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Most of what we know about pirates is, of course, complete BS created by movies and books trying to spice up horrid tales of dysentery and high-seas tedium. So if you've heard about Taika Waititi's upcoming show about an aristocrat who gets bored of his comfortable married life and drops everything to become a pirate, you might understandably assume that it's all made up (perhaps as a passive-aggressive dig at Waititi's ex). But no: the show is based on the real-life story of Stede "The Gentleman Pirate" Bonnet, whose true biography is, at times, even more ridiculous than what we've seen of the TV version.

Bonnet was a "sizeable landowner" and father of three who was described as "bookish" and decidedly un-pirate-like. But then, at age 29, he had a bit of a mid-life crisis (spoilers: he was way past the middle of his life) and decided he wanted to go a-sailing and a-plundering, despite not really knowing a-nything about either of those things. Historians agree that he was motivated by "discomforts he found in a married state." Many interpret this to mean that he got fed up with his nagging wife, but others point out that this is a sexist assumption: it's possible that he found out he didn't like women, or that his "Bonnet" simply didn't work. 

Anyway, Bonnet hired himself a crew, bought a 10-gun ship he called the Revenge and went on a series of successful raids along the Eastern Seaboard. He flew the skull and crossbones flag (which not many real pirates actually used) and liked to make his prisoners walk the plank (which, again, practically no one did outside of novels). Dude was 100% cosplaying.

Drawing of pirate with crossbones flag.

Wikimedia Commons

And there's an 80% chance he stabbed himself through the leg while posing for this. 

But as time passed, Bonnet's crew became increasingly aware of the fact that their captain was winging it and had no idea what he was doing, so he started having trouble controlling that rowdy bunch. That's when they happened to bump into the legendary pirate Blackbeard, who basically said, "Here, let me take care of this for you," and took over Bonnet's ship and crew. In return, Bonnet was allowed to hang around in Blackbeard's ship, where he was often seen walking about "in his morning gown" and mostly just sticking to his sizeable book collection. He became the weird roommate who does nothing all day except on a pirate ship.

Drawing of pirate sitting on ship with dead bodies.

Wikimedia Commons

"So, uh, you guys check out the latest Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise? Good stuff." 

When Blackbeard lost his ship, he surrendered to the authorities and accepted a pardon if he pinky swore he'd never go pirating again. Bonnet did the same thing, only he actually meant it, because he was depressed and fed up with the pirate life -- for the moment, anyway. Eventually, he got bit by the pirating bug again and formed a new crew made out of men who had been ditched and left to starve by that asshole Blackbeard. The Bonnet Boys 2.0 went looking for Blackbeard to get their collective revenge and reclaim Bonnet's honor ... but they couldn't find him, so they just started raiding random ships (probably forcing the captains to wear fake beards to make themselves feel better).

At this point, since Bonnet was supposed to be an honest privateer who had abandoned his pirating ways, he began telling his victims his name was "Captain Thomas." He also changed the Revenge's name to Royal James as part of an airtight plan to throw the authorities off his scent. How did that work out? Well:

Drawing of pirate being hanged to death.

Wikimedia Commons

"Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I got in thi--" *crack* 

At his trial, Bonnet tried to use the fact that his crew didn't respect him and did whatever they wanted as an argument to save himself, even pointing out that he was asleep during one of the two raids he was charged with. The judge didn't buy it and sentenced him to death. And that's the tale of The Gentleman Pirate; there's easily material for six seasons there. Oh, and if they wanna fudge the dates a little bit and have him meet the famous scientist who was kidnapped by pirates and ended up leading them, we won't complain.

Follow Maxwell Yezpitelok's heroic effort to read and comment on every '90s Superman comic at Superman86to99.tumblr.com.  

Top image: HBO 


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