Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lady Pirates: The Intriguers' Accomplice

Today's lady may not have actually been a pirate, but she certainly assisted one of the most famous lady pirates of all time - Anne Bonny - into her infamous career.

Mrs. Anne Fulworth is not much talked of in the literature of pirates. In fact, only two chroniclers of the freebooting profession mention her: Philip Gosse in The Pirate's Who's Who and even more briefly, Captain Johnson aka Daniel Defoe in his A General History of the Pyrates.

It probably goes without saying that we know next to nothing of Mrs. Fulworth's background. She steps onto history's stage in the second decade of the 18th century. It is then, probably around 1715, that she is serving as escort to the very young Anne Bonny who is fleeing her home and family to elope with her seaman beau.

Mrs. Fulworth and Miss Bonny arrive at New Providence where Anne and her new husband, according to Johnson "a pardoned pirate, a likely young fellow and of a sober life," are not destined to grow old together. Young Anne meets the notorious Calico Jack Rackham, sparks fly and Gosse tells us that "when Captain Rackam and Anne Bonny were intriguing to run away from the latter's husband... Mrs. Fulworth offered sympathy and advice to the lovers.

Gosse goes on to say that the "intrigue" of the two lovers did not get past the local authorities:

The scandal being brought to the ears of Governor Woodes Rogers by a pirate called Richard Turnley, he sent for the two ladies, "and examining them both upon it, and finding they could not deny it, he threaten'd, if they proceeded further in it, to commit them both to Prison, and order them to be whipp'd, and that Rackam himself, should be their Executioner."

This little bit of melodrama is probably more apocryphal than true, but it does stand out as a juicy tidbit from the already salacious story of the rich girl turned pirate.

There is a very high likelihood, however, that the shadowy Mrs. Fulworth - if she truly existed - stood by Anne once she made the fateful decision to leave her "likely young fellow" of a husband and bunk in with Calico Jack. Most historians agree that Anne became pregnant by her pirate lover at some point and was left by land during her confinement. The stories of Rackham's small harem of women on the island of Nevis not withstanding, it is more probable that the gravid Anne was left in the capable hands of motherly Mrs. Fulworth. It is certainly not unreasonable to imagine that the same woman served as midwife when Anne's time came, and perhaps even looked after the baby girl born of Anne and Jack's unseemly if passionate union.

What became of Anne Bonny, Mrs. Fulworth and the unnamed babe is one of the greatest mysteries handed down to us by the Golden Age of Piracy. Of course, fiction can fill in the blanks but the real story will probably never be known.

Header: The New Baby by John Rettig via American Gallery


Timmy! said...

Interesting story, Pauline. I had not heard about this lady before.

I still say that even a fictionalized version of these stories of actual pirates would make much better movies than any of the Disney pirate movies... But hey, that's just my opinion and what do I know?

Pauline said...

Oh I agree, of course. True history is so much more interesting. It is a curious fact, however, that when you throw actual historical events into a work of fiction, editors will push back saying that scene/incident is "not believable." Huh.

Anonymous said...

Facinating. I tweeted.

Pauline said...

Thank you, Ella. It is an interesting story which I hold out hope is [mostly] true.