Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.

MAY 17th

On this day in history in 1682, was born Bartholomew Roberts.

Roberts, known as Black Bart, was a pirate who held the world record for the number of ships captured.

John Robert, later known as Bart Roberts, was born on May 17th 1682, in Casnewydd-Bach, Pembrokeshire, the son of George Robert, a farm labourer. Little is known of his early life, but it is known that by the time he was 37 years old, he had considerable navigation skill, and was well used to slave trading vessels.

In 1719, Roberts was employed on board the slave ship Princess of London, when she was taken by the pirate Howell Davies, who spared Robertsí life, and pressed him into service, on account of his seafaring skills. Within six weeks, Captain Davies was killed by militia when attacking the Portuguese island of Principe, and the crew subsequently elected Roberts as their new leader, partly on account of his navigational skills and partly due to his promise to share the loot in an equitable manner.

His first act as leader was to avenge the death of his predecessor. Roberts attacked Principe by night, killing soldiers and civilians alike, and taking everything of value. He then embarked on the most successful pirating career in history, taking in total 456 vessels. His success was due not solely to his navigational skills but also on his management of the crew. He ensured that booty was fairly distributed, according to rank, that excessive gambling and alcohol were forbidden and that the crew had the Sabbath as a day of rest, with Sunday worship aboard ship.

Roberts died on 10th February 1722, hit by cannon fire, when engaging a man-of-war HMS Swallow, a Royal navy vessel commissioned to take pirate ships. Roberts crew displayed amazing loyalty when, at the risk of their own lives, they rescued their captainís body and ensured that he had a decent burial at sea. Sadly for the crew, their loyalty cost them dear, for their failure to escape in time led to the vessel being captured and all 254 men aboard hanged.

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