- "Ah, there's a tug of the wind at my hair! I find a bracing comfort in the feel and smell of the ocean. The raw stink of... of possibility!"
- ―Stede Bonnet to Edward Kenway, on their voyage to Havana, 1715.[src]
Stede Bonnet (1688 – 1718) was an early 18th century Barbadian pirate of English descent who sailed the Eastern Seaboard of the Thirteen Colonies with his crew. Despite his infamy, he was often nicknamed "The Gentleman Pirate", due in part to the fact that he was a moderately wealthy landowner prior to turning to piracy, owning a profitable sugar plantation in Barbados.
Stede Bonnet was born around 1688 in Bridgetown, Barbados to a successful and influential plantation owner. When Stede was only seven years old, his parents died, leaving him orphaned and depressed.
As a result of his parents' death, Stede inherited 400 acres of land from his father. By the time he was in his late teens, Stede had already returned his sugar plantation to a profitable state. Marrying young, Stede set about starting a family as soon as possible, but never found his domestic life comfortable or satisfying. Before 1715, Stede's firstborn son died in infancy (supposedly stillborn, accident, disease or SIDS), further complicating his unease. As a means of coping with his grief and restlessness, he dreamed of sailing around the world, and living free of obligations.
Time in Havana
- "It's mad to think Spain and England were at war two years ago, isn't it? Here I am, bartering with Spaniards like they were my cousins."
- ―Stede upon arriving in Havana.[src]
In 1715, Stede's schooner, the Revenge, was waylaid by a Royal Navy warship off the coast of Cape Bonavista, Cuba. The British suspected Stede of being involved in a nearby battle between a pirate warship and a passing vessel.
Despite denying this profusely, the British refused to accept his turn of events, intending to commandeer his vessel and marooning him. He was saved by the timely intervention of Edward Kenway, a pirate who had been involved in the engagement, and shortly beforehand assumed the identity of Duncan Walpole, an Assassin whom Edward had been forced to kill. Having saved Stede's life, the pirate offered to pilot Revenge to Havana, where both of them had business. On arriving in Havana, Stede and Edward headed into the city, eventually ending up in a tavern.
There, Edward was recognized by a privateer, who knew of Kenway being a pirate, and of his ties to those in Nassau. The two engaged in a fight after Edward's attempt to silence him, drawing the attention of some nearby Spanish guards. Stede was mistaken for Kenway's accomplice and severely beaten by the guards, having his sugar confiscated in the process.
Once Kenway had returned from avoiding the soldiers, he found a battered Bonnet by the docks, who told the former that the soldiers had confiscated Edward's possessions, as well as the sugar. Edward then agreed to retrieve Bonnet's cargo at the same time as his own effects, but could not fulfill on his promise. Fortunately however, Stede was still able to make a profit with his remaining inventory, and Kenway then confessed his real first name to Bonnet.
Later on, Bonnet spotted Kenway with the Templars and excitedly called him by his real name, nearly blowing his cover, to which Kenway was quickly able to talk his way out of trouble. Kenway later met with Bonnet and complained about the small pay he received from the governor Laureano de Torres y Ayala for the items he brought. Bonnet, on the other hand, was really trying to inform Kenway of his great sales from the day.
Introduction to piracy
Around his twenty-ninth birthday, Bonnet grew restless with "the tedium of domesticity", which may have been exacerbated by the death of his son. This prompted him to take up a life of piracy, hiring a crew of seventy men. To maintain a part of his life of comfort, he installed a full library in the captain's quarters of his ship, and dressed in fine pajamas, smoking jackets, and frocks. Near the end of 1717, Stede bid his wife and children farewell, sailing north from Barbados, never to see them again.
Sailing under the moniker "Captain Edwards", Stede was eager to take his first prize. His crew foolishly chose a Spanish Man O' War as their first target, and nearly half of his crew was killed or injured during the battle. Bonnet survived, and set sail for Nassau, meeting and befriending fellow pirate, Edward Thatch. Thatch convinced Bonnet to hand over the Revenge, leaving Bonnet happily confined to his cabin.
Two months later, Thatch captured a massive French slave ship called La Concorde, renaming it the Queen Anne's Revenge. Thatch continued to mentor Stede for a time on board the Queen Anne's Revenge, where Bonnet reunited with his old friend Edward Kenway, while searching for medicines for Nassau in the old ship wrecks. There, he became an unfortunate victim of Thatch's fear tactics, which frightened him speechless.
Later on, Thatch and his crew engaged a British Man O' War, and were eventually assisted by Kenway. After the battle, Thatch allowed Bonnet to leave his service, returning him the Revenge. Meeting Kenway for the final time, Bonnet joyfully bade his friend farewell, thanking him for their friendship, which he claimed was "more precious than any treasure".
Feeling that he had received adequate tutelage under Thatch, Bonnet had hoped to return to the Caribbean and receive a letter of marque from the Danish governor of St. Thomas to go privateering against Spanish ships. However, hurricane season left the Revenge trapped in the Northern Colonies, and as his crew grew restless, he was compelled to return to piracy despite decreased tolerance for pirates in the region.
During the Battle of Cape Fear River, Bonnet's crew engaged Royal Marines led by Colonel William Rhett, and was captured. Though he attempted escape, he was recaptured by Colonel Rhett and was hanged for piracy. Eyewitnesses reported being moved to tears by his remorse in the last moments before the execution. However, Bonnet left clues for Edward Kenway, who followed in Bonnet's footsteps on the island of Santa Lucia, and uncovered the secrets of the pirate's adventures.
Personality and characteristics
Stede Bonnet was a jolly and gracious man, shown especially by his great respect for Edward Kenway, who saved his life, and his ability to see a silver lining to any situation. However, this came paired with naivety, as Bonnet clearly did not understand the potential dangers he could have faced while traveling with Edward, nor for the consequences of piracy, passing it off for grand adventure.
While sailing under Thatch, Bonnet showed more courage than earlier, being toughened up by living with the pirates. Of course, when Thatch was demonstrating to Edward what it meant to instill fear in men, Bonnet still cowered weakly when Thatch used him as an example. Despite this, Stede left Thatch's crew in good spirits, even commenting to Kenway the great impact that the man had on his self-esteem and confidence, as his last words to Kenway involved Bonnet thanking him for his help.
Behind the scenes
Historically, Bonnet was believed to be one of those few pirates who forced their prisoners to 'walk the plank', which became a familiar stereotype of pirates. No historical evidence supports this, however, nor does Edward Kenway or any of his friends mention Bonnet committing such an act in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. As well, the historical Bonnet was actually cheated by Edward Thatch, who took his fleet and most of his treasures and left him only with the Revenge as his ship. This incident is neither mentioned in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag or its novelization.