William Kidd was born on January 22, 1654 to a wealth family in Dundee, Scotland. His father died in 1659, leaving the family destitute and forcing Kidd to get a job. His love of the sea led him to become a sailor, taking jobs on various ships for many years.
After war broke out between England and France, Kidd managed to steal a French ship and add some prestige to his name. He moved to New York City in 1691 after three decades of sailing and married a woman named Sarah Bradley Cox Oort. The family became rather wealthy after receiving the property of her previous dead husbands and had two daughters. He quickly entered the important social circles, befriending prominent citizens and political officials.
In his free time, Kidd continued sailing and now had his own ship and crew. He primarily worked as a privateer, capturing pirates who attacked merchant ships off the coast of New England. In late 1691, his ship was stolen by the notorious Captain Culliford while he was ashore at Antigua.
On December 11, 1691, Richard Cote, the governor of New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, asked Kidd to embark on a journey to capture or kill pirates and any French ships along the way. Most of the cost of the expedition was paid for by English royalty although Kidd invested a great deal of his own money as well.
With all of the capital, Kidd purchased a fast ship called the Adventure Galley. The ship weighed 284 tons and was equipped with 34 cannon and 150 men. Kidd personally selected the crew, choosing only the best officers available, and set sail. Unfortunately, the ship was stopped by the HMS Duchess, whose captain stole much of Kidd's crew for service in the British Navy. After getting some replacement men from the mainland (many of whom turned out to be pirates and criminals), Kidd once again set sail.
It was September of 1696 when the expedition finally got underway, but tragedy struck when a third of his crew died from cholera. The voyage was also delayed by leaks in the hull, but they were able to repair them. The first successful attack resulted in the capture of a French ship, after which he sailed eastward to Madagascar.
After sailing the area and being unable to find anyone, the crew sailed northeast to the Malabar Coast. By this time, the crew was becoming restless and many deserted the ship when they approached the coast of India. The remaining crew members became mutinous and the situation grew more dire as time went on.
On October 30, 1697, William Moore, the gunner, was sharpening a chisel on deck. When Kidd approached, he furiously shouted, "You have brought us to ruin and we are desolate! I could have put you in the way of taking that ship and be none the worse for it!". After a strongly-worded argument and scuffle, Kidd threw a bucket at Moore, fracturing his skull. Moore died a day later, but that did not quiet the crew's calls for mutiny.
Kidd finally snapped and turned into a pirate. He and his crew began attacking any non-English ships and plundering everything on board. People who survived attacks by Kidd and his crew told horrible tales of torture and imprisonment on board the ship.
On January 30, 1698, Kidd's ship hoisted a French flag for a disguise and seized the Quedagh Merchant. The ship was Armenian and filled with a fortune in gold, silver, and expensive materials. The captain of the ship was an Englishman and when Kidd realized this, he attempted to have his crew return the loot. But the crew refused and Kidd sailed on, eventually claiming that the ship was a legal target since it was sailing under the protection of the French government.
By now, news of Kidd's piracy had finally reached England and the British East India Company named him as a pirate. Members of the British Navy and privateers were subsequently ordered to seek out Kidd in order to capture or kill him.
On April 1, 1698, Kidd's ship returned to Madagascar from India. There, he found Robert Culliford, the same pirate who had stolen his ship years earlier. Kidd ordered his crew to attack the Mocha Frigate, captained by Culliford, but most of his crew skipped ship to join Culliford's crew. Kidd was left with only 13 of his most loyal crewmembers and decided to sail home.
Since the Adventure Galley was no longer seaworthy, Kidd and his remaining crew moved to the Quedagh Merchant, the ship they had seized earlier, and renamed it the Adventure Prize. When Kidd finally reached New York City, his reputation had preceded him and everyone knew that he was a pirate. After learning that the governor was in Boston, he sailed there.
At Boston, he contacted a lawyer who negotiated with the governor for Kidd to come ashore. Immediately after landing, Kidd was arrested and thrown into solitary confinement at Stone Prison. After a year, he was shipped to England to stand trial.
On May 8, 1698, Kidd's trial began and he was charged with piracy on the high seas and the murder of William Moore. During the trial, Kidd was kept at Newgate Prison and wrote numerous letters to the King and Queen of England asking to be released. However, his attempts at appeal failed and he was found guilty of all charges.
For his crimes, Kidd was sentenced to death by hanging. The execution was carried out on May 23, 1701 at the infamous "Execution Dock" in London. After he died, his body was placed in an iron cage hanging over the Thames River to serve as a warning to future would-be pirates.