Charles Vane

In the television series Black Sails Charles Vane was a pirate played by actor Zach McGowan. Charles Vane was an Englishman who became a famous pirate, operating out of Nassau.

The real Charles Vane.

Little is known of Vane's early life. He lived in Port Royal before becoming a pirate, but he was most likely not born there.

He worked with Henry Jennings during Jennings attack on the salvage camp for the wrecked Spanish 1715 Treasure Fleet. Vane first operated as an independent captain in the summer of 1717. By the winter of that year he was one of the leaders of the pirates operating out of Nassau.

When word reached the pirates that King George I of Great Britain had extended an offer of pardon to all pirates who wished to surrender, Vane led the pirates who opposed taking the pardon. On 23 February 1718, Captain Vincent Pearse arrived at Nassau in HMS Phoenix in an attempt to get the pirates on the island to surrender. Vane was captured along with his sloop, the Lark. He took the King's pardon, but on March 21 Vane & his men, including Edward England & Calico Jack Rackham, turned pirate again, capturing a Jamaican sloop.

Vane sailed back to Nassau and harassed Pearse repeatedly, recapturing the Lark. Vane left Nassau on 4 April, four days later Pearse left with HMS Phoenix & Nassau was again controlled by the pirates.

After leaving Nassau Vane raided ships around the Bahamas. He gained a reputation for cruelty, he & his crew would often beat or torture captured sailors to force them to surrender their valuables. Around this time Vane's crew renamed the Lark, calling it the Ranger. Vane cruised again in May & June, capturing, among other ships, a twenty gun French ship that became Vane's new flagship.

He was back at Nassau on 22 July 1718 when Woodes Rogers reached Nassau to take office as the new governor. Rogers ships trapped Vane in the harbor where Vane's ship was too large to pass one of the harbors two entrances whilst the other entrance was blocked by Rogers fleet. That night, Vane turned the French ship into a fireship, setting it on fire & sailing it towards Rogers ships. The fireship failed to damage any of Rogers fleet but the ships were forced to pull away, unblocking the channel. Vane then commandeered a small sloop, the Katherine & escaped out the smaller entrance as Rogers' ships returned.

Vane took ships off the Bahamas in July, working with Charles Yeats, the original captain of the Katherine. A brigantine that Vane captured became his new flagship. In August he sailed to Charleston & took eight ships there. After seizing a slave ship he put the slaves aboard Yeats' ship. Yeats sailed off with the slaves & surrendered to the governor of South Carolina in exchange for a pardon. The merchants of Charleston outfitted two sloops to hunt Vane under the command of William Rhett. Rhett failed to find Vane but his ships located & captured the pirate Stede Bonnet.

Vane returned to Nassau in September, threatening to retake the city. In October Vane sailed to Ocracoke Inlet & met with Blackbeard, perhaps attempting to convince Blackbeard to join forces with him the two crews celebrated for several days, but split up afterwards.

In October Vane raided Eleuthera, carrying away liquor and livestock. On 23 November Vane spotted a large frigate, but when he hoisted the Jolly Roger the frigate replied by raising a French naval ensign & opening fire. Vane's brigantine & sloop were outgunned & he ordered a retreat. Vane's crew saw this as an act of cowardice & he was voted out of command in favor of Calico Jack Rackham. Vane & sixteen others who supported him were put on the sloop.

Vane sailed to the Bay Islands capturing sloops along the way. In February of 1719 his ship was caught in a hurricane & wrecked on an uninhabited island. When English ships arrived to collect water near the island Vane tried to join one of the crews under a false name. He was recognised & arrested.

Vane was taken to Spanish Town, Jamaica & held in prison for some time. On 22 March 1721 he was tried for piracy & found guilty. He was sentenced to death & on 29 March was hanged at Gallows Point in Port Royal. His corpse was hung in chains at Gun Cay.

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