• Imagining History

The Jolly Roger: What is it? - A Speedy Read for Kids

Updated: 4 days ago



What is it? The most well known pirate flag design. If you saw this flag fluttering from the main mast of a ship it meant you were in big trouble!


What does it look like? There's few different style but the most iconic is a white skull with two crossed bones underneath it, placed on a black background.


Who used it? Famous pirates such as "Black Sam" Bellamy and Edward England.

Did you know? Very few pirates actually used the 'vanilla' Jolly Roger flag on their ship. Pirate captains would design their own flags so that others would easily recognise them. Designs often included skeletons, cups, hourglasses and weapons on a red or black background. The Jolly Roger was intended to inspire fear in others, so they gave up without even trying to fight.


Why the Jolly Roger so important? To scare the crew of other ships into submission. Pirate ships would fly a friendly flag - to fool their unwitting victim into thinking they were a chum - before, at the last moment, raising the Jolly Roger. The poor unsuspecting merchant galleon would have nowhere to run, surrender would be the only option.

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