This famous Scottish pirate had a very unlucky career. From a great privateer he became an infamous pirate. Many historians today do not even consider Captain William Kidd a pirate. The people talk more about his fate, and less about his deeds. For his one and only act of piracy he paid with his very own life. However, beginning of his career looked very promising.
Kidd was born around 1645 in Greenock, Scotland. He loved the sea and sailing. Since the childhood, his dream had been to become a seaman, or even more, a great privateer and a pirate hunter. Later on, he left his homeland for New York where his career got underway. The success came almost instantly and Kidd's reputation as a privateer was growing rapidly. His prestige increased after many successful raids and a rank of a captain entitled him afterwards. He married Sarah Bradley Cox, a rich 20-years-old two-times widow. They had two kids. With successful career, wealth and family, his dreams were becoming reality.
England heard of his success, and in 1695, the king called him to serve there. Kidd agreed, hoping to win more challenging contracts. Once in England, he met many prominent citizens, including the new governor of New York and Massachusetts, Sir George Bellomont. He had a proposal for Kidd, which later turned fatal. He was put in the command of the "Adventure", a specially designed galley-warship with 30 cannons and 100 skillful crewmembers. His backers counted a lot of influential people in England. Some rumor goes that the king himself included that group. His main task was to hunt the pirates of the Red Sea. Kidd acquired two commissions: one gave him the authority to capture the French ships, and the other made him the government's pirate hunter.
The whole plan also involved some semi-legal actions which were supposed to bring a big profit. On those pirate-like operations, the backers would turn a blind eye. Kidd sailed out of the Chatham dockyard, and the troubles started soon after. Almost all his best crewmen left him for two Royal Navy ships, which were in a need of sailors. So, Kidd was forced to recruit the new ones in New York. Unfortunately, new crewmembers were mostly smugglers and former pirates, and they intended to attack all ships with no exception. As expected, Kidd refused that, so the arguing between him and newly-promoted crew began immediately.
The next destination was Madagascar. Meanwhile, no acceptable victims were found. There were a few attacks on French ships, but they failed. His crew was frustrated, especially when Kidd fled from some potential victims who seemed well-armed. Actually, they had some small captures, but they used earned money to repair the ship in the Laccadive Islands. Some of the disappointed crew left him there. The others pressured their captain even more because of his evasiveness. In one of many conflicts, enraged Kidd killed his gunner William Moore. After that incident, a potential mutiny was quelled. However, almost two years after leaving London, Kidd couldn't handle the pressure any more, so he committed his first and last act of piracy.
It was January 1698, when Kidd captured Quedah Merchant, the treasure ship that belonged to the British East India Company. He won battle easily and it was a truly great catch. That enormous vessel became his new flagship called the "Adventure Prize" and he finally abandoned the damaged "Adventure". However, Kidd became a wanted man as the revolted East India Company forced the government to brand him as a pirate. The backers couldn't support him anymore and any pardon was unacceptable. He had no other choice but to try to make some kind of a deal through the Governor Bellamont. Unfortunately, neither he, nor anybody else could do anything for Kidd anymore.
In April 1700, Kidd sailed to New York hoping to hide behind some powerful friends of his. However, he was arrested and shipped back to the England. William Kidd was trialed in May 1701 and sentenced to death for piracy and killing his gunner. This unlucky man had even the disastrous death. On his execution, the hanging rope had broken, before he was hanged properly in the second try. His body was disposed in a cage on Thames River as a warning to any potential pirate.
Today, Captain Kidd is one of the most familiar pirates. The main reason for that is the famous treasure. It is believed that he buried somewhere on Long Island just before he was captured and executed. Among many other stories and novels, Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" brought the most attention to this legend. However, if all those stories are true, these treasures are all there yet.