Lady Mary Killigrew was a fearless, strong and independent woman who led a double life as a pirate. Her father and husband were both former pirates and were most likely influential sources in her piracy. Lady Mary Killigrew’s husband was appointed by Queen Elizabeth I as Sir Henry Killigrew, forcing him to abandon his life as a pirate. Queen Elizabeth I trusted him to suppress piracy in English waters, requiring him to remain at sea for long periods of time. Lady Mary Killigrew took advantage of these opportunities to engage in her own acts of piracy, often times utilizing the servants in their Arwenack Castle in Cornwall. Some people believe Queen Elizabeth I had knowledge of Lady Mary Killigrew’s covert activities.
Lady Mary Killigrew made a career ending mistake on January 1 of 1583 when she captured the Spanish ship Maria. The ship had been docked at Arwenack Castle where the captain and the crew were entertained by Lady Mary Killigrew. She planned her takeover when she learned there was treasure hidden on their ship. Lady Mary Killigrew put her plan into action when the Captain and his crew ventured further into town. She sneaked onto the ship, killed and tossed the remaining men overboard and then sailed out to sea. When Lady Mary Killigrew and her crew returned to land, they were captured by Queen Elizabeth I’s men. Lady Mary Killigrew was released since there was not enough evidence tying her to the ship. When it came time for trial, Lady Mary Killigrew and her two lieutenants were sentenced to death. Lady Mary Killigrew received a pardon from Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen said she may require her services in the future and did not see it fit to execute her. Lady Mary Killigrew’s servants were not as fortunate and were executed in English court.
Interested in learning more about Lady Killigrew? Remember to not confuse her with Lady Elizabeth Killigrew who was also a pirate during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I during your research. Discover an interesting fact? Let us know in our comments section or sail on over to the Monterey Boats Facebook page.