After the Spanish conquest of the Americas and word of the immense wealth flowing out of the New World reached Europe, high seas piracy became the scourge of ocean-going vessels. When French commander Jean Fleury apprehended three Spanish caravels on their way back from Mexico in 1523, shocked gasps were heard all the way from Buckingham to the palaces of Paris. Soon, sailors from all over Europe flocked to the Caribbean. Read the exciting and villainous tales of these adventurers of the high seas:

• Sir Francis Drake, legendary adventurer and vice admiral of the English fleet in the fight against the Spanish Armada, was one of the most active Caribbean pirates in the sixteenth century

• Captain Henry Morgan, English privateer, gave his name to the famous spiced rum

• Laurens de Graff, a Dutch African privateer, was enslaved by Spanish sailors but escaped to become a pirate, combining his hatred for the Spanish with a flair for violence

• Merciless captain of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Edward Teach, the infamous Blackbeard, had over four dozen wives

• While Calico Jack Rackham and crew met their end on a hangman’s noose, his two most famous crewmembers, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, were spared because of their swollen bellies

• Treasure hunter Samuel Bellamy joined up with pirates in the West Indies and together they plundered every vessel they found

And many more…