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ritish privateer Sir Henry Morgan was renowned for his cunning and daring; he pillaged cities and towns as he pleased and insisted on the utmost respect from all around him. The cunning sailor, fondly recalled today as the face of Captain Morgan’s rum was much more than the figure on the bottle of liquor. Despite his legacy and how different cultures may portray it, who was this Captain and why did he become so infamous?

Captain Henry Morgan was a Welsh privateer, pirate, and later, a governor of Jamaica. He is best known for his raids on Spanish settlements and shipping in the Caribbean Sea during the late 17th century. Morgan’s daring exploits made him one of the most famous and successful pirates of his time, and his reputation as a ruthless and cunning leader continues to be celebrated today.

Captain Henry Morgan

Morgan was born in 1635 in Llanrhymni, Wales. Little is known of his early life, but it is believed that he began his career as a sailor and privateer in the Caribbean in the 1660s. At the time, the Caribbean was a major center of trade and commerce, and the Spanish Empire controlled much of the region. Morgan quickly made a name for himself as a skilled and daring privateer, attacking Spanish ships and settlements in the Caribbean.

Lely, Peter; Admiral Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688), Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica; National Trust, Tredegar House
Lely, Peter; Admiral Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688), Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica; National Trust, Tredegar House;

In 1668, Morgan led a successful raid on the city of Portobello, Panama. The city was a major center of trade and commerce and was heavily fortified by the Spanish. Morgan and his men were able to capture the city and loot its riches, despite being vastly outnumbered by the Spanish defenders. This raid made Morgan a hero among the English settlers in the Caribbean and earned him a reputation as a daring and ruthless leader.

In 1670, Morgan was appointed as the governor of Jamaica, which was then an English colony. He was tasked with defending the colony against the Spanish, who were still a major threat to the English in the Caribbean. Morgan was an effective governor, using his experience and skills as a privateer to defend the colony against the Spanish. He also established a network of alliances and trade agreements with other Caribbean powers, which helped to strengthen the colony’s position in the region.

From Pirate to Governor

However, Morgan’s governorship was not without controversy. He was known for his harsh treatment of the local population, including the indigenous people of Jamaica. He was also accused of excessive cruelty towards Spanish prisoners of war. Despite these criticisms, Morgan’s reputation as a skilled leader and successful privateer continued to grow, and he became one of the most famous and respected figures in the Caribbean.

In 1672, Morgan retired from his post as governor and returned to privateering. He continued to lead successful raids against the Spanish, including a raid on the city of Panama in 1675. This raid was one of his most ambitious and successful, and it cemented his reputation as one of the most feared and respected pirates in the Caribbean.

However, Morgan’s luck would eventually run out. In 1688, the English government issued a pardon to all pirates operating in the Caribbean, in exchange for their cooperation in the war against the French. Morgan, along with many other pirates, accepted the pardon and retired from piracy. He returned to Jamaica, where he lived the rest of his life as a wealthy and respected member of society.

Captain Henry Morgan’s legacy is a complicated one. He was a ruthless and cunning leader, who was feared and respected by his enemies and his own men. He was responsible for many successful raids against the Spanish, and he played a key role in the defense of Jamaica against the Spanish during his governorship. He was also known for his harsh treatment of the local population and his cruelty towards Spanish prisoners of war. However, despite these controversies, he remains one of the most famous and celebrated figures in Caribbean history, and his reputation as a daring and successful pirate continues to be celebrated today.

Pirates and privateers alike were permitted to visit Morgan’s body without fear of being apprehended by the government, and he was given a state funeral replete with the twenty-two gun salute.

He possessed three plantations in Jamaica and 131 slaves worth £1,923 at the time of his death. In his will, he transferred these to his nephews, the offspring of Robert Byndloss, on the condition that they adopt the surname, Morgan. He had originally bequeathed them to his wife, Mary Elizabeth, who died in 1696.

Morgan’s burial in Port Royal washed into the water in June 1682 as a result of an earthquake, and his body hasn’t been found since.

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