Maria Cobham

English Female Pirate
   

Born: Unknown

Died: 1760?


According to Philip Gosse in "The Pirate's Who's Who" (1924) and Horwood and Butts in "The Pirates and Outlaws of Canada" (1984), the Cobhams were among the first St. Lawrence pirates to become known for giving “no quarter”, meaning all the captured crews were killed and the ships sunk.

Eric and Maria Cobham were famous for their sadism and cruelty, including using survivors for target practice. They were pirates between 1720 and 1740 after which they relocated to Le Havre, France. They became members of the community and Eric was appointed a judge. Maria could not make the adjustment and went insane, finally committing suicide (or possibly being murdered by Eric).

Eric had an attack of conscience after her death and wrote his memoirs. These memoirs were printed after his death, the family tried to buy and destroy this book, however there is allegedly a copy in the Archives Nationales, Paris. They were survived by 2 sons and a daughter.

Unfortunately the colorful account above is almost certainly fiction, as no-one has ever discovered any mention of the Cobhams earlier than the 1920s. Gosse calls them Captain and Maria Cobham - the forename "Eric" (very unlikely for an eighteenth century Englishman) and the surname "Lindsey" became attached to the story even later. (Gosse would certainly have included these details if he had had access to them. He also gives no dates, a very suspicious circumstance.)

There is no record of them either in South-Western England, where they supposedly originated, on the Canadian coast where their piracies are reported to have taken place, or in the area of Le Havre, where they are supposed to have settled: it is extraordinarily unlikely that they could have had the career described in the mid-eighteenth century without leaving a single documentary trace.

Also, Gosse states that Maria wanted her husband to buy "Mapleton Hall, Poole". There is no Mapleton Hall in or near Poole; indeed, there are no Mapleton place names in the whole of the West Country, nor any record that there ever were. Thus, part of the earliest known version of the story is demonstrably false, none of it is demonstrably true, and all of it is highly unlikely.


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