Our Flag Means Death Finale Explains Blackbeard’s Flag Change

A change to Blackbeard’s famous flag (which was not truly the historical Blackbeard’s flag) is explained in Our Flag Means Death’s season 1 finale.

Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Our Flag Means Death‘s season 1 finale.

The final episode of Our Flag Means Death season 1 offered a reason for why the series made a notable change to the famous flag of Blackbeard. This was a point of some concern to pirate history scholars, who noted the change earlier in the season. However, the change was ultimately revealed to have nothing to do with historical fact or pirate legend and everything to do with foreshadowing the heartbreaking outcome of the season’s final two episodes.

Despite a number of changes from the real story of the historical figures involved, Our Flag Means Death has been largely accurate in its portrayal of the history of real-world pirates like Blackbeard and the Gentleman Pirate Stede Bonnet. In real life, the two captains sailed together for a time in 1717 and Blackbeard built a pirate fleet using Bonnet’s ship, Revenge, as a flagship. However, historians are largely at a loss as to why the infamously ruthless Blackbeard would allow Stede Bonnet to live rather than simply kill him and take control of his ship from him. Our Flag Means Death explained this over the course of season 1 by having Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet become good friends and, in the penultimate episode of the season, developing their friendship into true romance, as Blackbeard sacrificed his freedom to secure royal pardons for himself and Stede. This broadly mirrors the real world history, where Bonnet and Blackbeard both received royal pardons, but later returned to piracy before the end of 1718.

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In Our Flag Means Death, Bonnet and Blackbeard conspired to escape conscription into the British Navy and start new lives together under new identities. Unfortunately, Bonnet was kidnapped by a revenge-seeking captain and missed the rendezvous, forcing Blackbeard to make his escape alone. Blackbeard returned to the Revenge and, after several weeks wallowing in self-pity, resolved to never allow himself to feel love again. Determined to truly be the fearsome blaggard he had only previously played at being, Blackbeard destroyed everything on the Revenge that reminded him of his lost love of him, marooned most of the series’ original crew and changed his flag to reflect his new attitude of him . The previous flag depicting a horned skeleton with a spear and an hourglass was altered to include an additional scrap of black cloth with a red heart dripping blood, representing Blackbeard’s own broken heart and desire to destroy love in any way.



Our Flag Means Death Blackbeard's New Flag In Season 1 Finale

This alteration left Blackbeard’s flag in Our Flag Means Death looking exactly like the pirate flag commonly known as Blackbeard’s Flag. However, this flag, also known as Old Roger was never flown by the real-life Blackbeard. Every account of Blackbeard’s attacks from the newspapers and military dispatches of the day described his ships from him as flying a much simpler design of “Black flags and Deaths Heads in them.” The flag known as Blackbeard’s Flag can be traced back to a 1911 book, The Book of Buried Treasure by Ralph Delahaye Paine, which attributes the Old Roger design to one Captain John Quelch, who sailed in Brazil over a decade before Blackbeard turned to piracy. Unfortunately, multiple books since then have wrongly referred to Old Roger as Blackbeard’s Flag.


While Our Flag Means Death may have been inaccurate in its portrayal of Blackbeard’s flag, its use of Old Roger makes sense within the context of its unique universe. While history buffs may blanch at the change, the question of which flag Blackbeard used is ultimately unimportant to the story of Our Flag Means Death except as a symbol. Additionally, the series has taken far greater liberties with historical accuracy and maritime practice, as with Stede Bonnet reading his crew from Ella Pinocchio as a bedtime story over 100 years before the classic children’s book was originally published. With Our Flag Means Death season 1 having come to close, it seems fair to say that sticklers everywhere would do well to forget about the anachronisms and just enjoy the jokes.


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