Benjamin Hornigold, Black Sails character.

In the TV series, Black Sails, Benjamin Hornigold was a pirate played by actor Patrick Lyster.

The Pirate Benjamin Hornigold.

Hornigold's early life is unrecorded, although it is sometimes claimed he was born in the English county of Norfolk, where the surname Hornigold or Hornagold appears. If so, he might have first served at sea aboard ships whose home port was either King's Lynn or Great Yarmouth.

His first documented acts of piracy took place in the winter of 1713 - 1714, when he employed periaguas (sailing canoes) & a sloop to menace merchant vessels off the coast of New Providence & its capital Nassau, where he had established a 'Privateers' or 'Pirates' Republic. By 1717 Hornigold had at his command a thirty gun sloop he named the Ranger, which was probably the most heavily armed ship in the region & this allowed him to seize other vessels with impunity.

Hornigold's second in command during this period was Edward Teach, who would later be better known as the pirate Blackbeard. When Hornigold took command of the Ranger, he delegated the captaincy of his earlier sloop to Teach. In the spring of 1717, the two pirate captains seized three merchant ships in quick succession, one carrying 120 barrels of flour bound for Havana, another a Bermudian sloop with a cargo of spirits & the third a Portuguese ship travelling from Madeira with a cargo of white wine.

In March 1717 Hornigold attacked an armed merchant vessel sent to the Bahamas by the Governor of South Carolina to hunt for pirates. The merchantman escaped by running itself aground on Cat Cay & its captain later reported that Hornigold's fleet had increased to five vessels, with a combined crew of around 350 pirates.

Despite his apparent maritime supremacy, Hornigold remained careful not to attack British flagged ships, apparently to maintain the legal defence that he was a privateer operating against England's enemies in the War of the Spanish Succession. This scrupulous approach was not to the liking of his lieutenants & in November 1717 a vote was taken among the combined crews to attack any vessel they chose. Hornigold opposed the decision & was replaced as captain.

At the time, Edward Teach was commanding Hornigold's second ship & he probably did not learn of the mutiny until the two ships met later in the year. It was most likely that at this time the two pirates went their separate ways, with Teach setting sail for the Caribbean once again, leaving Hornigold to limp back to New Providence in command of a single sloop and a small crew.

The King's Pardon of 1717 & 1718.

On September 5th 1717, King George issued the Proclamation of 1717 'For Suppressing Pirates in the West Indies.' This document granted a pardon to all pirates who surrendered themselves to any colonial governor or governor under the domain of the British Empire safe passage and were guaranteed a 'clean slate' of their record.

However, word of this did not get out to the West Indies and so in December of 1718 another proclamation, or more famously known as the King's Pardon of 1718 was issued for the same purpose. In both of these documents not only were pirates granted a clean slate on their record but they were also offered a large sum of money for the capturing of other pirates who were guilty of piracy, murder & treason against His Majesty. More specifically, for every captain who was captured, the person responsible would receive 100 pounds & for every lieutenant & 'boatswain' a reward of 40 pounds was offered. Each level of a member on a pirate ship had a reward placed on their heads from this point on.

Governor Rogers granted Hornigold's request for a pardon & commissioned him to hunt down other pirates, including his former lieutenant Edward Teach. Hornigold was to spend the next eighteen months cruising the Bahamas in pursuit of Stede Bonnet & Jack Rackham. In December 1718 Governor Rogers wrote to the Board of Trade in London commending Hornigold's efforts to remedy his reputation as a pirate by hunting his former allies.

The end of Captain Benajamin Hornigold.

In late 1719, Hornigolds ship was caught in a hurricane somewhere between New Providence & Mexico & was wrecked on an uncharted reef. Captain Hornigold was cast away upon rocks, a great way from the land & perished, only five of his men got into a canoe and were saved. The specific location of the reef remains unknown.