Mary Anne, the "British Amazon", was born in London. Later she claimed that she was one of the sixteen illegitimate children of Lord William Talbot, 1st Baron of Hensol. Her mother died in childbirth and she spent her childhood in hands of different guardians and boarding schools until she fell in the hands of a man she called Mr Sucker (sic!) who was also in charge of her inheritance from her sister.
Early in her career she eloped, in the disguise of a boy, with a captain. In 1792 she was a drummer in Flanders. In 1792 Talbot ended up as a mistress of captain Essex Bowen who enlisted her as his footboy with the name of John Taylor when he sailed for Santo Domingo. She served as a drummer-boy in the battle for Valenciennes, where captain Bowen was killed. She was also wounded and treated the wound herself. From Bowen's letters Talbot found out that Sucker had squandered what was left of her inheritance. She decided to go on working as a male sailor.
Thus Mary Anne deserted and became cabin boy on a French ship. British captured the ship, and she was transferred to the Brunswick where she served as a powder monkey. She was wounded the second time in June 1794 during a battle against French fleet when grapeshot almost severed her leg. She never recovered the full use of it but later rejoined the crew. Later French captured her and she spent the following 18 months in Dunkirk dungeon.
Mary Anne managed to return to London in 1796. Next year she was seized by press-gang and was forced to reveal her gender. Next she 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. She also visited Mr Sucker who told her that all her inheritance was lost. Sucker apparently died of heart attack the same day.
Mary Anne continued to use sailor's clothes, worked in menial jobs and even tried her luck in a stage but eventually was arrested and taken to debtor's prison at Newgate. When she was released she became a household servant for a London publisher, Robert S. Kirby, who included her tale in his book Wonderful Museum (1804) and in Life and Surprising Adventures of Mary Anne Talbot (1809).
Mary Anne's tale aroused some sympathy and even a case of imposture when a woman in Light Horseman's uniform tried to use a name John Taylor to solicit money in London. She spent her later years with a close female friend.