Dread Pirate Roberts

Roberts was the greatest of the golden age pirates, terrorizing the Caribbean and West African coasts and roving as far north as Nova Scotia. Originally forced on the account, he took to Piracy with a calculating passion. Best known for his motto, "A short life, but a merry one", Roberts career lasted from 1721 to 1723 when, contrary to his company's charter, his crew took to drinking the proceeds of a Rum-laden supply ship they'd just captured. Surprised by privateers and cornered, Roberts determined his ship would fight its way out. He roused his crew and laid on canvas, but caught a blast of chain shot in the neck and was killed instantly. His crew immediately fell to arguing about whether or not they should light the powder store and "all go to hell together", were captured and held in Cape Corso Castle until transported to Britain, where around two dozen were hung in chains.

An AntiPattern.
There is also another DreadPirateRoberts, a fictional character from William Goldman's excellent humorous novel ThePrincessBride, which was the source for Rob Reiner's excellent motion picture of the same name. The gimmick with this DreadPirateRoberts was the discovery that the name was the important thing not the person itself (akin to the premise of TheSantaClause?). When one DreadPirateRoberts would get rich and want to get out of the business he would sell the franchise to the next person. Thus empowered with the name, the next instance of DreadPirateRoberts would be able to fly his standard and get most ships to surrender from mere terror at the sight of it, thus saving a lot of time and trouble. -- DionHinchcliffe

Yes, the Princess Bride DreadPirateRoberts was indeed based on the real Roberts. John (aka Bartholomew aka Black Bart) Roberts was forced to become a pirate by Howell Davis, who was himself forced by Edward England. If I recall my Defoe, England was just in it for the hell of it.

Roberts himself took better than 400 ships in 2 years, often by little more than showmanship. He kept a band of musicians on board to play ominous music during attacks, and dandied himself and his men up with ridiculous numbers of pistols and finery.

-- PeterMerel, who is also not left-handed.

I seem to recall the Brits secretly supporting piracy as a means to mess with the Spaniards (if I recall correctly). CaptainMorgan? was another example. That's Spanish rum!

Actually, pretty much all of the seafaring governments resorted to institutionalized piracy at one time or another. History seems replete with examples, but why mess up a good adventure story?

[The history (which I don't know well) of "Letters of Marque and Reprisal" seem to support that, but also indicate that it was much more complex than that.]

Yes it did get quite complicated. The short story is that there were a lot of ships at the time with ambiguous legal status. [Many of which at least began with explicit authorization from some government for practices which would be called piracy if not thus authorized.]

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