23 May: Captain Kidd: Pirate or Privateer?

Hanged for piracy and murder, sea captain William Kidd was executed in Wapping on 23rd May, 1701. From the gallows he proclaimed to the large assembled crowd that he was innocent of the crimes, as he was a licensed privateer. 

The vessel he’d captured, the Quedagh Merchant, was indeed sailing under a ‘French pass’ – though the documents that prove this lay unearthed until the 20th century. His trial was used by the governing Tory party as a political opportunity to embarrass his Whig sponsors, and he was convicted on all counts.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain what happened to his body after his botched hanging; reveal the extraordinary monetary value of his plunder; and explain how, despite his established prowess as a seaman, he became seen as a public enemy…

Further Reading:

#Pirates #1700s #Macabre