|"Aye, sea turtles!"|
"What did he use for rope?" The factual accuracy of this article or section is disputed.
George Roberts (father)
|Also known as||
|Ship(s) captained or crewed|
|Behind the scenes|
Cary Elwes (voice)
Bartholomew Roberts, also known as Black Bart, was a Welsh pirate who operated in the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean from 1719 to 1722. Black Bart was easily the most successful pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy, having been known to have captured over 400 ships in his day.
The son of George Roberts of Little Newcastle, Wales, John Roberts was born May 17, 1682. Going to sea at 13, Roberts appears to have worked in the merchant service until 1719. For some reason during this time Roberts changed his name from John to Bartholomew. In 1718, Roberts served as a mate of a sloop trading around Barbados. The following year he signed on as third mate of the London-owed slave ship Princess. Serving under Captain Abraham Plumb, Roberts traveled to Anomabu, Ghana in 1719. While off the coast of Africa, the Princess was captured by the pirate vessels Royal Rover and Royal James led by Howell Davis.
Coming aboard the Princess, Davis forced several of Plumb's men, including Roberts to join his crew. A reluctant recruit, Roberts soon found favor when Davis learned that he was a skilled navigator. A fellow Welshman, Davis frequently conversed with Roberts in Welsh which allowed them to speak without the rest of the crew comprehending their discussion. After several weeks of cruising, the Royal James had to be abandoned due to worm damage. Steering for Isle of Princes, Davis entered the harbor flying British colors. While repairing the ship, Davis began planning to capture the Portuguese governor.
Inviting the governor to dine aboard the Royal Rover, Davis was in turn asked to the fort for a drink prior to the meal. Having discovered Davis' true identity, the Portuguese planned an ambush. As Davis' boat neared, they opened fire killing the pirate captain. Fleeing the harbor, the crew of the Royal Rover was forced to elect a new captain. Though he had only been aboard for six weeks, Roberts was selected by the men to take command. Returning to the Isle of Princes after dark, Roberts and his men looted the town and killed the majority of the male population.
Though he had initially been an unwilling pirate, Roberts took to his new role as captain feeling that it was "Better being a commander than a common man." After capturing two ships, the Royal Rover put into Anamboe for provisions. While in port, Roberts had his crew vote on the destination of their next voyage. Selecting Brazil, they crossed the Atlantic Ocean and anchored at Ferdinando to refit the ship. With this work completed, they spent nine fruitless weeks searching for shipping. Shortly before abandoning the hunt and moving north to the West Indies, Roberts located a fleet of 42 Portuguese merchant ships.
Entering Todos os Santos' Bay, Roberts captured one of the ships. Confronting its captain, he forced the man to point out the richest ship in the merchant fleet. The captain pointed to the Sagrada Familia, a 40-gun warship. Moving swiftly, Roberts' men swarmed aboard the Sagrada Familia and seized over 40,000 gold moidors as well as jewelry and other valuables. Departing the bay, they sailed north to Devil's Island to enjoy their loot. Several weeks later, Robert captured a sloop off the River Surinam. Shortly thereafter a brig was sighted. Eager for more plunder, Roberts and 40 men took the sloop to pursue it.
While they were gone, Roberts' subordinate, Walter Kennedy, and the rest of the crew sailed away with the Rover, the Sagrada Familia, and the entire treasure taken off Brazil. Irate, Roberts' drew up new, strict articles to govern his crew and made the men swear to them on a Bible. Renaming the sloop Fortune they proceeded to attack shipping around Barbados. In response to his actions, the merchants on the island fitted out two ships to seek and capture the pirates. On February 26, 1720, they found and engaged Roberts and a pirate sloop captained by Montigny la Palisse. While Roberts turned to fight, la Palisse fled.
In the ensuing battle, the Fortune was badly damaged and 20 of Roberts' men were killed. Able to escape, he sailed for Dominica for repairs, evading pirate hunters from Martinique en route. Swearing vengeance on both islands, Roberts turned north and sailed to Newfoundland. After raiding the port of Ferryland, he entered the harbor of Trepassey and captured 22 ships. Commandeering a brig to replace his sloop, Roberts armed it with 16 guns and renamed it the Fortune. Departing in June 1720, he quickly captured ten French ships and took one of them for his fleet. Naming it the Good Fortune he armed it with 26 guns.
Returning to the Caribbean, Roberts put into Carriacou to careen the Good Fortune. When this was completed he renamed the ship Royal Fortune and moved to attack St. Kitts. Entering Basse Terra Roads, he quickly captured all of the shipping in the harbor. After a brief stay on St. Bartholomew, Roberts' fleet began attacking shipping off St. Lucia and took 15 ships in three days. Among the prisoners was James Skyrme who became one of Roberts' captains. Through the spring of 1721, Roberts' and his men effectively stopped trade in the Windward Islands.
After capturing and hanging the governor of Martinique in April 1721, Roberts set course for West Africa. On April 20, Thomas Anstis, the captain of the Good Fortune, left Roberts during the night and returned to the West Indies. Pressing on, Roberts arrived at the Cape Verde Islands where he was forced to abandon the Royal Fortune due to heavy leaking. Transferring to the sloop Sea King, he renamed the vessel Royal Fortune. Making landfall off Guinea in early June, Roberts quickly captured two French ships which he added to his fleet as Ranger and Little Ranger.
Operating off Sierra Leone later that summer, Roberts captured the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Onslow. Taking possession, he made it his flagship with the name Royal Fortune. Following several months of successful plundering, Roberts attacked and occupied the port of Ouidah taking ten ships in the process. Moving to Cape Lopez, Roberts took time to careen and repair his ships. While there, the pirates were spotted by the HMS Swallow, commanded by Captain Chaloner Ogle. Believing the Swallow to be a merchant ship, Roberts sent James Skyrme and the Ranger in pursuit. Leading the pirate vessel out of sight of Cape Lopez, Ogle turned and opened fire. Quickly defeating Skyrme, Ogle turned and set course for Cape Lopez.
Seeing the Swallow approach on February 10, Roberts believed it to be the Ranger returning from the hunt. Rallying his men, many of whom were drunk after capturing a ship the day before, Roberts sailed out in the Royal Fortune to meet Ogle. Roberts plan was to pass the Swallow and then fight in open water where escape would be easier. As the ships passed, the Swallow opened fire. The Royal Fortune's helmsman then erred allowing the British ship to unleash a second broadside. At that moment, Roberts was struck in the neck by grapeshot and killed. His crew threw his body overboard to avoid the corpse being captured.
In Davy Jones' Locker
- "I fear one of your unwanted guests has to toodle-oo to the Brethren Court. So, mate, if you'd be as kind as to unlock his cell..."
"So much blathering, blah, blah, blah. You're a pirate. If you want something, don't ask for it. Take it!"
- ―Jack Sparrow and Bartholomew Roberts
Jack Sparrow later encountered Black Bart in Davy Jones' Locker, after the former was taken there by the Kraken. Black Bart had imprisoned the Pirate Lord of the Atlantic Ocean, Gentlemen Jocard, who Jack Sparrow wanted at the Conclave at Shipwreck Cove. The two subsequently fought, and Roberts was defeated by Sparrow. After being stabbed by Sparrow, Roberts gave a maniacal laugh and then, simply disappeared, leaving only his boots and sword behind.
As an interesting coda to Roberts' exploits, Jack Sparrow was known to have encountered Black Bart, along with Scarlett and Giselle, following the death of Lord Cutler Beckett, presumably during his search for the Fountain of Youth. Bart seemed less hostile to him than he had been whilst inside the Locker, and let him climb aboard his ship. His further fate is unknown.
Personality and traits
- "An incredible shot! I think I've proven who the best pirate here is!"
"Well done, Captain Roberts! But wouldn't the best pirate here be one who is still alive?"
- ―Bartholomew Roberts and Jack Sparrow
For his time, Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts was an unusual pirate. Though known for his dashing appearance—marked by a predilection for feathers, gold diamonds, and a silk holster to hold his pistols—Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts was anything but a gentleman. He looted as many ships and took as many prisoners as any of his contemporaries, but he was also known for a certain paradoxical moderation; preferring tea over rum and discipline over chaos. He regularly observed the Sabbath and even had a chaplain on board to perform Sunday services. He nearly always returned the looted ship to her rightful captain and never forced anyone to join his crew against his will. However, he could be as ruthless as any of his pirate peers.
Some pirates have experimented with dressing entirely in the lace and brocasde of a woman. In fact, no less a legend than Bartholomew Roberts is said to have enjoyed the touch of a lady's gown. (Granted, it's more often rumored that Black Bart was a woman.)
Roberts was one of the few pirate captains who had more than one pirate flag. His first flag showed him and Death holding an hourglass. His second flag showed him standing on two skulls, representing the heads of a Barbadian and a Martiniquian.
Equipment and skills
Roberts was an expert navigator, which is why he had to join pirates in the first place. Though hesitant to join at first, he ultimately chose to go with them because he was drawn to the fair democratic ways of a pirate, and compared to the poor quality of life as a man in the navy, piracy was a faster, albeit more dangerous, route to fortune. After the death of his captain, he proved himself to be a good captain and great and fearless leader. He was also a skilled fencer, though he carried several pistols into battle as well.
Roberts owed his success to many factors, including his personal charisma and leadership, his daring and ruthlessness and his ability to co-ordinate small fleets to maximum effect. Wherever he was, commerce came to a halt, as fear of him and his men made merchants stay in port.
Behind the scenes
- Black Bart was voiced by Cary Elwes in the At World's End video game. This may be a reference to Elwes' role in The Princess Bride, wherein he played the hero 'Westley', alias 'the Man in Black', alias 'the Dread Pirate Roberts'.
- Captain Bartholomew Roberts was going to be featured in the captain's cabin scene of Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean back when it was originally to be a walk-through attraction.
- A character named "Black Barty" appeared in the video game Kinect Disneyland Adventures, as a meet-and-greet character along the Rivers of America in New Orleans Square. It is unknown if this character and Black Bart Roberts are meant to be one and the same.
- It is quite possible that Black Bart's appearance in the At World's End video game is non-canon. Reasons being that while he and Jack Sparrow met in the game, either in Davy Jones' Locker or during the start of Jack's quest for the Fountain of Youth, they never met in the films.
- In the non-canonical comic The Buccaneer's Heart!, Bartholomew Roberts appeared as a spirit imprisoned in the Buccaneer's Heart, and was ultimately freed when Will Turner smashed the object. However, because the comic is non-canon, as well as his appearance in the At World's End video game, his appearance in the comic is disputed.
- Black Bart appears in the video game Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned. But, since that game was cancelled, it is unknown if Bart's appearance in the game is canon or not.
- Since both Bartholomew Roberts and Henry Morgan appear together as spirits in The Buccaneer's Heart! and make several references to the Pirate's Code, it was believed that Roberts was the "Bartholomew" who helped Morgan in creating the Code. However, the rumor was proved false when it was confirmed in Pirates of the Caribbean: Legends of the Brethren Court that "Bartholomew" was a Pirate Lord during the Second Brethren Court when the Pirata Codex was made, and Bartholomew Roberts wasn't even born at that time.
- One of the featurettes on the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl DVD/Blu-ray edition is about Bartholomew Roberts.
- The name of Roberts' ship, the Royal Fortune, was originally planned for the ship crewed by skeletons in the original ride.
- Charles Dixon's painting of the HMS Swallow attacking Bartholomew Roberts' flagship the Royal Fortune in the battle of Cape Lopez can be seen on the walls of Carrera de la Vega's cabin on his galleon and inside the Faithful Bride tavern in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned (Ambiguously canonical source)
- The Buccaneer's Heart! (Non-canonical appearance) (Spirit only)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (video game) (First appearance) (Ambiguously canonical source)
- Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Story of the Robust Adventure in Disneyland and Walt Disney World
- Below Deck: An Interactive History Of Pirates
- Bring Me That Horizon: The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (video game)
- The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook
Notes and references
- Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Story of the Robust Adventure in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, p13.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (video game) (PlayStation 3 version)
- Bring Me That Horizon: The Making of Pirates of the Caribbean, p26.
- The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook, p. 31
- The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook, p. 80
- The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook, p55.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies, p25.
- The Buccaneer's Heart!