Bourjaily: The Patron Saint of Henpecked Husbands
For the record I have been happily married for 26 years and plan to stay that way. Nevertheless . ....
For the record I have been happily married for 26 years and plan to stay that way. Nevertheless . . .
To my knowledge, there is no patron saint of henpecked husbands, which leaves a space wide open for my candidate: Stede Bonnet, “the Gentleman Pirate,” whose flag is shown above. Given his profession there are obvious problems with sainthood for Bonnet. On the other hand, while being hanged for piracy doesn’t normally count as martyrdom, in his case it may.
Born to a wealthy family in Barbados in 1688, Bonnet inherited a 400 acre sugar plantation and was comfortably well off in life. Unfortunately, as recounted by pirate biographer Charles Johnson in 1724, Bonnet suffered “a disorder of the mind” due to “some discomforts he found in a married state.”
That’s the 18th century way of saying Bonnet’s wife Mary, a famous shrew, nagged him until his mind snapped. When Bonnet couldn’t stand her any longer did he get a divorce? Join a men’s group and play drums in the woods? Take up golf to get out of the house more? He did not. In 1717 he set an example for long-suffering husbands everywhere: despite being a complete landlubber and having no prior experience looting and plundering, he bought a ship, hired a crew and left home in the middle of the night to become a pirate.
You can imagine the note Mary found the next day:
“Leaving you to become a pirate.
PS I’m taking the parrot.”_
Bonnet’s career didn’t last long. During his first voyage, half his crew was killed and he was wounded in a fight with a Spanish warship. While recovering, he sailed with Blackbeard for a time, splitting with him on bad terms. Back on his own, he ran his ship aground during the Battle of the Cape Fear River and was captured. While he was denied clemency and hanged in Charleston in 1718, at least he died free and unnagged.