March 6, 2016–Anne Bonney and Mary Read PIRATES! (Part II)
In 1718 pirates Anne Bonney and Mary Read, both disguised as men, met aboard Vanity, a pirate vessel captained by Bonney’s lover, Capt. Jack Rackham (aka “Calico Jack” for the fun-colored shirts he wore.) Bonney and Read, both known for their violent tempers and ferocious fighting, became close friends. In times of action, none were more bloodthirsty or bold than Bonney and Read.
Despite her roughness, Read soon took a lover on board Vanity. She’s said to have saved his life once when another man threatened a duel. Read intervened, and with her own weapons, ended the challenger’s life before he could harm her boyfriend.
In October 1720, Vanity was anchored off Pt. Negril, Jamaica. The pirate crew was busy tying one on, drinking and celebrating their pirate victories when they were surprised by a Britsh Man-o-War, the Albion. The drunken pirates fled the deck and hid below, leaving only Bonney and Read up top to fight.
And fight they did, like demons, yelling at their shipmates to “come up, you cowards, and fight like men!” (Or, fight like women, as the case may be.) So enraged were Bonney and Read, they turned on their own crew threatening and goading, wounding several and even killing one of their own pirates. Eventually the two women were overwhelmed by the British and the whole lot of them were taken to Jamaica to stand trial.
Calico Jack and the other male members of the crew were tried on Nov. 6, 1720. All were sentenced to hang. Bonney was allowed to visit her lover one last time. She left him with these tender loving words of consolation: “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hanged like a dog.”
Bonney and Read were tried a week after Rackham’s death. Both were sentenced to hanging. When the judge asked if they had any final address for the court, the two pirates plead their bellies. Under British Law, it is illegal to kill an innocent unborn child, and so the women were temporarily saved.
This is my favorite part, the end of the legend. The best outlaw tales end with conflicting reports of what really happened. Bonney and Read’s finale is full of hearsay, vague reports and unconfirmed sightings. In the absence of any solid facts, those of us left behind pick the ending that means the most to us. Here are your options:
Some reports say Read was never hanged but died in Spanish Town prison before she had delivered her baby. Other reports say she feigned death, and sneaked out of prison under shroud and escaped.
No record of Bonney’s execution exists. Some say her wealthy father bought her release after he child was born and she settled down to quiet family life in the Caribbean. (Yeah, right.) Other versions say she ended up in the south of England where she owned a tavern and relived her glory days to any patron that would listen.
There are still others who say that Bonney and Read both lived. One legend says they reunited and moved together to Louisiana where they settled to raise their children, remaining friends for the rest of their lives.
You pick the ending.