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Anne Bonny

Copyright 2001, David Stapleton

[While I hesitate to try my hand at profiling Anne Bonny after all the others that have done so before, my previous link to another site has gone bad and rather than search for another I will try to provide my own, based upon the resources I own.]

Anne was born in Ireland, an illegitimate child of prominent lawyer, William Cormac, and the family maid, Peg Brennan (my best guess at the year of birth is around 1700-1705, marriable age was around 13-14, if the marriage to Bonny lasted 1-3 years and time with Rackham at about the same that would have made her somewhere between 15-20 at the time of the trial).  Her father fled the scandal surrounding the birth taking mother and child with him to Charleston, South Carolina.  Although the father prospered as a merchant in the colonies, he and the mother appear to have been somewhat less successful as parents.  Anne was troublesome, headstrong and ill-tempered.  While many of the stories were exaggerated, they include a stabbing incident with a servant girl and the sound thrashing of a would be rapist.

Anne eventually married the unsuccessful James Bonny.  The marriage faired poorly as James, taking his wife to the pirate haven of New Providence, had a hard time supporting his wife.  He eventually turned informer for the new governor, Woodes Rogers, further alienating his headstrong wife.  Disillusioned with her husband, Anne transferred her affections to the peacock like figure of Calico Jack Rackham.  Rackham returned Anne's affections by lavishing her with gifts.  When James Bonny refused Rackham's offer to buy Anne, the couple snuck aboard a merchant sloop with a handful of Rackham's old pirate buddies and took over the ship.  Thus began Anne's pirate career.

While Calico Jack looked the part of the dashing pirate, his career was somewhat lackluster, at least after taking up with Anne.  The prizes taken seem to have been mostly coastal traders and fishing boats.  Mary Read seems to have joined the pirates when a Dutch trader she was serving on was taken by the pirates.  At some point during Anne's sojourn with Calico Jack she is said to have gotten pregnant and have been set ashore in Cuba to deliver the baby.  She was later picked up and carried on with Rackham as before.

In late October, 1720, off the coast of Jamaica, a British Navy sloop, commanded by a Captain Barnet, came across Rackham's anchored ship.  With most of the crew drunk the only resistance the pirates put up was offered by Anne and Mary.  Realizing that the fight was lost the women turned on their less than courageous crewmates, killing one and wounding others, screaming at them to 'fight like men'.  Anne and the others of the pirate crew were captured and put on trial for piracy.  All were sentenced to death, but Anne and Mary escaped the noose by pleading their bellies (no English court would kill an unborn child).

Anne seems to have disappeared from the world's stage at this point, there is some conjecture that her wealthy father bought her release after the birth of the child.

[What follows was submitted to me by a visitor to my site in September of 2000.  I cannot verify any of the information, but it has a certain ring of at least 'the possible' to it. It may just be the epilog to Anne's story.  Thank you TJ]

Anne's child, born five months after the trial, on April 21, 1721, was named John Cormac Bonny.  John Rackham seems to have been listed as the illegitimate child's father.  After the child's birth the mother and child return to Virginia via South Carolina.  There are some records that imply that she married a Joseph Burleigh at this time, 1721.  It is guessed that this marriage was arranged by Anne's father to get her started upon a clean slate when she returned (one can only imagine the dowry required to get a man to marry a woman reputed to be such a wildcat).  The Anne thus recorded gave birth to eight more children with her husband, three of whom died young.  This Anne is said to have died on April 25, 1782 (which would have put her age at somewhere around 70-80) and was buried in a place called Sweethaven (possibly in York County, Virginia).


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