William Kidd (c. 1645 – May 23, 1701)
Historians know little of Kidd's early life. At his trial, he named Captain John Kyd as his father and his place of birth as Dundee, Scotland. His father was lost at sea and a legal society provided funds for the family. He possibly became part of the pirate life at an early age. By 1689, he was a crewman on a pirate ship in the Caribbean. Kidd and the crew mutinied and disposed of the captain. Kidd became the captain of the ship, now renamed the Blessed William.
Defender of Nevis
After the mutiny, the Blessed William sailed for Nevis, a small island in the Caribbean Sea that had a British colony. Nevis governor Christopher Coddington enlisted Kidd to help defend the island against French attack. His ship joined several others to form a small fleet. In lieu of pay, the governor permitted Kidd and his men to take their pay from any French ships they attacked, thus beginning his career as a privateer. He sailed for New York. While in New York, Kidd helped build Trinity Church and married twice widowed Sarah Bradley Cox Oort, one of the wealthiest women in New York, in 1691. During this time, he became friends with Governor Bellamont.
French pirates plagued New York merchants during this time. To solve the problem, Belamont asked Kidd to accept a private privateering contract with some of New York's merchants. Kidd accepted. The merchants outfitted him with a new ship, the Adventure Galley. Many of England’s most powerful men supported the venture financially, and Kidd received a letter of marquee signed by William III of England, allowing him to attack French shipping. Thus empowered, Kidd departed England in May 1696.