- "For I have dipped my hands in muddied waters, and, withdrawing them, find 'tis better to be a commander than a common man!"
- ―Bartholomew Roberts to his crew, on becoming a captain, 1719.[src]
He is regarded by many historians to be the most successful pirate of all time, judging by the number of ships taken and the amount of goods stolen. For his actions, he earned the moniker Black Bart, although the name was never used in his lifetime. His death is often considered to be when the Golden Age of Piracy truly ended.
- "I always fancied it should have a placard at its borders: "Welcome to Casnewydd-Bach, the town you have just passed.""
- ―Bartholomew Roberts regarding his home town, 1719.[src]
John Roberts was born in 1682 in Castell Newydd Bach. It is commonly assumed that he went to sea around the age of thirteen, eventually becoming an experienced sailor.
Imprisonment by Templars
The Templar Order located Roberts sometime in 1715, in Spanish lands in South America, and subsequently took him to Havana. The Assassin Mentor Ah Tabai caught wind of the capture and sent his finest student, Duncan Walpole, to free Roberts and bring him to the Assassin city of Tulum. However, Walpole had secretly turned traitor to the Brotherhood and abandoned his mission.
Roberts eventually arrived in Havana, where he was imprisoned in the estate of Laureano de Torres y Ayala. Torres, his fellow Templars Woodes Rogers and Julien du Casse, along with Edward Kenway – who had killed Walpole and taken his identity – met Roberts at the Havana docks before taking him to the prison.
In transit, he managed to break free when the Templars were attacked by Assassins sent by Ah Tabai, but was chased down by Kenway and escorted to Torres' estate. He was moved later that same day, but escaped soon after and took to the sea.
Slaving in Kingston and Príncipe
In 1717, the Templars learned that Roberts had been recaptured by a Kingston-based slaver named Laurens Prins. Prins had indeed encountered Roberts, but had actually employed him, allowing him to stay in his Kingston estate while planning to sell him out to the Templars.
Kenway, acting on information given by his fellow pirates, confronted Torres and devised a plan to have the Templar Grand Master meet with Prins in Kingston and lead Kenway to Roberts. However, Prins detected Kenway and the Assassin Mary Read and managed to flee back to his mansion.
When Kenway infiltrated Prins' estate and killed him in his gardens, Roberts appeared, declaring that Prins had been his employer instead of his jailer. Shooting an alarm bell to alert guards to Kenway's presence, Roberts escaped once more. Afterwards, he took to working aboard a merchant ship of Barbadian origin.
- "In honest service there are thin commons, low wages, and hard labour. Yet as gentlemen of fortune we enjoy plenty and satisfaction, pleasure and ease, liberty and power... so what man with a sensible mind would choose the former life, when the only hazard we pirates run is a sour look from those without strength or splendor?"
- ―Bartholomew Roberts to his crew, before his first voyage as a pirate captain, 1719.[src]
Roberts eventually began working on board a slave ship called the Princess, captained by Abraham Plumb; this ship made regular trips between Kingston and the Portuguese colony of Príncipe roughly every eight weeks. When the ship was captured by the Welsh pirate Howell Davis, Roberts chose to become a pirate himself. During his time sailing with Howell, he served as Navigator and consultant to the captain. On 19 June 1719, Davis was killed in a Templar-orchestrated ambush at Príncipe, forcing Roberts to go into hiding.
Approached by Kenway once again, the two struck a deal: Kenway would free Roberts' imprisoned crew and kill the Templars John Cockram and Josiah Burgess, in exchange for Roberts leading him to the First Civilization site known as the Observatory; Kenway did as he was asked, recapturing the Princess in the process. Roberts then gave a speech to his crew, declaring his intentions to sail as a pirate, and the two captains returned to the West Indies.
In the following months, Roberts made a name for himself by taking ships and making a fortune. He kept his crew to high standards with an eleven-part creed; it discouraged gambling on the ship, required the men to keep their equipment in good working order, and provided that pirates should live their lives as fully as possible and die before they became weak and old, vulnerable to having their power stripped from them: a philosophy he summed up with the words "a merry life and a short one."
Roberts and Kenway met again off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, where they infiltrated a Portuguese camp to steal First Civilization crystal vials that had been imbued with the blood of both pirates and Templars alike. After completing the heist and commandeering the Portuguese flagship, Nosso Senhor da Compreensão, Roberts renamed her to the Royal Fortune. Afterwards, Kenway killed his former comrade Benjamin Hornigold, who had allied himself with the Templars, to ensure the pirates were not followed, before meeting Roberts again at Long Bay, on the northern shore of Jamaica. The two went ashore with four of Roberts's crew in search of the Observatory.
- "Dirty and decrepit. Not quite as I remember. But it has been over 80 millennia."
- ―Bartholomew Roberts, on the Observatory, 1719.[src]
Edward cleared the jungle of its protective Guardians while Roberts and his crew followed until they reached the Observatory's door. Upon opening it with an incantation, Roberts suddenly shot his four crewmen dead, telling Kenway he did it to save them from the insanity that was sure to follow if they entered the building. However, he believed that Edward could handle the secrets stored within, and instructed him to take up the case of blood vials before they made their way inside.
Roberts informed Kenway of his past as a Sage and his new life as a pirate, including his pirate's creed, as they made their way deeper into the Observatory. He commented on the complex being in much worse condition than what it had been when he last saw it eighty millennia ago, although he still knew how to deactivate the building's security measures once inside.
In the Observatory's antechamber, Roberts showed Kenway exactly what its purpose was, using the blood vials they had taken from the Portuguese and inserting them into a Crystal Skull set into the centerpiece of a golden armillary sphere. Soon, the machine began to operate, projecting the vision and hearing of the individual whose blood was in the vial - a near perfect method of spying on anyone in the world; this was demonstrated as both Roberts and Kenway surveyed through the eyes and ears of Jack Rackham and Woodes Rogers.
Although Kenway agreed with Roberts that the Observatory would be too powerful for the Templars to have control of, Roberts had a different plan on how to stop them, by removing the skull and rendering the Observatory inoperable. Though Edward had hoped to work with Roberts and use the device to increase their wealth, the Sage had other ideas, knocking him into the water below. Revealing that he had only used Kenway to get to the Observatory and acquire the Crystal Skull, Roberts declared Edward's usefulness to be at an end and sealed him inside the temple.
Roberts returned to the shore and ordered his crew to subdue the injured Kenway, who made his way out of the Observatory. Though Edward fought back against the pirates, he eventually collapsed from his injuries, just as the Jackdaw sailed away. Fearing that he would be too dangerous to keep on his crew, Roberts decided to turn Edward over to the British authorities and collect the large bounty on his head.
- "A merry life and a short one, as promised. How well I know myself."
- ―Bartholomew Roberts reciting his motto, 1722.[src]
Over the next two years Roberts captured hundreds of ships, earning the attention of both the British and Spanish navies as well as the Templars; he was forced to retreat to Príncipe, where he was found by Kenway. Roberts attempted to flee aboard the Royal Fortune, keeping the Jackdaw at bay with mortar fire and fire barrels, before moving into open waters where Spanish and British forces engaged him.
Eventually the Royal Fortune was disabled by the Jackdaw and boarded. There, Bartholomew Roberts and Edward Kenway fought one another, with Kenway emerging the eventual victor, having impaled Roberts with a rope dart.
Roberts first noted the aptness of his motto before remarking that he may have misjudged Kenway, and perhaps he was indeed the one 'she' had sought. Roberts expressed regret that he did not have the time to open the door to the Temple, confusing Edward, who demanded he make some sense. Roberts requested that Edward destroy his body in order to prevent the Templars from gaining anything from it, and passed away. Edward then complied with his final request.
- Roberts could be seen wearing a portrait necklace, depicting a visage of a woman, identical to the one worn by John Standish, one of Aita's later incarnations.
- Roberts acquired his outfit from Howell Davis, the Princess' former captain, after the latter's death at Príncipe.