The Pirates Code is an essential set of rules (or guidelines) in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but are they a real part of piracy history? While Disney’s wildly popular franchise is full of supernatural curses and exaggerations, some aspects of the story surrounding Captain Jack Sparrow and the rest are inspired by actual events and locations. Still, even these were significantly changed by the Pirates movies—including the Pirate Code.
The Code of the Brethren Court (often reverently called “the Code”) was first mentioned in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie—The Curse of the Black Pearl —when Elizabeth Swann enacted the right of parley. She claimed that according to the rules established by Morgan and Bartholomew, the pirates that had broken into her house and murdered her attendants were bound to bring her unharmed to their captain.
Over the subsequent Pirates of the Caribbean movies, it becomes clear that not all pirates respect the code as much as others, but it was still deeply important—more so than its real-world counterpart.
The Pirate Code In Pirates Of The Caribbean Was Based In True History
Real-world history indicates that there was a pirate code and that notable pirates like Bartholomew Roberts and Henry Morgan got the ball rolling. However, there was never any universal set of rules for pirates that a Brethren Court recorded as in Pirates of the Caribbean. Instead, several different pirate codes were created by captains as a means to govern their ships.
Like in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, most of the rules in the historical pirate codes involved how treasure would be divided among the crew. From there, they often addressed how certain crimes would be handled, such as theft, assisting stowaways, or killing. Finally, the remainder of the rules would have a lot to do with handling disputes within the crew and keeping the ship safe (like no open flame below deck). These differed from ship to ship, and when new captains took over, they would make their own changes. Eventually, trends were set, and many ships followed a similar code.
Who Was The Real Bartholomew Roberts Mentioned In POTC?
Elizabeth mentioned Bartholomew Roberts and Henry Mogan in Pirates of the Caribbean, both of whom truly were important when it came to the idea of a pirate code—but Bartholomew likely had the most impact. He was known as one of the wealthiest pirates during the “Golden Age” of piracy (1650 – 1730) and had a crew of over 200 men. In a way, he was like the Pirate Lords in POTC and was running a massive business operation—so he is thought to be one of the first pirates to establish a code for his ship. He set several of the familiar rules seen in Pirates of the Caribbean and more as well.
Though Elizabeth implied that Henry Morgan (the famous Captain Morgan) created the Pirate Code with Bartholomew, this isn’t strictly true. Instead, Morgan is just another of the many pirates recorded to have used a code to govern his ship (inspired by Bartholemew’s rules). Overall, the rules made sure that pirates got paid, were compensated if they lost a limb, didn’t accidentally set fire to the ship, and even that they never touched a woman without her consent. Overall, the authentic Pirate Code was a little less exciting than in Pirates of the Caribbean—but essential nonetheless.