Richard Worley

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Richard Worley
Born c. 1686 (1686)
Died February 17, 1719 (1719-02-18) (aged 32)
near Jamestown, Virginia
Piratical career
Type pirate
Years active late September 1718 to February 16, 1719
Base of operations east coast of the American colonies
Wealth Equiv. US $3.8 million today;[1] #16 Forbes top-earning pirates[2]
Worley's flag design, a variant of the "Jolly Roger"

Richard Worley (c.1686 – February 17, 1719) was a pirate who was active in the Caribbean Sea and the east coast of the American colonies during the early 18th century. He is credited as one of the earliest pirates to fly the first version of the skull and crossbones pirate flag. The name of Worley's ship has never been identified, nor those of the four ships that he captured during his five-month career from late September 1718 to February 16, 1719.


He is first recorded leaving New York with a small boat and a crew of eight men hoping to make their fortune in the so-called Golden Age of Piracy. However, their first prize resulted in the capture of household goods from a ship in the Delaware River in September 1718. This attack was technically burglary rather than piracy, as according to British maritime law at the time the attack did not take place in international waters.[3] Local authorities mistakenly attributed the attack to Worley's better-known counterpart Blackbeard, who had raided the same waterways earlier in the year.[4]

Their second prize brought better luck as, upon capturing a sloop bound for Philadelphia, Worley also gained four additional crew members. As they made their way to the Bahamas, however, King George I issued a royal proclamation for the capture and execution of pirates who chose not to accept a royal pardon from the British government. Although the 24-gun warship HMS Phoenix was sent out after Worley, he and his crew were able to evade capture.

Sailing the Spanish Main[edit]

After six weeks off the Bahamas, during which time he captured a brigantine and a sloop as well as additional guns and crew members, he began flying his official colors of a flag with the skull and crossbones. It was during this time that the crew agreed upon a set of articles, which included a vow to fight to the death rather than surrender to authorities.

Capture and execution[edit]

Worley soon prepared to make his return to the colonies, where others such as Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet were enjoying success off Virginia and the Carolinas. When he pulled into Charleston, South Carolina to refit his ship, the governor was informed of his presence and sent two warships against him.

As they reached the mouth of Jamestown harbor, Worley encountered the warships and moved against them, mistaking the ships for merchant vessels. Attempting to block the harbor, he inadvertently trapped his own ship, which was easily disabled by cannon fire. The pirates refused to surrender however, and, as colonial militia boarded the ship, all of the crew were killed (with the exception of Worley and 19 of his crew, who× were seriously injured in the fighting).

Worley and 19 of his crew were sentenced to death the day following their capture and hanged on February 17, 1719. However, another account states Worley was killed in the fighting with some of his crew, while 19 of the crew were captured in the hold of their ship. [3]


  1. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  2. ^ Woolsey, Matt (September 19, 2008). "Top-Earning Pirates". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Seitz, Don Carlos (2002). Under the Black Flag. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 162–164. ISBN 978-0-486-42131-5. 
  4. ^ Konstam, Angus (2006). Blackbeard. John Wiley & Sons. p. 207. ISBN 0-471-75885-X. 

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