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Our Flag Means Death: Who was Anne Bonny, the real-life pirate with a strange legacy

Anne Bonny appears in this week's Our Flag Means Death, but who was she in real life?

Cropped promotional image of Minnie Driver as Anne Bonny
Image credit: Max

Slight spoilers for Our Flag Means Death season 2 episode 4 below

Still image from Our Flag Means Death season 2
Image credit: Photograph by Nicola Dove/Max

Our Flag Means Death Season 2 has been jam-packed with new characters, but perhaps the most anticipated of the lot is Minnie Driver's Anne Bonny, who was introduced during the season's fourth episode. But who was the real Anne Bonny and how close does the show come to the historical record? Well, it's a bit tricky -- though that probably won't surprise you if you've been trying to connect the dots between fact and fiction with the show across both its seasons.

In season 2 episode 4, 'Fun and Games,' Stede and Blackbeard come across Anne Bonny, who has settled down in a swamp alongside her partner, Mary Read (Rachel House), to escape the pirating life and "sell antiques" (though their actual business model is certainly questionable). But this time in Bonny's life is actually an imagined future for the real Anne Bonny who's pirating career was extremely brief and ended without much confirmation as to what actually happened.

Who was Anne Bonny in real life?

In truth, Bonny met pirate Jack Rackham when she was already married to another pirate, James Bonny. When Rackham and Bonny fell in love, Rackham attempted to bribe James into a divorce. When this failed, Anne elected to run away with Rackham and join his crew, disguising herself as a man alongside Mary Read, who joined Rackham around the same time. It's not entirely clear what the nature of Bonny, Read, and Rackham's relationship was -- there's actually not much historical or non-fictional record of Read at all -- but when Rackham's crew was captured, Bonny and Read were taken into custody together.

Here's where things start to get a bit dicey with the historical record. While Rackham was executed, both Bonny and Read "plead their bellies" (read: explained they were pregnant) to stave off a similar fate. From here, we're able to find evidence that Read died while in prison, likely as a complication of that pregnancy, but Anne drops off the map entirely. It's unknown whether or not she survived the ordeal, escaped, or otherwise earned her freedom to start a new life.

All told, Anne Bonny's time as an "active" pirate in the Caribbean totals only a handful of months.

Who is Anne Bonny in Our Flag Means Death?

Of course this has never stopped fictional sources from picking up Anne's legacy and running with it. Women pirates were rare occurrences in the 1700s, so having two existing in such close proximity to one another -- and in fact, likely even working together (if not having a relationship with one another alongside Calico Jack, which has been speculated but unproven) is obviously rife for interpretation and fictionalization.

This is where Our Flag Means Death obviously begins to work its magic. In the universe of the show, both Bonny and Read managed to escape their fates and "retire" from pirating together as lovers and partners, forgoing Calico Jack entirely. From here, they're able to mirror a version of Ed and Stede's future back to them -- a dysfunctional (but ultimately happy and comparatively healthy) long term relationship.

They may not have the most traditional set-up -- in fact, Bonny and Read's outlandish and violent antics even set Ed and Stede back from time to time -- but where Ed and Stede have chosen to try to avoid or otherwise ignore their own issues, Mary and Anne seem to thrive on communication and compromise. It's just that sometimes their communication and compromise can look a little -- well, messy, to say the least. Hey, that's pirating and relationships for you! Sometimes they can't help but go up in flames.

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Our Flag Means Death season 2 is off to a bizarre, dark, and fun start

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