Henry Every Biography

(English Pirate Whose Exploits Spawned Works of Literature and Inspired a Generation of Pirates)

Birthday: August 23, 1659 (Virgo)

Born In: Newton Ferrers, England

Henry Every, also referred to as Henry Avery, was a notorious British pirate who operated in the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans during the 1690s. He gained notoriety for being one of the very few pirate captains who got away with all the loot without being ever arrested or killed. Henry is said to have used different aliases, including ‘Benjamin Bridgeman,’ and was also tagged as ‘The King of Pirates’ and ‘The Arch Pirate.' Henry got into piracy while serving as a first mate aboard the warship Charles II. The crew of the ship mutinied when the owners of Charles II failed to pay their wages in Spain. They renamed the ship as Fancy and made Henry Every the new captain. Henry Every conducted his most famous piracy on September 7, 1695, when he allied with other pirates and plundered the 25-ship convoy of the Mughal Empire that was returning from the yearly pilgrimage of Mecca. This raid is said to have fetched him aound £600,000. As a result of this raid, the relations between the British and the Mughals got strained. A bounty of £1,000 for Henry’s capture was announced, but he could never be captured and his looted wealth, too, could never be retrieved. Although Henry Every's piracy career lasted only a few years but his daredevilry and exploits captured people's imagination. No definite date of his death is available. However, Every is believed to have died between 1699 and 1714.  

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In August

Also Known As: Henry Evory, Henry Avery, John Avery, Henry Bridgeman, Long Ben, Big Ben, The Arch Pirate, The King of Pirates

Died At Age: 39


father: John Every

mother: Anne

Born Country: England

British Men Virgo Criminals

Died on: April 22, 1699

place of death: Bideford

Childhood & Early Life

Henry Every was born on August 20, 1659, in Newton Ferrers, England. According to the local government records, he was possibly born to John Every and his wife, Anne, hailing from the well-known Every family of Devon.

After his capture, William Phillips, a crew member of Henry Every had mentioned that Henry was around 40 years old in August 1696, and that Henry’s mother lived close to Plymouth, while his wife lived in Ratcliffe Highway. According to records, Henry married one Dorothy Arther on September 11, 1690, at St James Duke's Place in London.

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Career in the Royal Navy & Slave Trade

It is believed that Henry probably served as a sailor on various Royal Navy ships, during his initial years of service. The fictional memoir of Adrian van Broeck, ‘The Life and Adventures of Capt. John Avery,’ (London: J. Baker, 1709) suggests that Henry served the English fleet in 1671 that bombarded Algiers. It also says that he was a buccaneer in the Caribbean Sea and was captain of a logwood freighter in the ‘Bay of Campeche.’

During his thirties, Henry served as a midshipman aboard the 64-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, ‘HMS Rupert,’ which was commanded by Sir Francis Wheeler. Records indicate that Henry was probably a committed family man and sent money regularly to his family and hardly spent much on his lavishness. He was elevated as a Master’s mate after the ship helped in seizing a large enemy French convoy off Brest in France, in mid-1689.

Henry Every was offered to join Captain Wheeler in the ninety-gun ‘HMS Albemarle’ in late June 1690. He probably took part in the July 10, 1690, naval battle against the French, ‘the Battle of Beachy Head,’ during the ‘Nine Years' War.’ 'The Battle of Beacy Head' proved disastrous for the British. He was released from the Royal Navy on August 29, 1690.

Following his career with the Royal Navy, Henry got into the slave trade. His slave trading endeavours, however, remain comparatively undocumented. Captain Thomas Phillips, an agent of  the Royal African Company (RAC), mentioned about Every in a journal prepared in 1693. Every used to lure potential slave traders to board his ship and thereafter capture and chain them, and keep them alongside their former slaves.

Career as a Pirate

Henry Every joined the ‘Spanish Expedition Shipping,’ a venture taken up in the spring of 1693 by several London-based investors, led by a 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 navy experience, Henry was promoted to first mate after joining the Spanish Expedition. 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 that they had been sold 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.

See the events in life of Henry Every in Chronological Order

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