Black Sails is a show that walks the line between what is historically accurate and dramatically pleasing, constantly delivering the best of both worlds. Though the show has had more than its fair share of amazing moments, nothing compared to this week’s shock filled confrontation between Governor Woodes Rogers and Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. The image of Blackbeard, defeated, strung up, and keelhauled, will likely haunt you for sometime, but what is the real story? Were Teach and Rogers adversaries? Did he die in battle? What happened to his body?
Edward Teach is believed to have been born in Bristol to a good family. This combined with the fact that he and Rogers were of similar age has lead some historians to believe that Rogers and Teach knew each other or at the very least had met. Teach (or Thatch) may be an alias that he employed to protect his family from his deeds. There is no direct record of them meeting so this is only educated speculation.
On Black Sails, Teach wants the blood of Rogers initially for the death of Charles Vane and then seemingly for the greater “good” of ending the war and Britain’s occupation of Nassau. They are well aware of each other’s reputation but this is the extent of it.
As for his death, it was spectacular and worthy of the legend. The Governor, Spotswood, dispatched Lieutenant Maynard hunt and kill Blackbeard. The ship to ship battle happened as we saw on Black Sails. Blackbeard fired heavily upon Maynard’s ship and believing that they had all but cleared it, they boarded. Once Blackbeard and his men were on board, Maynard and several men jumped out from below decks and attacked. Blackbeard is said to have taken 20 sword slashed and 5 pistol shots by the time it was done. He had defeated Maynard in battle and was set to deliver his coup de grace when one of Maynard’s men came from behind and slashed at Teach with his broadsword, taking him down. After his death, he was beheaded as proof of death and the head was hung from the bowsprit for the voyage home.
On Black Sails, Teach is keelhauled three times by Rogers. After finding that the pirate king is still alive, Rogers shoots him in the head at point blank range. After which, someone else steps in and begins to decapitate him. It is a gruesome scene from beginning to end but a deviation I understand. Everyone knows the story of Blackbeard’s death. No matter how dramatically portrayed, it is simply too familiar to carry the needed weight. This was a death that the Black Sails version of Blackbeard deserved. One that made us look away in sadness and at the same time, peek in awe of the fallen giant.
His body was made a trophy that frightened lessor men into submission. His death wasn’t the last but it was the turning point. The beginning of the end. Perhaps we should heed that warning.