Henry Morgan

The Welsh-born Henry Morgan’s deeds are many and varied, although he seems to have specialised in haranguing Spanish shipping and settlements.

In 1668 he raided Puerto del Principe, Cuba, in search prisoners who may have held information about a Spanish attack on Jamaica, but the town’s citizens got wind of his plans and fled leaving little of value. Morgan burned the town, tortured those who remained and made off with 50,000 Pieces of Eight nonetheless.

Later that year Morgan set his sights on the more lucrative target of Porto Bello in Panama. In an audacious raid he took two defensive forts before the Spanish surrendered the third. Morgan and his men then set up occupation, plundered Porto Bello for all it was worth and netted a fortune of 200,000 Pieces of Eight. More successes followed – Cartagena in Colombia, Maracaibo in Venezuela and Panama City, which was so badly burned in the attack that it had to be rebuilt.

In spite of all that, Morgan was not really a pirate at all. With his ‘Letter of Marque’, he was only ever acting on behalf of the English Crown. He was a privateer, in other words, and he was richly compensated for his patriotic endeavours – knighted in 1674 and awarded the post of Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.

Morgan retired from his life on the high seas and became a wealthy, albeit frequently inebriated man. However, his bold conquests and bloodthirsty reputation ensured that he would be an inspiration to all those who sailed the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy.

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