“You may have seen the picture, in Johnson's Historie, which shows Anne Bonney as a strapping virago" - The Tale of a Pirate Queen

8 March 1702, the pirate Anne Bonny was born in Kinsale, Ireland.

“You may have seen the picture, in Johnson's Historie, which shows Anne Bonney as a strapping virago in deplorable trousers and inadequate blouse, armed with cutlass, battle-axe, and pistols, one of which she is discharging at some unfortunate off camera. But that was ages ago, when she'd been a wild young pirate groupie racketing around with Calico Jack, scuttling ships, slitting throats, ravishing innocent youths, and styling herself “Ms.” Nowadays the bra-burning buccaneerette had become an exquisitely languid young matron who ate far too much creamy food, dieted self-indulgently, read popular novels in bed, crammed herself into fashionable creations, and couldn't have roused herself to scuttle or slit a paper bag, although she remained passionately addicted to young men, innocent or not, because (she maintained) it took her mind off slimming.“ (George MacDonald Fraser, “The Pyrates”)

A colourised version of Anne Bonny’s portrait from Charles Johnson’s “A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates“ (1724)

out of wedlock in Kinsale in Ireland and emigrating to America at a very young age with her father, little Anne Cormac must have been something of an enfant terrible: A redhead with a fierce temper who ran off with a pirate from Charleston and was disinherited by her father who got his plantation burned down for his pains by his little darling. Anne ended up as Mrs Bonny in the pirate sanctuary of New Providence, known as Nassau these days, and while the husband of her bosom earned a penny on the side as an informer for the governor of the island, the illustrious Woodes Rogers, Anne hung round in sailor taverns, met the notorious pirate captain “Calico Jack” Rackham, the two fell in love, went aboard Charles Vane’s sloop “Ranger” where Rackham had a job as first mate and the two became an eighteenth century version of “Bonnie and Clyde”.

John "Calico Jack" Rackham

Soon famed and feared among her victims as well as by the crew of the “Ranger” for her skill at arms, Anne was on parental leave in 1720, giving birth to her and “Calico Jack’s” son in Cuba. She returned to work soon afterwards only to go into business for themselves when she and Jack gathered a crew and stole the sloop “Revenge”. Anne showed some interest in one of her new mates, a sailor named Read, taken on board after the capture of a Dutch slaver, and things threatened to end up in a drama of jealousy until it turned out that Read was actually a girl called Mary. In something of a ménage-à-trois, Rackham, Bonny and Read terrorised Caribbean waters while a warrant was issued by Governor Rogers and on a fine October morning off Jamaica’s west coast, while Jack and his crew recovered from a rum party, HM Frigate “Phoenix”, Cpt Jonathan Barnet, turned up, boarded the “Revenge” and while Anne and Mary were the only ones being halfway sober and putting up some resistance, “Revenge’s” crapulous crew was captured.

Mary Read and Anne Bonny from Charles Johnson's “A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates“ (1724)

The whole rum lot was sentenced to the rope in New Providence, Anne and Mary escaped that fate by pleading their bellies, meaning they were pregnant and couldn’t be hanged immediately under English law, Mary died in prison, probably in childbirth, in 1721. Jack went to the scaffold with his wife’s words: “I’m sorry to see you here, Jack, but if you’d fought like a man, you wouldn't need to hang like a dog.” already in 1720 and Anne herself was very probably ransomed by her father, returned to his repaired plantation, married a Charleston local named Joseph Burleigh in December 1721, bringing ten more children into the world over the next decades and dying at the ripe old age of 80 in 1782 in York County, Virginia.

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