I’m going to share a little history with you all. I’m in London after all, and this is the scene for A LOT of history. You can barely fall over in a drunken stupor on the street without banging into something historical. However, today we’re going to sail the seven seas (or maybe just a couple of seas, who knows the specific number of seas) and learn about some bad ass bitches while we do it. Who are these bitchin’ babes? Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Let us start with Anne.
Anne Cormac was born in Cork, in Ireland, which is a great place for a future seafaring babe to be born. Because it floats. Ba dum, tish. Some folks say she was the illegitimate daughter of a lawyer and his housemaid. Most folks say she was a crazy bitch.
Her family immigrated to America when she was still small and she grew up in South Carolina. We’re talking the late 1600s here, folks.
Now, some people don’t really go for the term “crazy bitch”. They prefer “fierce with a courageous temper”. Either way, she did the wild teenager thing in a way that you with your sub quality vodka and bad denim skirts couldn’t even imagine. One time she ‘slew’ her English servant-maid with a case knife. That’s the past tense of ‘slay’ apparently. Another time some guy was coming on to her and he was a bit of a twat. We’ve all been there, girls. It’s an annoying situation. Not if you’re Anne Cormac. You just beat the prick senseless with a chair, hospitalising him for a month so he’s not around to bother you again. Easy.
She also liked to fill her days with fencing lessons, as it pays to be handy with a sword if you’re thinking of going into piracy. Was she any good? Well she could undress her fencing master with her mother fucking sword, button by button. He was clearly much more alluring than chair boy.
Eventually she developed a bit of a thing for a guy called James Bonny and, surprise of all surprises, her father didn’t approve. So they eloped. Because marriage is always a great decision as a teenager. Her father disinherited her when he heard, so she burnt down his plantation in retaliation. A little bit of an illegal activity even back in the early 1700s, so the couple fled America and went to a mother fucking pirates’ lair in New Providence in the Bahamas. Caribbean honeymoons have always been popular.
When she arrived after the long boat journey she celebrated by shooting off the ear of some guy who was blocking her fucking way as she was trying to get off the ship. “Excuse me” is not a necessary part of your vocabulary when you’re packing heat. Unfortunately for him, he’d already lost one ear in some previous bout of impatience, so Anne’s attack rather evened him up in the most lamentable manner.
Time ticked by, pirates were pirating and rum was good. By 1718 the authorities were so sick of all this lawlessness that the King’s pardon was offered to any pirate who wanted to go straight, and James totally took them up on that offer. This is when Anne probably cemented her belief that boys usually aren’t worth all the fucking hassle.
She was disgusted with his cowardice and left his informant arse for something better. Enjoying herself a while entertaining a fling with the wealthiest man on the island, she discovered that #luxurylifestyles was not her hashtag. She was soon flagging down some new pirate booty in the form of one Captain Jack Rackham. Captain Jack was a bit of a bloody hipster and stood out by wearing loud stripey patchwork trousers and swinging every which way on sexual merry-go-round. Why the hell not? It’s the only place in the fairground where one can ride a unicorn .
All this colourful fashion prowess had attracted the nickname “Calico Jack”. Not the most fearsome of nicknames, I grant you, but when you’re hanging with a crazy bitch like Anne what people think of your trousers is probably the least of your worries.
Coz he was a proper fucking pirate and not an informant, he went to sea. A lot. 18th century seafaring dudes had this little problem with chicks at sea, in that it was forbidden, so Anne disguised herself as a male in order to go on the ship with him. It was a fine sloop named Vanity, the perfect vessell for a stripey panted fashionista. As for Anne, a bit of breast binding and trouser wearing did the trick.
What another cool fact about Anne? She totally had a gay best friend, too. “Pierre the Pansy Pirate” he was called, and he was a serial entrepreneur. He ran the fucking coffee shop, the hairdressers and the dress making shop, so we can rest assured he knew everyone’s business. He was particularly enamored with fine velvets and silk, but it wasn’t easy to get hold of in those days on a Caribbean island.
So, when the gruesome pair heard word of a French merchant man who would be sailing by with a ship full of all this awesome materialistic shit they decided to go full pirate on his arse. They started by stealing a boat, though it was more of an abandoned wreck, and drenched the whole fucking thing in turtle blood. God knows how many turtles were sacrificed in the pursuit of a nice velvet waistcoat. A lot. They were really charmed by the “terror look” and completed the horror by placing a dress maker’s dummy in fine ladies’ clothing in the bow, also splattered with in blood. Anne then stood over the dummy holding a blood soaked axed menacingly, while I suppose Pierre made sure the ship was sailing. They sailed right into Mr Frenchman’s ship. The frogs stood still, quaking in fear at this blood soaked ship of demonic motherfuckers coming right at them, so they just gave them the velvets, the silks and the whole bloody ship without a fight. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
As these pirate pals had refused the King’s pardon they were attracting a bit of unwanted attention from the authorities, so Calico Jack and Pierre decided to break through the British blockade in the harbour for the ultimate rush of freedom. Never one to miss an occasion to get fancy, Anne had Pierre to design her some amazing black velvet trousers, possibly from their latest material haul. She went through that blockade wearing only her fabulous trousers. Tits out, bare chested, nipples ahoy, with one hand on her sword, the other waving a long silk scarf at the governor, who needless to say was astonished as fuck.
Pirating thus continued, with their new skull and crossed daggers flag flying high above their pretty sloop. They mainly preyed on Spanish treasure ships off Cuba and Hispaniola. Everyone loves a bit Spanish treasure, tapas and sangria.
As is always the way with these things, Anne was soon enough all kinds of pregnant and had to leave the boat. Only for a bit though, to get that baby out of her and leave it with friends in Cuba before getting back to the pirate business.
More pirating hilarity thus ensued. She shot a sailor who displeased her. She kicked Calico Jack out of the captain’s quarters, because living with boys is gross. She was officially second in command at this point, but living like a Captain with rooms all to herself.
Tune in tomorrow for the second part, focusing on Mary Read.
I learnt about the Lesbian Pirates during a Pirates of Wapping walking tour, by Best LDN Walks. I walked free as part of a blogger tour. They do tons of other cool walks as well, such as the haunted pub tour and naughty London tours. BYO Mean Girls jokes.