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Mary Anne Talbot

Mary Anne TalbotMary Anne Talbot (1778-1808) was a lady who served in the Royal navy and left memoirs of her experiences.

She was born in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London and later claimed that she was one of the 16 illegitimate children of Lord William Talbot, Baron of Hensol. Her mother died in childbirth so she spent her childhood in the care of different guardians and boarding schools until she fell into the hands of a man she called Mr. Sucker, who was also in charge of her inheritance from her sister.

In 1792 Mary Anne unwillingly became the mistress of Captain Essex Bowen who enlisted her as his footboy, under the name "John Taylor" for a voyage to Santo Domingo. She served as a drummer-boy in the battle for Valenciennes, where Captain Bowen was killed. Mary Anne was also wounded and treated the injury herself.

She deserted and became a cabin boy for a French ship. When the British captured the ship she was transferred to the HMS Brunswick in Portsmouth, England where she served as a powder monkey. In June 1794, she was wounded for the second time when grapeshot almost severed her leg during the battle of the Glorious First against the French fleet. She never recovered the full use of it but later rejoined the crew. She went ashore at St. Katharine’s Dock and, upon being approached by a press gang, revealed herself to be a woman.

Mary Anne went to the Navy to get the money due to her because of her service and wounds and finally found a sympathetic magistrate. At the same time her leg wound got worse and she continued to wear male clothing.

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