Outer Banks: Who is Denmark Tanny? His full backstory explained

23 February 2023, 19:33

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Katie Louise Smith

By Katie Louise Smith

Is Denmark Tanny a real person? Tanny is the key figure to unlocking Outer Banks' main mystery – and the owner of the diary from season 3. Here's everything we know about the character so far.

Outer Banks might be all about the Pogues, but at the centre of the show's main mystery involving the hidden treasures from the Royal Merchant and beyond is a man named Denmark Tanny.

Tanny's legacy is entwined throughout the OBX and continues to impact the entire series, beginning in season 1 with the search for the Royal Merchant gold and continuing in season 2 with a storyline involving Pope and the Cross of Santo Domingo In season 3, Tanny's diary becomes the focus of a brand new treasure hunt involving El Dorado.

But who is Denmark Tanny? How did he actually get the gold from the Royal Merchant? And how is he related to Pope?

Here's everything we know about the character so far, including the real life Denmark Vesey he is based on, his links to the Limbrey family and how he ended up with the Royal Merchant gold.

Who is Denmark Tanny in Outer Banks and how did he get the gold?

Outer Banks' Denmark Tanny is based on a real person
Outer Banks' Denmark Tanny is based on a real person. Picture: Netflix

Who is Denmark Tanny?

Tanny is first introduced in Outer Banks season 1 when John B notices his portrait in the Cameron's house. Tanny was the former owner of Tannyhill planation, which is where the Camerons now live.

Tanny, born in 1806, was a formerly enslaved man who worked onboard the Royal Merchant as a cook. Tanny was also the only person who survived the Royal Merchant shipwreck, meaning he was able to claim all the gold that the ship carried.

After he bought his own freedom with the gold, Tanny then bought the freedom of his three sons. Tanny used the money he made from Tannyhill to buy slaves and give them their freedom but he was later accused of inciting revolt.

At some point, Tanny also tried to buy the freedom his wife Cecilia and daughter, he was refused. Tanny was killed in 1844, after gathering the remains of his wife after she was murdered trying to escape.

In season 1, Sarah reveals that he "showed up out of nowhere" and paid for all of the land in gold. Putting two and two together, John B realises that he must be linked to the Royal Merchant gold.

READ MORE: Who is Limbrey in Outer Banks? Her family history and link to Denmark Tanny explained

Denmark Tanny's portrait can be see in the Cameron's house
Denmark Tanny's portrait can be see in the Cameron's house. Picture: Netflix

How did Denmark Tanny get the Royal Merchant gold?

As the only survivor of the Royal Merchant shipwreck, Tanny was the only one who knew about the treasure that went down with the ship. Somehow, Tanny was able to bring all the gold, and the Cross of Santo Domingo, to land.

With his new riches, he was able to buy his and his sons freedom, and buy the Tannyhill planation. He hid the remaining gold and treasures in the Outer Banks, alongside clues for those that were clever enough to find them.

The treasures remained hidden for hundreds of years, until John B and the Pogues were able to find it hidden underground thanks to Tanny's letters to his son.

The plot thickens in season 2 when it's revealed that Tanny was also previously in possession of the Cross of Santo Domingo, an ancient holy artefact containing a powerful garment.

Pope is given Denmark Tanny's diary, which details how the Cross of Santo Domingo ended up in Tanny's possession. After Captain Limbrey ordered it to be stolen from another sinking ship, it ended up on the Royal Merchant.

Tanny hid the cross in a different location because it was too big to hide alongside the gold. The cross was pretty much hidden in plain sight, within the wooden ceiling in the church that Tanny built for all the enslaved people he freed.

Who has Denmark Tanny's diary in Outer Banks season 3?

Tanny's history with the missing treasures continues into season 3 when Carlos Singh sets out to steal Tanny's diary for himself. In the diary, there's clues to the location of El Dorado and the 500-year-old treasure that's never been found. Singh captures Rafe and Kiara in Barbados and orders them to get it for him.

In season 3 episode 4, we find out that John B once owned a copy of Tanny's diary that he left in the Twinkie van. However, when he and his dad find it, it's been ruined by water damage. The duo head to Mr Sunn's house to see if he still has the original copy and get attacked by two smugglers working for Singh.

The diary eventually ends up with Big John and John B. But the real key to El Dorado lies in an unopened letter Pope finds from Tanny addressed to his daughter (and Pope's grandmother) Clarice containing translated symbols pointing to the city of gold.

How is Pope related to Denmark Tanny?

In season 2, Pope finds out that he is a descendant of Denmark Tanny after he is summoned to Charleston by Carla Limbrey. Limbrey tasks Pope with finding a key, and that treasure hunt leads to him finding out his ancestry.

Pope's grandmother tells him that he is directly related to Denmark and Cecilia Tanny, and that they are his "great grandfolks going way back." She decided to keep it a secret to protect Pope and his father from any trouble or danger from anyone who might want to harm Tanny's ancestors.

Denmark Tanny was killed by Limbrey's ancestors
Denmark Tanny was killed by Limbrey's ancestors. Picture: Netflix

Is Denmark Tanny a real person?

The version of Denmark Tanny in Outer Banks is fictional, but the character is based on a real life figure called Denmark Vesey.

Denmark Vesey was a Black carpenter from South Carolina. Vesey was enslaved, much like Tanny, until he bought his own freedom. While Tanny bought his freedom with the gold, Vesey bought his freedom with winnings from lottery ticket.

Vesey then married an enslaved woman named Beck, and they had children. Like Tanny, Vesey also tried to buy his wife and children's freedom but he was denied.

Vesey was killed in 1822 after plotting a rebellion to free the enslaved people. In Outer Banks, Limbrey mentions that Tanney was also hanged for allegedly abetting a revolt. Although, she reveals he was actually killed for gathering the remains of his wife, Cecilia.

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