William Kidd (born around 1654, died on May 23, 1701) was a Scottish sea captain that is today best remembered for his very public and popular trial and execution for piracy. During his life he served as a privateer for the English crown, but in later parts of his life he became (some say unjustly) as a pirate. After very few controversial sea skirmishes he spent the remainder of his life trying to clear his name. His sensational trial in front of English Parliament culminated in his execution, and it gave birth to many legends. Reputation of William Kidd remained high in the following decades, even though he did not have successful career as many other pirates and privateers of his age.
Kidd was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1654 (some reports claim that it was on January). After his father died at the sea in his young age, he and his mother continued to live with the financial help of their local society. The first historical record of Kidd comes from 1689 when he joined the crew of the French-English pirate crew in the Caribbean. After the mutiny, crew elected Kidd (by then he became prominent sea navigator) to be a new captain, which he accepted. With the help of Christopher Codrington, governor of Nevis Island, he and his ship "Blessed William" became part of a defense fleet that protected that island against the French. Because governor could not afford to pay his defense fleet, Kidd was encouraged to collect his wages by capturing French ships and plundering French settlements. During the "Nine Years' War" Kidd became official privateer of the English crown, tasked to capture French ships in the Caribbean. During that time he lost his ship to the notorious pirateCaptain Culliford who stole his ship. On May 1691 William Kidd married Sarah Bradley Cox Oort, extremely wealthy Englishwoman that lived in New York.
Towards the end of 1695, Kidd received orders from governor of New York, Massachusetts to attack and destroy pirates that sailed in that area. With great amount of funding, Kidd built his new ship 284 tons "Adventure Galley" which was equipped with 34 cannons, oars and a crew of 150 sailors. Between 1696 and 1698 Kidd tried to capture any pirate ship that he encountered, but he had very little luck in spotting them. He traveled from the America to Africa, and all the way to the Red Sea. During that period he became increasingly violent, with multiple reports telling the tales of his cruelty, torturing and even murder. The most notable event in his naval career happened on January 30, 1698 when he boarded Armenian ship "Quedagh Merchant" which carried large amounts of extremely valuable trade items (satins, muslins, silk, gold, and silver). After finding out that the captain of that vessel was Englishman, and after pressure from his crew he accepted the captured prize. When the world of this event reached England, Kidd was officially branded as a pirate. Three months later he encountered pirate Captain Culliford in the seas around Madagascar, the same person who stole his first ship "Blessed William". There are several contradictory accounts of that meeting, but in the end it was recorded that Kidd sold his ship "Adventure Galley" and managed to return to America with the crew of 13 sailors.
On the July 6, 1699 William Kidd became prisoner of his former investor Bellomont, who in fear of his implication with the pirate affairs decided to capture Kidd and his wife Sarah, and present him to the English court in an attempt to clear his name. After being held in prison for a year in extremely harsh conditions (some reports claimed that he almost went insane), Kidd was transported to the England for a questioning in front of a parliament. He was executed on 23 May 1701, and his body encased in an iron cage was left to hang for over three years on the River Thames "Tilbury Point" as a warning to the would-be pirates.