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Database: Stede Bonnet

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Born: 1688, Barbados
Died: 1718, North Carolina

Born into plentitude and wealth on Barbados, Stede Bonnet seemed destined for a life of pleasure and ease. The son of a successful and influential plantation owner, his early life was marked by tragedy when his parents died suddenly, leaving seven year-old Stede orphaned and in a perpetual state of melancholy.

His inheritance of some 400 acres of land softened the blow caused by the loss of his parents, and by the time Stede was in his late teens, he had already restored the sugar plantation to a profitable state. He married young and set about starting a family as soon as possible, but owing to what some called a "disorder of the mind" he never found solace or comfort in these domestic trappings.

To further complicate his unease, his firstborn son died in infancy, further amplifying his grief and stiming his restlessness. As a means of coping, he dreamed of going to sea and sailing about the world, meeting people, living life as a man free of the obligations thrust upon him...

(This sounds like an inspiring story. Would he make a good hero character? Or villain? -OG)

(No. Trust me. -ML)

At some point around Stede's 29th birthday, his restlessness got the better of him. Owing to "some discomfort he found in a married state" which brought on a "disorder of the mind", Stede decided it was time to take his first bold stept into the life he had always dreamed about. Using his considerable fortune, he either purchased a boat or had one built for him -- a small schooner he christened "The Revenge".

To maintain some semblance to the comforts he had come to enjoy as a man of means, he installed a full library in the Captain's quarters, and packed his wardrobe with all manner of finery -- silk pajamas, smoking jackets, and frocks. Near the end of 1717, his ship was ready. He bid adieu to his wife and remaining children and weighed anchor, sailing north from Barbados, hoping to reach the British colonies within a few months. He would never see his family again.

Now sailing under the moniker "Captain Edwards", Bonnet sailed about the West Indies looking for his first prize. Spotting a large Spanish warship, his crew foolishly encouraged an attack. After a brief engagement, almost half of Bonnet's crew was dead or injured. Miraculously, the Revenge was able to escape capture herself, and Bonnet ordered the crew to sail her to the only place he knew he could find refuge: Nassau.

It was here, in the pirates' infamous republic, that Stede met and befriended Captain Thatch, the infamous and capable captain who had recently taken to calling himself Blackbeard. Thatch managed to convince Bonnet to hand over the Revenge's reigns, leaving Stede happily confined to his cabin. The two sailed about as unlikely partners for some months, until Blackbeard took a far greater prize for himself: the Queen Anne's Revenge.

After keeping Bonnet's Revenge in his own fleet for a short time, Blackbeard suddenly abandoned her along with most of its crew. Bonnet was again free to seek his own path. Perhaps believing he had been properly mentored under Blackbeard's tutelage, Bonnet stuck out for the Danish island of St. Thomas, hoping to earn a privateering commission. But his crew had other ideas. Plunging headlong into piracy once more, Stede's crew lashed out recklessly at every prize they could find, resulting in their capture some months later near Cape Fear, North Carolina.

While Stede awaited trial, numerous people came forward as witnesses to attest to the good quality of his character. But this came to nothing, and after one botched escape attempt, Stede was finally walked to the gallows in December, 1718. As the hangman slipped the noose around his neck, he broke down in tears, begging for mercy. The sight of his abject shame moved many to tears, but it was not enough to save him. The "Gentleman Pirate" was no more.

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