The Shadowbox Players
~ James Bonny ~
One of the draws to tell the story of Pirate Queens is how so many people involved in the story are people of consequence. Real people that lived real lives during this time, the Golden Age of Piracy! In anticipation of the upcoming production of Pirate Queens we would like introduce the players in this piece to those who would be interested in their story.
We will start our introduction of these characters with the one named James – James Bonny.
Often over-looked in the tales of Anne and Mary, little is told of James Bonny in the history books. What is know is that he met his wife-to-be, Anne, during a time that her father was trying to marry her off. While her wealthy father was trying to give her hand away, James was trying to get rich quick. Anne’s father owned a tobacco plantation and was a wealthy, James saw opportunity.
So did Anne. She wanted to be away from her father as much as her father wanted her to be away. When she met James he claimed to be a man of the sea, a pirate in fact! In him Anne saw an escape from her father’s plantation, an escape from a life of living under his rule. So against his wishes, Anne married James and became Anne Bonny.
Anne now had the man who would take her away from her father, her father was now rid of Anne, and James was married to a woman who would have been the heiress to the plantation and family money. The arrangement should have worked out for everyone. Should have, but it didn’t. Anne's father wanted her to marry into money, and he saw her taking the hand of James as the slight she was hoping he’d see it as. The man disowned his own daughter, all but ensuring that she would see none of the money that James was angling for.
Now, broke and homeless, Anne was married to James, a man who was not particularly set very well financially himself. With his wife in tow the infuriated James left the province of Carolina and booked passage to the Bahamas. There he was looking to cash in on a deal with the new Nassau governor, Woodes Rogers.
His marriage to Anne was strained from the beginning, and their relationship was all but over by the time they made landfall in the Bahamas. It was here that he proved what kind of man he truly was and made gold off of selling out those he used to sail with, turning in those who were once his fellow pirates to the local law.
This was the final straw for Anne. To marry a man that would so willingly turn in those who he once called “mate” did not sit well with Anne. In fact, at this point she questioned the sincerity of his claim to being a pirate in the first place. She had little respect for the man, having only married him as a way out of her father’s house, and now that his usefulness was at an end, she saw no more need for him.
It should come as no surprise then that she so easily left this coward of a man when she met the man that would change her life forever, John Rackham.
Despite his absence from many history books, James Bonny’s role in the lives of Anne, Jack, and even Mary should not be over-looked. Had it no been for him, it is quite possible the trio had never met. For indeed without him, Anne would have never left North Carolina for the Bahamas and she would have never been introduced to Calico Jack. And history would have never been made.