Birthday: August 23, 1659
Died At Age: 39
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Henry Evory, Henry Avery, John Avery, Henry Bridgeman, Long Ben, Big Ben, The Arch Pirate, The King of Pirates
Born Country: England
Born in: Newton Ferrers, England
Famous as: Pirate
father: John Every
Died on: April 22, 1699
place of death: Bideford
Henry Every, also referred to as Henry Avery, was a notorious British pirate who operated the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Henry served the Royal Navy, on merchantmen and was associated with slave trading, before beginning his pirate career while serving the warship ‘Charles II’ as first mate. He helped crew of the warship to plot a mutiny. The warship was renamed ‘Fancy’ and Henry was made its new captain. With time, he gained notoriety as a prominent pirate captain who was successful in getting away with all the loot without being arrested or killed. Henry is said to have used different aliases, including ‘Benjamin Bridgeman,’ and was tagged ‘The King of Pirates’ and ‘The Arch Pirate’ by his contemporaries. He allied with other pirate captains and plundered the 25-ship convoy of the Mughal Empire that was returning from the yearly pilgrimage of Mecca. It is considered Henry’s most famous raid and fetched up to £600,000 in precious metals and jewels, making him as the world’s richest pirate. This strained the relations between the British and the Mughals. The Privy Council and the East India Company jointly offered a bounty of £1,000 for Henry’s capture, marking it the first global manhunt in written history. Henry was, however, never captured. His looted treasure, too, could never be retrieved.
Childhood & Early Life
Henry Every was born on August 20, 1659, in Newton Ferrers, England. Parish records suggest that he was possibly born to John Every and his wife, Anne, hailing from the established Every family of Devonshire.
While giving a voluntary confession after capture, a crew member of Henry, William Phillips, mentioned that Henry was about 40 years old in August 1696 and that Henry’s mother lived close to Plymouth, while his wife lived in Ratcliffe Highway and sold periwig. According to records, Henry probably married Dorothy Arther on September 11, 1690, at St James Duke's Place in London.
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Career as a Pirate
Henry joined ‘Spanish Expedition Shipping,’ a venture taken up in the spring of 1693 by several London-based investors, led by wealthy merchant Sir James Houblon to revive the stagnating British economy. It encompassed four warships, including Charles II that was commissioned by Charles II of Spain, an ally of Britain. The objective of the venture was to sail to the Spanish West Indies, conduct trade, supply arms to the Spanish and plunder French vessels in the French West Indies.
The crew of the ‘Spanish Expedition Shipping’ were paid first month’s salary in advance and was promised a guaranteed monthly wage every six months. Due to his previous experience, Henry was promoted to first mate. By early August 1693, all the four ships were sailing to Spain's northern city of Corunna. The ships, however, reached Spain after five months, against the planned time of two weeks. Moreover, the ships were compelled to wait in the northern Spanish harbour of Corunna, as necessary legal documents did not arrive for months and the crew were literally trapped in the port with no wage money to send to their families or any other source of employment. While the crew made petition to their captain, their wives petitioned to Houblon, but nothing fruitful happened. The crew gradually became hopeless and desperate and many believed had been sold to the Spanish as slaves.
Finally, as the fleet was preparing to head toward Corunna, many crew members demanded their six months of pay and threatened to strike if their request was not accepted. On May 7, 1694, Henry and his men successfully carried out the mutiny and sailed Charles II far enough in the open sea so as to ensure their safety. He then arranged to let go off all those non-conspirators who did not want to join him, except the surgeon of the ship as the latter’s service was too important. Henry was unanimously elected the new captain of the ship.
It did not take Henry much time in persuading the crew to sail ‘Charles II’ to the Indian Ocean for piratical pursuits and renamed it as ‘Fancy.’ It was decided that each crew member will get a share of the loot, while Henry would get two. The ship then headed toward ‘the Cape of Good Hope.’
The first piracy conducted by Henry was on three Barbados-based English merchantmen at Maio, on Sotavento islands of the Cape Verde. On the Guinea coast, he forced a local chieftain on the false promise of trade and took all their wealth, leaving them slaves. Thereafter he got the ‘Fancy’ careened and razeed, developing it as one of the fastest ships sailing in the Atlantic Ocean at that time.
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After several successes, Henry now eyed the 25-ship convoy of the Mughals, and set sail for Perim in 1695 to wait for the Indian fleet, which was headed for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The fleet included the treasure-loaded armed Ghanjah dhow (trading ship) of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, ‘Ganj-i-sawai,’ and its escort, the ‘Fateh Muhammed.’
After reaching the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb in August 1695, he teamed up with five other pirate ships and joined hands with their respective captains, Thomas Wake, William Mayes, Richard Want, Joseph Faro and Tew for raiding the Grand Mughal fleet. He was made the admiral of the six-ship pirate fleet with a crew of over 440 men. The Mughal fleet was spotted passing the straits en route to Surat.
On September 7, 1695, Henry and his fleet captured both ‘Ganj-i-sawai’ and the ‘Fateh Muhammed.’ The loot included seizure of up to £600,000 in precious metals and jewels, worth around £89.6 million in 2019. It not only marked the most notable raid made by Henry but also made him as the richest pirate across the world.
Consequence of the Plunder of the Grand Mughal Fleet
Plunder of the grand Mughal fleet of Emperor Aurangzeb resulted in considerable strain in the already fragile relations between the British and the Mughals. As the damaged ‘Ganj-i-sawai’ reached Surat, news of the raid on the Mughal fleet and atrocities of pirates on the pilgrims, including rape of Muslim women spread like fire. Aurangzeb immediately ordered the closure of four factories of the already struggling ‘East India Company’ and imprisoned the officers, while English subjects in Surat were arrested on the orders of the local governor, Itimad Khan.
In order to ease the situation, the company made a commitment to pay financial compensation and the Parliament of the United Kingdom declared the pirates as ‘hostis humani generis’ (enemies of mankind). A bounty of £500 was issued by the British government on Henry’s head in the mid-1696. The reward was later doubled by the East India Company.
While a manhunt for Henry and his men was on full swing, the pirates found shelter in Nassau, Bahamas, where the island's governor, Sir Nicholas Trott, welcomed them and let them live on the island in exchange of a hefty bribe. Captain of the pirates, ‘Henry Bridgeman,’ also promised to give ‘Fancy’ as gift to Trott once the cargo was unloaded by his crew. However, when the official announcement for arresting the pirates reached Trott, the governor alerted the authorities on Henry’s whereabouts and at the same time informed the latter of the developments, resulting in escape of Henry and around 113 of his men from the island. Only 24 of the pirates were captured.
Henry not only escaped capture, but also vanished for good. There is no verified information available on his endeavours and whereabouts after June 1696. According to some sources, he probably retired, changed his identity and lived quietly in England or in some unknown tropical island. Some accounts mention that he possibly spent his wealth lavishly, while others mention that the Bristol merchants cheated him out of his wealth and left him to die in poverty.
Death & Legacy
It is not known for sure as to when and where Henry died. He is believed to have died sometime between 1699 and 1714, and the place of his death, as suggested by many, was Devon, England. His enormous treasure, however, could never be recovered.
Henry has found mention in several literary works. These include the highly romanticized tragicomedy ‘The Successful Pyrate’ (1712) by English playwright Charles Johnson, ‘The King of Pirates’ and ‘Captain Singleton’ by Daniel Defoe, and ‘A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates’ (1724) by Charles Johnson. His character also featured in the television series ‘Black Sails’ and in the video game ‘Uncharted 4: A Thief's End’ among others.