Discovering Sir Henry Morgan

A portrait of Henry Morgan hanging in the Brown Room at Tredegar House

Captain Henry Morgan; infamous privateer, household name and - most importantly – inspiration of our annual pirate celebrations! But who was this so called ‘Buccaneer King’ and how is he connected to our Morgans of Tredegar?

A fearsome conqueror

There are many stories telling of the heroic adventures of Sir Henry Morgan and his unwavering determination for fame and fortune. Regularly confused as a pirate due to his often brutal and illegitimate actions, he was in fact a privateer.

Funded by the English crown, Sir Henry made his name plundering and raiding colonies along the Spanish Main in the late seventeenth century. His exploits against the Spaniards – then considered the most powerful nation on earth – were so revered they earned him a knighthood from King Charles II in 1664 and later he was made Governor of Jamaica.

A remarkable leader and a fearsome conqueror, Captain Morgan cemented his name into the history books as a true hero of the Caribbean and the English nation. However, there is still a certain amount of mystery shrouding the escapades of this particular Morgan.

Sir Henry Morgan
Sir Henry Morgan

The unknown early years

There is little known about Henry Morgan’s life before he arrived in Jamaica in his early twenties with the hope of joining the English buccaneers who had settled there. It is thought he was born in 1635 in Llanrumney to a cadet branch of the Morgan family and had trouble settling into the monotonous life of such quiet surroundings.

Sir Henry’s connections to the Morgans of Tredegar are not confirmed by any substantial evidence. He never lived at Tredegar House himself and there is no evidence to say he ever visited the estate. However, in his will he makes reference to "my ever honourable cousin, Mr. Thomas Morgan of Tredegar." Similarly, in 1862 William Morgan of Tredegar when writing a letter on behalf of Henry Morgan refers to him as "a relation and formerly a neer neighbour."

Both these references would suggest that the Morgans of Tredegar were certainly familiar with Sir Henry and William Morgan’s indication that he was a “neer neighbour” would appear to confirm that Henry Morgan did indeed grow up just down the road from Tredegar House.

Pirates take over Tredegar House
Children dressed as pirates play in the gardens at Tredegar House

The legend lives on

Henry Morgan’s name lives on today, most notably through a certain well-known brand of rum. His adventures have inspired films such as The Black Swan (1942), Blackbeard the Pirate (1952) and Pirates of Tortuga (1961) and his name and persona have featured books such as Rafael Sabatini's 1922 novel Captain Blood and John Steinbeck's first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).

However distant Henry Morgan’s connections to Tredegar House, we celebrate his heroics each year with festivities in the house and gardens.