Rulers of the Sea
12" Wooden Ruler made in U.S.A. of American-grown basswood.
This ruler is a list of Famous Pirates. Are there other Rulers of the Sea? Maybe. Whales or sharks come to mind, or perhaps powerful navies of the past such as the Spanish Armada or the British Navy in the time of Rule Britannia. But there was a time when pirates had a dominant influence on certain parts of the world’s oceans.
Pirates are criminals who commit their acts of robbery or violence by ship upon another ship or coastal area. Privateers are state-sponsored pirates during times of war. Both pirates and privateers appear on our Rulers of the Sea, and many of those listed fit both categories. Sir Francis Drake (c.1540-1596), for example, was considered a privateer by the English, but a pirate by the Spanish.
Where Thomas Tew (1649-1695) was born is unknown, but he lived in both Newport, Rhode Island, and Bermuda. Tew started out as a privateer, then turned to piracy. Scottish-born William Kidd (c.1654-1701) settled in New York City. The treasure that he buried in eastern Long Island was removed and used as evidence at his trial in England. He was hanged.
Female pirates were rare, but several are known. Grace O’Malley (c.1530-c.1603), or in Irish Gráinne Ní Mháille, used her pirate fleet to protect the lands of western Ireland. Both Mary Read (1685-1721) and Anne Cormac (c.1700-1782?) survived by disguising themselves as men. Perhaps the most successful pirate, man or woman, ever to have sailed the seas was Ching Shih (1775-1844), known as the “Widow of Zheng”, who terrorized the China Seas and commanded more than 300 junks with a combined crew of somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 pirates.
It’s fun to read the entertaining nicknames that some of the pirates received, such as Dragut “The Drawn Sword of Islam” (1485-1565), or Stede Bonnet “The Gentleman Pirate” (1688-1721).
Along with their nickname, we have listed the birth and death years of each pirate, if known. As you can see, those years are often not known. When they are, you will notice that many of these men and women did not live long. Pirating is dangerous business.
The “head” is somewhat of a made-up image, showing an imaginary pirate with headband, eyepatch and earring. It is, however, loosely inspired by images of Edward Teach “Blackbeard” (c.1680-1718), perhaps the most notorious pirate of all.
If you like this ruler, you might also be interested in Rulers and Patriots, Rulers of the South, or Rulers of the North.