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Useful Notes / Anne Bonny

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Bonny from a Dutch version of Charles Johnson's book of pirates

Anne Bonny (sometimes spelled 'Bonney') was an 18th century Irish pirate and arguably the most famous real life version of a Pirate Girl.

Born in Kinsale, Ireland, Anne had a rocky start in life. She was the illegitimate daughter of lawyer William Cormac and his maid. For the first several years of her life, her father tried to pass her off as a boy, the son of a relative to prevent scandal. When her true identity was revealed the family was so ruined by the fallout that they ended up leaving Ireland for a new life in America.

In America, Anne ended up marrying a poor sailor and part-time pirate named James Bonny - and was disowned by her father for her choice (legend has it she set fire to her father's plantation in retaliation.) The two moved to New Providence in the Bahamas, where James turned informant for the governor and Anne turned to pirate captain John "Calico Jack" Rackham. When James found about the affair, he took her to the governor, demanding she be flogged for adultery. Rackham offered to buy her divorce from her husband, but it was Anne who refused - incensed at the idea of "bought and sold like cattle." She and Rackham managed to escape and, with the help of another female pirate, Mary Reade, she stole Rackham's ship from Nassau harbour and took to the seas, recruiting a crew.

Interestingly, given the way she was raised, Anne Bonny didn't disguise herself as a man during her career as a pirate - her gender was public knowledge.

Eventually, Rackham's ship was attacked by an English sloop and most of the crew (Rackham included) put up only token resistance. Anne, on the other hand, resisted fiercely, aided only by Mary Reade and one other pirate. She doesn't appear to have been happy at Rackham's lack of fighting spirit as when the two confronted each other in jail in Jamaica while awaiting execution, she told him she was "sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang'd like a Dog."

Anne Bonny herself escaped execution thanks to being pregnant with Rackham's child, and then (probably) being ransomed by her father. History does not record what happened afterwards. Historians are divided on what happened next but her career as a pirate at least was over.

Tropes related to Anne Bonny include:

  • Fiery Redhead: Her fiery red hair is said to have matched a similarly fiery personality. She stabbed a servant girl at the age of 13, and as a pirate she was known to engage in duels.
  • Hot-Blooded: At an early age, she stabbed a servant girl with a table knife and later beat up a would-be rapist who made the mistake of tangling with her.
  • Never Found the Body: Her fate remains unconfirmed. She was likely ransomed back to her family, but there is no sign of her in the history books after she was captured.
  • Oireland: Almost stereotypically Irish, being red haired, rebellious, prone to violence, etc. Weirdly, her nationality is very often downplayed in fiction (Anne of the Indies, for instance, makes her - or rather, the thinly disguised 'Anne Providence' - explicitly English and Spanish.)
  • Pirate Girl: Trope Codifier and one of the most iconic examples of a historical female pirate. She was said to fight, drink, and swear just as much as any male pirate.
  • Pregnant Badass: During her last battle, she was pregnant.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gave a famous one to Calico Jack Rackham after he got caught, drunk on his ass, in their Last Stand and went to the gallows begging for non-existent mercy. Anne was scornful of Rackham.
    Anne Bonny: "Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hanged like a dog."
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver: Anne fell for Mary Reade (then disguised as a man) until the latter had to confide her real identity. For this reason, she is sometimes read as Ambiguously Bi.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: As a child, Anne's father made her dress as a boy so he could pass her off as a distant relative's son, to hide that she's actually his illegitimate daughter. Contrary to popular belief, she didn't hide her gender from her crewmates.

Works that portray Anne Bonny in fiction include:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In SD Gundam World Heroes, Pirate World has an infamous legend named Anne Bonita, also known as Anne the Ripper, who is loosely based on Anne Bonny. Her desire was to become the Pirate King, and did whatever she could to find the Haro of Pirate World for this purpose. After she found Haro, however, it corrupted her into killing her crew, and then made her hide herself and it into Almalechal Palace in the Demon's Trench, making her haunt it as a ghost.

    Comic Books 
  • "The Piratical Legend of Anne Bonney" in the Judge Dredd Alternity Elseworlds Special is a fairly straight retelling of the story (apart from the popular misconception that she was a Sweet Polly Oliver), only casting Harmony Krieg, who in the regular Dreddverse is a bounty hunter in Uranium City, Alaska, as Bonney.

    Fan Works 
  • Anne Bonny appears in the fanfic A History of Magic where she becomes a Puella Magi by wishing she was always at Mary Read's side. It appears she got it. Even when Mary becomes a witch.

    Film — Live Action 

  • Anne Bonny is the titular protagonist of The Legend of Anne Bonny which expands upon her life before and after her sentencing.
  • On Stranger Tides features Anne and Jack, among other historical pirates. Anne actually tries to befriend the protagonist, John, when he first shows up on the pirate's island; Jack thinks she's flirting, which makes him angry.
  • Jane Yolen's picture book The Pirate Queens is a ballad about Anne and Mary and their last battle.
  • The Pyrates, a 1983 George MacDonald Fraser novel portrays her as Femme Fatale.

    Live-Action TV 
  • She's portrayed by Clara Paget in the Starz series Black Sails.
  • A very Irish Anne is a major character in the Netflix docudrama The Lost Pirate Kingdom, where she's portrayed by Mia Tomlinson. Calico Jack is also present, although Mary Read is conspicuously absent. The series also gives her a (purely speculative) affair with another bigshot Nassau pirate, Benjamin Hornigold, before she gets involved with Jack, and speculates that her father may have been sexually abusive.

  • "Five Guns West" from Prince Charming by Adam and the Ants references Bonny and Read.
    Ladies can be captains and ladies can be chiefs
    Just like glorious Amazons, Anne Bonny, Mary Read
    Ladies can be captains and ladies can be chiefs
  • Death Grips has a song titled "Anne Bonny" off their album Government Plates, though it has virtually nothing to do with her aside from the fact that she was a pirate; the song instead being about online piracy and drugs.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The RPG Furry Pirates has her as a rabbit ("Anne Bunny") and 'Calico Jack' Rackham as a cat.

    Video Games 
  • The Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag features The Golden Age of Piracy and has Anne Bonny along with Mary Read, Jack Rackham, Blackbeard, Benjamin Hornigold and Bartholomew Roberts. The game takes advantage of the lack of information on Anne's life to considerably fictionalize her depiction.
  • She, along with Mary Reade, are playable characters in Elemental Story.
  • Anne is one of the many, many heroic spirits available to the player in Fate/Grand Order. She can be summoned as a Rider or an Archer class servant, and Mary Reade appears together with her (They both count as one servant). Calico Jack is referenced in an equippable item.
  • She is portrayed posthumously as one of the founders of Libertalia in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.