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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Lt. Robert Maynard: Rewards of Killing a Pirate!

In my book, Murder at Ocracoke!, I discuss the mission to destroy Edward Thache, known as Blackbeard the Pirate, in the proprietary colony of North Carolina:
[Virginia's Lt. Gov. Alexander] Spotswood appeared to collude with Royal Navy forces, originally sent to guard Virginia from pirates, to murder Edward Thache in North Carolina. Capt. Ellis Brand of 20-gun sixth-rate HMS Lyme and Capt. George Gordon of 42-gun fifth-rate HMS Pearl supplied the men, including Lt. Robert Maynard of HMS Pearl to lead the expedition. Two local Virginia sloops, Ranger and Jane, were hired for this purpose and they sailed from Kiquotan on November 17, 1718 to hunt Edward Thache and kill him in North Carolina, which they accomplished five days later...

The man who killed Blackbeard the Pirate had made a name for himself through this action, particularly in the media. Still, Lt. Robert Maynard's theft of gold and other valuables, estimated from £1200 to £1400, in the amount of the sales proceeds.from the famed pirate Edward Thache, when captured and killed on November 22, 1718, hurt his career. This was not necessarily because of the crime, which the Admiralty and their lawyer Anthony Cracherode could not definitively prove, but because of further demands made, time, and expense he incurred upon the Admiralty and the media campaign that ensued - a media campaign that most certainly annoyed Secretary Josiah Burchett and his superiors.

This exploration also illustrates the value of genealogical inquiry into historical subjects, especially in light of the massive amount of documentary data that has been digitized and recently made available to online researchers.

When any Royal Navy officer captures or kills a pirate, the pirate's "booty" became the property of the king until its ownership was otherwise determined. Maynard was accused by his own captain, George Gordon, of pocketing significant amounts of that booty! Taking the money and goods not only annoyed his superiors in London, but Maynard's further demands for bounty payments for killing Thache and capturing his crew also worked against him. Furthermore, he made a media spectacle of the affair to draw attention to his desire, like wealthy pirate Richard Tookerman did to Capt. Edward Vernon.  Maynard paid for this, but not heavily - perhaps his family affiliations protected him.

Career navy officer Robert Maynard, of Great Mongeham, Kent, England, after beginning his career as an 18-year old lieutenant in 1706, died as a captain in 1751 at the age of 63. Maynard, as the grandson of Major General Thomas Handasyd (through his mother Ann; a governor of Jamaica from 1702-1711), he qualified as an officer at a time when military attainment was more due to your connections than your actual ability.

Still, Maynard only attained the rank of captain after 35 years of service. He spent the first 32 years of his navy career as a lieutenant and only then, in 1739, was promoted to commander at the age of 44. After 1739, as commander, Maynard was finally given the command of 8-gun HMS Cumberland, captured Spanish Princesa in consort with HMS Lennox, and then promoted to captain the next year, with command of 20-gun Sheerness. It was only after attaining the coveted rank of captain in 1740 that his career took off. By 1741, he improved his career quickly by commanding three 50-gun vessels, Falmouth, Sutherland, and Antelope. After attaining 80-gun Russel in 1744, he also succeeded to the captaincy of 70-gun Ipswich by 1745. This was his last command.

At the time he killed Blackbeard and while serving aboard HMS Pearl, under Capt. Gordon, he briefly enjoyed promotion from 2nd lieutenant to 1st. But, a few years later, aboard 70-gun HMS Kent, we find that he had been bucked back to 2nd.The Blackbeard incident obviously had a deleterious effect on his career, if only briefly.

According to data from the latter 18th century in an article by Professor N.A.M. Rodger of Exeter University in 2001, lieutenants in general were becoming far more numerous than commanders by 1720. So, obtaining the rank of commander, rather than captain, by the age of 40 meant less favor with the Admiralty than most, in general, of course - assuming that issues of greater wealth and family importance were insignificant on average. Also, the number of serving lieutenants, as opposed to those available, showed that merely serving on one of his Majesty's vessels was probably a indication of wealth and/or distinction - hunting pirates also gave one a better chance to collect bounty payments and was much desired by most of the crew. Still, greed of the privileged classes, theft from pirates,and other general corruption in Royal Navy officers, was not at all uncommon, as I make quite clear in my upcoming book, Sailing East: West-Indian Pirates in Madagascar. In some cases, the theft is bold enough to gather attention - not the case, however, with Robert Maynard. Excessive paperwork was far more tedious for the Admiralty. Note, however, that they may have demoted him, but did not remove Maynard from the active list!


After killing the pirate, Lt. Maynard wrote a letter, allegedly dated 17 December in North Carolina, to his friend "Lt. [Richard] Symonds," 25 days after the battle telling about the capture of the famed pirate. This letter was published by the controversial Jacobite author of A General History of the Pyrates while in the midst of the Admiralty's negotiations with Robert Maynard. He also allegedly wrote a letter to his sister Margeret Peck* (1688-1776), wife of Capt. John Peck (d.1725), then living in Attleborough, Bristol County, Massachusetts.
* Note: Margaret married Capt. John Peck 1st 28 Jan 1710, St, Dunstan, Stepney, Middlesex, England – children Thomas, John, and Ann - 2nd on 11 Apr 1726 to Capt. Thomas Mitchell Jr. (1660-1741 RI); National Archives of London, “Will of Capt. Robert Maynard” (12 Oct 1750 – 28 March 1751), PROB 11/786/442.

Illustrating the apparent official disfavor for Maynard was the career of this friend Richard Symonds, a lieutenant aboard HMS Phoenix, Captain Vincent Pearse, stationed at New York in December 1718. Maynard had been a nominally-successful lieutenant for 12 years up till his killing of Blackbeard. By contrast to Maynard's long 32 years as a lowly lieutenant, Symonds had gone from lieutenant to captain in only 20 years!

April 25 1719 Weekly Journal and Saturday Evening's Post - alleged Maynard letter from Nathaniel Mist's (aka "Capt. Charles Johnson," controversial author of A General History of the Pyrates) newspaper.

Symonds also was 1st commissioned in 1706 (perhaps why and when he became friends with Robert Maynard) and became captain of sloop Shark, commissioned in 1733 for the Bahamas station (follow here: John D Grainger, 13 Sharks: The Careers of a series of small Royal Navy Ships, from the Glorious Revolution to D-Day.). An interesting note here is that, on Shark's first voyage to the Bahamas, she carried their new governor Richard FitzWilliam, replacing Bahamas' pirate liberator Woodes Rogers who had recently passed away. FitzWilliam had been a significant part of Blackbeard's story. He had defended many of Edward Thache's men against Spotswood's charges of piracy - he was rumored to have been paid from their Queen Anne's Revenge or the original La Concorde French booty: gold dust and slaves.

As the  Shark returned from her Bahamas-Carolina station to the Nore, a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames estuary off the traditional anchorage for the Admiralty at the Downs, Kent. A serious illness had struck the crew of Shark.

Capt. Symonds requested a "a surgeon and surgeon's mate" on 4 August and still had not received "surgeon's chest," apparently desperately needed on Shark at the Downs on 12 October 1739 (records in ADM 106/913 and ADM 106/842, found at National Archives in Kew Gardens). Capt. Symonds was "still awaiting his surgeon Miles Williams and has sick on board," had been ill himself since 20 September and sailed to Dover without the chest, but "his Surgeon has supplied himself with necessaries for some time." Capt. Symonds had finally achieved the captaincy of 50-gun HMS Colchester in November 1740, just after this incident and died only two months later while at Georgia. Whether this was from his recent illness we might be able to determine from a closer study of the documents at the National Archives of Great Britain. Symonds friend Capt. Robert Maynard's career had finally taken off at the time his long-time friend had died.

Will of Richard Symonds of the Parish of Saint Margaret Westminster, 24 September 1733, probated 22 January 1741.

Capt. Richard Symonds, Esq. died unmarried, in January 1741. He was then in Georgia at the time. His body would have been buried at sea. As many navy officers, he made his will in 1733 just as Shark was commissioned and he was assigned overseas. His home was then in Wolvey, Warwickshire and his executor left much evidence of his effort to settle his affairs, also in the archives.

That he had still remained associated with Robert Maynard's family is apparent in the court case of Symonds v Boothby (1740-1744; C 11/1081/35) wherein plaintiff "William White (executor of Richard Symonds deceased of Wolvey, Warwickshire), William White junior and Elizabeth Symonds, sister of Richard, also involved Maynard's nephew "John Peck" as a defendant.

Capt. Robert Maynard followed his friend a decade later. "Will of Captain Robert Maynard of the Parish of Great Mongeham in the County of Kent" mentions £500 of South Seas Annuities for his daughter-in-law Elizabeth Judson, £300 to the "Ann Widow & Relict of my late Brother Captain Thomas Maynard," his mother "Mrs. Ann [Handasyd] Maynard," £200 to "friend Mr. Thomas Gee of Holborn," £500 each to "Nephews Thomas and [Boston glazier] John Peck and to my Niece Ann...," children of his sister, "Margaret [Peck] Mitchell." The will was dated 12 October 1750. It was probated 28 March 1751. Obviously, he acquired quite the fortune in his Majesty's service - by killing pirates! At least by £1200 to £1400! ūüėČ

Will of Captain Robert Maynard of the Parish of Great Mongeham in the County of Kent - dated 12 October 1750 and probated 28 March 1751
Stone states his death occurred in 1760. This may or may not be the memorial for the same man. Just in case, here!

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