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1645 - 1701

William Kidd was born the son of a minister at a time when Britain was being run by the Lord Protector ‘Oliver Cromwell’.

Cromwell’s parliamentarian army (roundheads) had defeated the armies of King Charles I Stewart (cavaliers) in the English civil war and taken control of the country.

William Kid began his life at sea around the time of Oliver Cromwell’s death in 1658. Charles II had returned from exile in Europe and regained the British throne for the Stewart's in 1660. The following 25 years of Charles II reign saw William Kidd establish himself as a sea captain and ship owner.

By his late forties, he had married a wealthy New York widow and owned property in the exclusive Wall Street area of New York.

At that time, the east coast of North America was plagued by pirates that reeked havoc amongst cargo shipping. The authorities of New York and Massachusetts regularly called on Captain Kidd’s services to rid the coast of pirates.

With the death of Charles II in 1685, James II ascended the English throne and tried to enforce the catholic religion on England.

With England having been mainly Protestant since the reign of Henry VIII 1509 - 1547, the parliamentarians set off another uprising that resulted in James II fleeing to France and the protestants William III (of Orange) & Mary II take the throne of England.

William Kidd image

William Kidd

That time made the ever explosive relationship between protestant England and catholic France even more volatile. In 1695, Captain Kidd received a royal commission to hunt down pirates that were attacking ships of the East India Company in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

This company was vital to Britain as trade between Britain and India was crucial to Britain’s ever increasing economy. An understanding had also been attained that any French ships he encountered could be plundered with their cargos used to fund himself and his men.

Captain Kidd and his 34 big gun ship Adventure departed New York with a crew of cut throats and ex-pirates bound for the Indian Ocean. Within a few months, Kidd’s intentions of hunting down pirate ships in the area had changed as he began concentrating more on capturing cargo ships for their booty, even some East India ships, the ones he was hired to protect.

His most successful capture was a large American ship leased to the Indian Government called the Quedah Merchant. That ship held a cargo worth over £30,000, more than £30 million in today’s money.

With the aging Adventure starting to break up, Kidd loaded all his treasures onto the Quedah Merchant and set off for North America. After arriving in the Caribbean, Kidd heard the British had branded him a pirate and were keen to see him return to England to stand trial. He disposed of his two now sought after ships and acquired the sloop Saint Antonio for his return to New York.

Kidd hoped his influential friends in America could help clear him of any charges and blame the acts of piracy on his crew. However, his friends in New York had him returned to England to stand trial.

His trial began May 8th 1701, and by the following day, had been found guilty of murder and multiple piracies. The documents stating that he had been hired by the British Government had conveniently disappeared before the trial commenced.

William Kidd

William Kidd

Kidd was hanged on May 23rd. His body was then covered in tar and hung at Tilbury Point (River Thames) as a warning to all other would be pirates.

Captain Kidd tried to escape the gallows by offering to return much of his treasures that he claimed was buried in various locations. Since his death over 300 years ago, the search for his hidden treasures has continued.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kidd People List