New light on pirate Captain Kidd may show he wasn’t all bad
An exhibition about dreaded pirates on the High Seas opening in London’s East End challenges whether the notorious Captain Kidd was really a bad guy after all.
‘The Captain Kidd Story’ reveals the surprising truth of how London’s corrupt political activities were tied up in piracy.
It opens at the Museum of London Docklands on May 20, three days before the 310th anniversary of Kidd’s execution at Wapping.
“This will help people understand the connection between pirates and the London that funded their activities,” said the museum’s maritime curator Tom Wareham.
“The ‘Skull and Crossbones’ may not have fluttered over ships in the Thames, but many pirates were here at one time or another.
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“Our most famous pirate, Captain Kidd, was enmeshed in intrigue that involved corrupt MPs and the mighty East India Company. This exhibition helps bring him back to life.”
William Kidd died protesting his innocence, denying piracy to the end.
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He claimed papers vital for his defence were stolen just before his trial.
The judges denied their existence. But the papers were uncovered in the National Archives centuries later—so was Kidd framed?
Kid was part of an Anglo-French crew of buccaneers in the Caribbean when war with France broke out in 1689. The English crew members took over the ship and went ‘legit,’ volunteering as privateers in the pay of the governor of Nevis.
Kidd was elected captain and fought several successful actions against the French—but his crew mutinied.
Kidd later settled as a successful merchant in the American colonies, before returning to London in 1695 where he found political backers for a privateering expedition against pirates in the Indian Ocean.
He was supposed to attack the pirates—but turned pirate himself, threatening the East India Company’s trade.
His eventual capture created a panic among his London backers. He tried to bargain for his life by offering to reveal the secret hiding place of his plunder—but the government refused to listen.
Kidd was hanged at Execution Dock in Wapping on May 23, 1701.
The treasure he claimed was legitimate booty fighting the French has never been found.
But the papers vital for his defence were eventually discovered in 1911—two centuries too late to save his neck.