Anne Bonny: Queen of the Sea


Ahead of the release of Five Guns Blazing I’ll be writing about some of the leading ladies and gents who have brought my novel to life and made it such a pleasure to write.

I’d like to kick off with probably the most notorious female pirate, the flame haired Irish beauty, Queen of the Seas, Anne Bonny.

Anne is the archetypal anti-heroine: ruthless, double-crossing and fiercely independent.  She was born in Cork c1700, the illegitimate child of maidservant Mary Brennan and married lawyer William Cormac.  When Cormac’s wife made the affair public, William and Mary left Ireland in shame, taking Anne with them to America. William’s legal business prospered there and he had soon made enough money to buy a plantation.

But Anne’s fiery temper and dare-devilish nature did not sit well in polite society.  Planters in the Cormac’s circle did not wish  their daughter’s to associate with Anne, who had gained a reputation for drunkenness and for riotous behaviour in local taverns with fishermen.  Supposedly, she killed a serving maid in her father’s household for crossing her, and seriously injured a young man who tried to sexually assault her, (but we can forgive her for that at least!)

When Anne was sixteen years old she fell in love with Captain James Bonny, who was either a penniless sailor or small time pirate. Anne’s father disapproved of the match, wanting Anne instead to marry a plantation owner. But in typical Anne style, she went ahead and married James anyway, moving with him to the den of iniquity which was New Providence.

Anne soon tired of her marriage to James and cast her eye around for a means of escape.  Fate threw her in the path of pirate John Rackham, more widely known as Calico Jack, a rake, devilishly handsome, the Casanova of the seas.  It did not take much for Rackham to prise Anne away from James and the pair ran off to sea.

Anne was a ruthless pirate, proficient in the use of pistols and knives.  Sources suggest that Rackham was captain in name only and that it was Anne who ran the ship, terrorising all that sailed close to her.  Anne was not the only woman on board; there was another woman, the female pirate, Mary Read.  Some sources suggest that Anne and Mary were lovers, that Anne was besotted with Mary and that Rackham was both jealous of and fascinated by their relationship.

In 1720 Anne’s pirate adventure came to an abrupt end when she was arrested for piracy and sentenced to death.  But that was not quite the end of the story.  There is no record of Anne’s execution or of her release or escape from jail.  What became of Anne is still a mystery and remains constant source of conjecture.  All that we can be sure of is that Anne was one of the most colourful figures of the Caribbean 18th century whose legend will live-on forever.


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