham.