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Lost Pirate Kingdom: Was Blackbeard Real?

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The Lost Pirate Kingdom's Blackbeard is arguably the most famous pirate to ever roam the seas, but who is the real man behind the legend? Since the early 18th Century, stories of robbery, bloodshed, and squalor have become a staple of pirate folklore, shaping the way the world thinks about pirates today. But that’s not the whole story.

Netflix’s The Lost Pirate Kingdom examines the origin of some of the most notable pirates operating in the Caribbean in the years immediately following the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1714. Over six episodes, their stories are told through a hybrid of reenactment scenes and interviews with pirate historians and scholars. Rather than casting the pirates as outright villains, the series takes a more nuanced look, shedding light on the surprisingly democratic nature of the pirate republic.

The Lost Pirate Kingdom’s story begins with a privateer-turned-pirate named Benjamin Hornigold. Hornigold's "flying gang" of pirates who roamed the Caribbean included a man named Edward Thatch, whose sinister stare and thick, black beard later earned him the nickname Blackbeard. Modern fictional representations of Blackbeard portray him as a terrifying, thieving, scoundrel of the sea. While this version of Blackbeard is based in reality, it isn’t the whole story. Some of the lesser-known facts and theories surrounding the true story of the mysterious Blackbeard are explored in The Lost Pirate Kingdom, including his background and how his pirate life began, why he was one of the greatest threats to the British Empire, and what really led to his death by beheading.


While many details of Blackbeard’s life are still disputed today—including his last name, which could be Teach or Thatche instead of Thatch—pirate historians tend to agree Thatch was more educated than the average pirate. In a time when literacy was uncommon, Thatch spoke Latin, could read and write, and kept a journal. According to scholars interviewed in The Lost Pirate Kingdom, there is no record of Blackbeard killing anyone except in self-defense during the final battle of his life. Rather than leading with fear and violence, Blackbeard was thought to have been a fair and strategic captain. This is different from the depiction of Blackbeard made popular by Hollywood in movies like 2011’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

There are a few details that help to explain where these fictionalized versions of Blackbeard stem from. One popular theory is that Thatch cultivated a menacing reputation as a way of protecting himself against his enemies. Another explanation is that Thatch underwent a metamorphosis after contracting syphilis. As the disease slowly drove him insane, Thatch transformed into the Blackbeard of modern literature and film - a mad, maniacal pirate with a smoking beard who terrorized the Caribbean. These fictional portrayals further complicated historians' efforts to uncover the true story of Edward Thatch.

The Lost Pirate Kingdom gives viewers a deeper look into the man whose real life and true story remain somewhat shrouded in mystery still today. By 1718, Thatch had become a major threat to the Crown. The final blow came after Thatch began commandeering British slave ships. He set the slaves free, and many of them became part of his crew. Blackbeard ultimately betrayed many of the men he freed by selling them back into slavery, but his attack on the British slave trade had solidified his fate. Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood hired Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard to track down the pirate. Soon after, Maynard ambushed and killed Edward Thatch off the coast of North Carolina, returning to Virginia with his severed head as a trophy. But the man and myth live on in the pirate legends of Blackbeard.

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