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Henry Every


Henry Every - A General History of Pyrates (1725)

Henry Every - A General History of Pyrates (1725)

Henry Every (23 August 1659 – ??), also known as Henry Avery was a famous English pirate who captured many ships throughout the Atlantic and Indian Ocean in the late 1600's. He is known to have used many aliases, and his crew used to call him 'Long Ben'. Every was one of the most fearsome and notorious pirates of his time, and was one of the only few along with Henry Morgan that was able to retire with his loot. However, while Morgan did it in full view of the authorities, Every was forced to run and hide from history.

Not much is known about Every's early life. It is known he was born in the Western Country of England and served in the Royal Navy for a year in 1689. From there he went onto various other enterprises before ending up in piracy. For his pirate career, Every was famous for being successful on the first Pirate Round and plundering a ship that was personally owned by the Emperor of the entire Mughal Empire.

Royal Navy Service

Henry Every is reported to have begun his career originally working for the Royal Navy as many pirates and privateers originally did. Every worked as a midshipman aboard a sixty four gun ship named the HMS Rubert, under Captain Francis Wheeler and most likely participated in the Naval Warfare of the Nine Years War. In mid-1689 the HMS Rupert help capture a massive French convoy off the coast of Brest.

This victory allowed Every to get promoted to Masters Mate and in June of 1690 he was invited to join Captain Wheeler on a larger ship. Wheeler was given command of a ninety gun flagship named the HMS Albemarle and he likely participated in the Battle of Beachy Head against the French in the same month. However this battle was an utter loss for the English and on 29 August, Every was discharged from the Royal Navy.

Illegal Slave Trading

After being ousted from the Royal Navy he began working on a slave trading ship in Africa. According to Peter Henry Bruce who was a Indian Ocean merchant, Every ran an illegal slave trading enterprise from 1690 to 1692 under the protection of the Governor of the Bahamas, Cadwallader Jones. This was a potentially very lucrative operation because between 1660 and 1698 the Royal African Company had a monopoly on all of the English slave trade. Selling slaves without a license was illegal and could not just be done by anyone. However, when it was done illegally it was a highly lucrative practice.

To ensure that all merchants complied with this decree the Royal Navy protected and backed up Royal African Company ships on the West African coast. They would also occasionally stop other English merchants and inspect their cargo. While this period of his life in not well documented we can assume he simply was engaging in illegal slave trading and making money doing it. He was a disenfranchised sailor and had no qualms about going against his former employers who had just fired him.

Spanish Privateering

The next recorded event in Every's life was in 1693 when he was employed as first mate aboard the warship Charles II. The name of the ship was a homage to the commissioner, Charles II of the Spanish Empire. In the spring of 1693, several London investors led by Sir James Houblon hoped to increase their fortunes by sponsoring a privateering campaign in cooperation with the King of Spain.

They assembled a venture known as the Spanish Expedition Shipping which contained four ships including the Dove of which the famed William Dampier was a second mate aboard. Commanded by an Irishman man named Admiral Sir Don Arturo O'Byrne who served in the Spanish Navy Marines, many of the English crew were distrustful of their Irish counterparts. The ships primary focus was to sail around the West Indies and conduct trade with the local Spanish, giving them supplies and guns along with recovering treasure from wrecked Spanish galleons. They were also licensed to raid any French they encountered. For all of this they were legally given a trading and salvage license from the Spanish Crown.

The sailors were promised to be paid on time, with a monthly stipend to be paid every six months and a down payment of one month in advance. In fact, Houblon himself went aboard and met with the crew to ensure them of his cooperation. The first round of wages was paid by the merchants and the ship departed England in August of 1693 and sailed to the Spanish harbor of Corunna in order to await more vessels. The short trip to the northern city of Corunna should have only taken two weeks but instead for whatever reason took five months. The letter of marque also never came from the Spanish Crown and the owners of Charles II refused to pay any of the sailors wages as they waited months and months. The merchants knew as soon as they paid the pirates they were gone so they refused their petition.

The sailors were unable to make any money to send home to their families and they hardly had any money to leave Corunna. Thus they felt like they had been sold into slavery to the Spanish by the English and a great dissent began brewing among the entire crew. Becoming increasingly desperate, the entire crew demanded their 6 months of pay on May 1st. Houblon again denied their request even despite petitions from the captain himself who was aware of the growing discontent. It was probably around this time the crew began plans to mutiny.

Accession to Piracy

Eventually at 9:00 pm on 7 May 1694 about twenty-five of the crew led by Every seized the Charles II as their own while Admiral O'Byrne was ashore. The entire ordeal was pretty casual. However other ships in the fleet recognized what was going on, with Every calmly replying that he knew. The James fired a few shots at the Charles II which prompted the Spanish to come check it out. This was reported to be Every's exchange with the other English ships:

Every and the small crew were forced to make a run into open sea in order to escape the authorities. After getting safely away the crew had a meeting. They agreed to let all of the non-mutineers go ashore the next time they made port. The only ones they did not let go were the ships surgeon. They also decided that each pirate would get one share of loot and the captain two. While not written down, this was a predecessor to the later pirate code.

Next the pirates elected Every captain due to his experience and decided to sail for the Indian Ocean and make a go at the first Pirate Round. Every might have been inspired by Thomas Tew's successful voyage on the Pirate Round only a year before. Renaming the Charles II the Fancy, the crew set sail for the Cape of Good Hope and quickly took five ships off the African coast en-route.

Every's Pirate Career

Every lasted as a pirate for nearly two years and in that time he organized one of the most profitable pirate raids in recorded history next to the 1716 raid on the Spanish salvage camp by the Flying Gang who managed to capture some of the treasure of the 1715 Treasure Fleet. His exploits, along with Henry Morgan, William Kidd and Francis Drake would inspire an entire generation of men to take to the sea as either privateers or pirates.

First Pirate Round

Off the coast of Cape Verde Islands, Every and his crew committed their first act of piracy. They robbed three English merchants traveling from Barbados of their supplies and food. They recruited about nine men from the ships to join their crew. Every's crew was about 94 men at this point.

Next they decided to sail more south to the coast of Guinea where they robbed a native African tribe. Every convinced the tribes chief to join them aboard the Fancy in order to conduct trade, however the pirates quickly overtook them, stole their riches and left the Africans as slaves. Next Every and the crew stopped at the port of Bioko in the Bight of Benin in order to repair and retrofit the Fancy. Here they careened the hull and razeed the decks. This meant that they ripped apart the ships super structure in order to remove decks and add speed.

After this extensive retrofit the Fancy was one of the fastest ships in the entire Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In October of 1694, Every and his crew captured two Danish privateers that were sailing near the Portuguese island of Principe. Every and his men looted the gold and ivory aboard the ships and recruited seventeen of the captured into their crew.

Henry Every - Every Receiving Treasure

Every Receiving Treasure - Pirates Own Book (1837)

Finally in the early months of 1695 Every and the crew of the Fancy made the trip around the Cape of Good hope and stopped off on the island of Madagascar in order to restock and get supplies. Next the crew ventured to the pirate haven on the Comoros Islands in order to rest, get provisions and recruit more men. Every and his crew eventually captured another French pirate ship, looting and recruiting forty of the crew to join his own. At this point Every's crew numbered about 150.

While stopping in Johanna, Every wrote a letter to the British East India Company. He stated he had not attacked any English ships and that he was ascribing a signal that when given Every would avoid them. He also suggests that if English ships do not use the signal, he will not be able to restrain his crew. The document supposedly went as follows:

To all English Commanders lett this Satisfye that I was Riding here att this Instant in ye Ship fancy man of Warr formerly the Charles of ye Spanish Expedition who departed from Croniae [Corunna] ye 7th of May. 94: Being and am now in A Ship of 46 guns 150 Men & bound to Seek our fortunes I have Never as Yett Wronged any English or Dutch nor never Intend while I am Commander. Wherefore as I Commonly Speake wth all Ships I Desire who ever Comes to ye perusal of this to take this Signall that if you or aney whome you may informe are desirous to know wt wee are att a Distance then make your Antient [i.e., ensign, flag] Vp in a Ball or Bundle and hoyst him att ye Mizon Peek ye Mizon Being furled I shall answere wth ye same & Never Molest you: for my Men are hungry Stout and Resolute: & should they Exceed my Desire I cannott help my selfe.

as Yett

An Englishman's friend,

At Johanna [Anjouan] February 28th, 1694/5

Henry Every

Here is 160 od french Armed men now att Mohilla who waits for Opportunity of getting aney ship, take Care of your Selves.

Capture of the Ganj-i-sawai

See Capture of the Ganj-i-sawai

However it was not soon after that Every and his crew would score their biggest prize yet. Every and his crew then set sail for the island of Perim in order to wait for the annual fleet making its pilgrimage to Mecca. This fleet was very similar to the Spanish Treasure Fleet of the Spanish Main in the 15th through 18th centuries and contained about as many riches. The Mughal fleet made annual trips to Mecca so it was just a matter of gaining the information regarding the dates and then waiting in ambush.

In August of 1695, Every and the crew aboard the Fancy reached the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb and began preparing for their ambush. It was here that they joined forces with five other pirate captains including Thomas Tew on the Amity with sixty pirates. The other pirate captains were Joseph Faro with the Portsmouth Adventure along with sixty pirates, Richard Want with the Dolphin and sixty men, William Mayes with the Pearl and thirty-forty pirates and Thomas Wake with the Susanna and seventy pirates. All of these pirates had privateering commissions from all across the Eastern seaboard of the North American colonies.

Despite the fact that Tew had more experience in the area, Every was elected admiral of the six pirate ship flotilla and commanded a total of over 400 pirates. Together they all lay in ambush for the treasure convoy to pass through.

Eventually the Mughal treasure convoy did pass right in front of the pirates in the straights of Surat. The treasure convoy was comprised of twenty-five ships including the 1,600 ton flagship Ganj-i-sawai. This ship was a massive, eighty cannon behemoth that was loaded to the brim with treasure along with the 600-ton Fateh Muhammed escort. The convoy managed to initially run from the pirates however, the pirates gave chase.

Fateh Muhammed Capture

The pirates eventually caught the Mughal convoy four or five days later. The Dolphin and the Susanna fell behind initially so the Dolphin was burnt and the crew transferred to the Fancy. The Susanna eventually caught up to the fleet and rejoined them before they overtook the convoy. Initially Every and his crew captured the escort ship, the Fateh Muhammed.

The Fateh Muhammed gave the pirates little resistance and they were able to capture the ship with little losses to the crew and ship. Every's crew personally sacked the ship which belonged to Abdul Ghaffer, rumored to be Surat's wealthiest merchant. The total haul from the Fateh Muhammed was around £50,000 to £60,000, however each pirate received only small shares of the treasure.

After capturing the Fateh Muhammed, the pirates next sailed in pursuit of the second massive Mughal treasure ship named the Ganj-i-sawai which meant 'Exceeding Treasure'. Every and his crew aboard the Fancy caught up to the ship a few days after they sacked the escorts. The Amity along with the Dolphin were not present as Thomas Tew had been slain in a previous engagement with the Mughal ships. This left the Fancy, the Pearl and the Portsmouth Adventure for the final face off with the Mughal treasure ship.

Ganj-i-sawai Capture

The Ganj-i-sawai was a massive warship that boasted eighty cannons, an armed crew of nearly four hundred along with 600 regular passengers. The ship was commanded by Muhammad Ibrahim and was determined to give nothing for free to the pirates. However, Every's opening broadside luckily destroyed the mainmast of the ship, crippling it in the water. With the ship incapacitated, Every and his crew began to board the ship. Initially being repelled by musket volleys, the pirates were not so easily deterred. When a cannon exploded on the deck and killed several Indians, the pirates took advantage of the chaos and confusion to climb up the steep sides of the ship.

The Indian crew was busy putting out fires on the ship when the stream of pirates began to pour out onto the deck, armed to the teeth with cutlasses and flintlock pistols reading to kill and maim the unfortunate voyagers. Soon the crew of the Pearl joined them on the deck and the pirate crews began a brutal boarding battle that fought last 2-3 hours.

Eventually after hours of brutal hand to hand combat, the Indians surrendered to the pirates. Every lost many of his pirate crew in the raid (some reports say ~100), however it was more than worth it. The Grand Mughal ship was carrying nearly £600,000 in precious metals and jewels. This score made Every one of the richest pirates to ever sail the seven seas.

Atrocities Committed

According to Khafi Khan, the pirates were brutal with the 600 passengers aboard the ship. In response to the slaughter of their men, the pirates raped and tortured all of the passengers in order to find their hidden loot. They went deck by deck and terrorized the entire ship. Some Muslim women actually committed suicide in order to prevent their husbands from seeing them get raped. While some try to deny these claims, it was even corroborated by Every's men at the time of their trial.

According to John Sparkes in his "Last Dying Words and Confession" that while he had no remorse over the piracy acts he committed he expressed deep remorse over the incident and that the;

"Inhuman treatment and merciless tortures inflicted on the poor Indians and their women still affected his soul"

In addition to this testimony, Sir John Gayer the Governor of Bombay and President of the British East India Company, sent a letter to the Lords of Trade in England stating:

"It is certain the Pyrates, which these People affirm were all English, did do very barbarously by the People of the Gunsway and Abdul Gofor's Ship, to make them confess where their Money was, and there happened to be a great Umbraws Wife (as Wee hear) related to the King, returning from her Pilgrimage to Mecha, in her old age. She they abused very much, and forced severall other Women, which Caused one person of Quality, his Wife and Nurse, to kill themselves to prevent the Husbands seing them (and their being) ravished."

Regardless of whatever happened, the pirates left the survivors aboard their looted ships and were free to continue back to India. The loot of the Ganj-i-sawai was valued somewhere between £200,000 and £600,000 including a known treasure of 500,000 pieces of gold and silver. The lower number is what the East India Company believed it was worth while the higher number is what the Mughals filed with their insurance claim and was most likely to compensate for the atrocities committed to his relatives and countrymen. This heist is regarded as one of the largest pirate captures in recorded history.

Enjoying the Loot

With one of the greatest heists of all time under their belt, the pirates now had to divide the treasure and enjoy their spoils. It had been a long road since they started the Spanish Expedition and they had lost a great number of crew in the process of taking the Ganj-i-sawai. According to Charles Johnson in his A General History of Pyrates, he persuaded the other captains to leave the stolen Mughal loot aboard the Fancy and quietly sailed away in the night.

Every and the crew of the Fancy then sailed for Ile Bourbon and arrived in November of 1695. It was there that they decided to divide the loot with each pirate making about £1,000 (£93,300 to £128,000 today). This was more money than most sailors ever made in their lifetime and in addition to the pure gold, each received many gemstones.

This total haul was worth so much that Every and his men were the first known public enemies by the British Empire. The British East India Company was forced to pay a £600,000 insurance claim to the Mughals which rightly pissed off the crown. After the division of loot there were many differences in opinion of where to sail next. The French and the Danish that were recruited by Every decided to leave the crew and stay at Bourbon.

Every and the remaining crew along with the Fancy set sail for the pirate haven of Nassau on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas. Every and his men decided to use some of their loot to purchase the universal currency of the time, slaves. The belief was that Every could use them to perform the grueling physical labor in order to augment the crew he lost raiding the Mughal convoy. They also could be traded for any supplies along the way and would not reveal any of the stolen currency that they truly had which was most likely in the form of Indian and Arabian coins. They all agreed on aliases and decided to retain a low profile.

To sail from the Indian Ocean to the Bahamas while most of the known civilized world was looking for you was a feat in and of itself. Every and the crew of the Fancy eventually stopped off in Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. While the island was uninhabited they managed to scrape together some food before heading off towards the Bahamas. It was here than seventeen of Every's crew decided to stay on the island instead of continue on to the Bahamas.

First International Manhunt

The raiding of the Ganj-i-sawai damaged Britain's relations with the Mughals. Emperor Aurangzeb was descended from Gengis Khan and there was no way he was going to let the looting of his convoy along with the atrocities the pirates committed go unpunished. When the damaged Ganj-i-sawai managed to eventually make its way back to India the story quickly spread about what happened on the way to the Hajj pilgrimage. The locals started rioting, the English in India were put under protection and soon the British East India Company was about to get some bad news.

See at this time Britain was still 'trading' with the emperor of the Mughal empire and their vast riches. They did not have control over India yet and this action threatening the continued survival of the British East India Company. In response to the pirates Aurangzeb closed four of the companies factories, imprisoned officers and almost mounted an armed campaign to rid the British from his land.

In order to make amends with Aurangzeb the East India Company paid reparations in the sum of £600,000 and the East India Company in return appealed to Parliament in order to deal with the pirates. In mid 1696, the English government branded the pirates hostis humani generis or enemies of the human race and decided to give a pardon and £500 reward to anyone that came forward regarding Every's location. Eventually when no one came forward the East India Company doubled the reward to £1,000 for Every's capture.

This was a substantial amount in the 17th century and was actually more than most sailors would make in their entire lifetime. However, Henry Every would never turn up and build an infamous legend for himself in the process. The English released the following proclamation with their intentions to catch Every.

Proclamation to Apprehend Henry Every (1696)

The British government also decided to do one more. They would refuse Every from all the future pardons the King was going to give to the pirates. This meant Every was a marked man for the rest of his days. By this time, Every had most likely made it to Nassau or one of the other Locations in the Caribbean and was living among pirates and corrupt politicians. This made him untouchable to the East India Company half a world away. In response to these conditions the first international man hunt in recorded history was underway by the Lords of Trade to find Every.

This score made Every a target the world around, so he and his crew adopted aliases and decided to part ways. Many sailed back to Britain and the rest went to the West Indies or British North America. However this was not enough and eventually twenty-four of the pirates were captured. Six of the twenty-four were eventually tried, convicted and hung in London in November of 1696.

Elusion & Disappearance

However, despite all of this, Every was able to elude the authorities and vanished from all records in 1696. While some contemporary rumors were that he was 'King of Pirates' in a pirate utopia off the coast of Madagascar, real historical records are blank on what Every did after his escape. Some people say he retired and lived out his days in Britain or the Caribbean under a corrupt colonial Governor, however we will never really know.

What we do know is that Every and the crew of the Fancy ended up reaching the island of Saint Thomas, a known pirate haven where they sold their goods and restocked. In March of 1696 they anchored off Eleuthera, about fifty miles from Nassau on New Providence. This was not the populated Nassau pirate haven of later years, but an underpopulated and underfunded island. Every sent a few of his crew with a letter addressed to the Governor, Nicholas Trott in order to let them enter the port.


The crew of 113 said that they were unlicensed slavers manning a warship of 46 guns named the Fancy and in return for not informing on them to the East India Company or the Royal African Company, the crew was going to give Trott some money and the ship. According to the crew, their captain was a man named 'Henry Bridgeman' and they had just sailed from the African coast to unload slaves. The crew needed some rest and decided to stay in the British claimed Bahamas.

For Trott this was an easy decision. The island of New Providence was about eight years into disrepair and the settlement only had about 60 or 70 men total. The Nine Years War was going on at the time which meant the French were at war with the English. Only recently the French had captured the island of Excuma which lay 140 miles southwest and he knew they were making their way towards Nassau. In addition to becoming £860 richer, which was three times his annual salary, Trott could use the warship and the hundred or so pirates to bolster the islands defenses and even possibly deter the French from attacking. Also if Trott turned the 'illegal slavers' away they could turn violent and decimate the town with their superior numbers. With all of these variables to consider, Trott called a meeting of Nassau's Council.

An Exact Draught of the Island of New Providence (c. 1700s)

Eventually the Council agreed to let 'Captain Bridgeman' and his crew enter the harbor. As promised, Every handed over the Fancy to Trott who found even more surprised in the cargo hold. As Trott went to inspect the ship he found fifty tons of ivory, one hundred barrels of gunpowder, several chests of guns and ammunition and a bunch of ship anchors. These were all worth a significant profit to Trott who decided to look the other way regarding the foreign coins he most likely received. While he may have put the pieces together, Trott decided to look the other way regarding their identities.

The pirates were free to enter town and quickly went on to the few taverns on the island. Eventually they got bored, outnumbering the locals on the sparsely populated Bahamas and could not spend much of their massive wealth. Eventually the proclamation to apprehend Every reached Trott who was forced to reveal his relationship with the pirate king, or disavow him and deny knowing anything about it. He did the latter to preserve his reputation.

Trott first stripped the Fancy of all value and then crashed it on some rocks in order to destroy the evidence of his corruption. Next he put a warranty out for Every's arrest and informed the British authorities about the pirates whereabouts. This was not before he told the pirates first so they could get a head start though. All of the 113 crew including Every was able to vanish before the Royal Navy got there. Only twenty-four of Henry Every's crew would ever be captured and only 6 eventually executed.

Uncertain Fate

Since Every was denied any pardon for the rest of his life, he simply disappeared from the history books at this point. It is likely that Every's crew split up at this point in order to throw off their trail. Some headed to North America, while others including Every headed right into the heart of the British Empire at the capital of London.

Every's last known movement was in June of 1696 when he and about twenty of his crew sailed aboard the Sea Flower sloop along with some more crew in the Isaac and headed towards Ireland. As they were unloading their treasure at port they aroused the suspicious of the local authorities. Two of the pirates were caught however, Every and the rest of the crew were able to escape in to the night once again.

There have been many reported sightings and theories to what happened to Every after this point. Depending on which account you believe Every either died in poverty in Devon, England or was living as a pirate king of the kingdom of Libertalia on the island of Madagascar. While there were many sightings and the manhunt continued for a decade after his disappearance no one ever heard from Henry Every after this point. It is generally unknown what the King of Pirates truly did with his untold fortunes stolen from an emperor descended from Genghis Khan himself.


The stories of Henry Every, whose exploits where going on when the Flying Gang were still young boys went on to inspire an entire generation of men to take up piracy and try their hand at the West Indies and the Pirate Round. In fact the book about his life titled The King of Pirates: Being an Account of the Famous Enterprises of Captain Henry Every was responsible for placing the exploits of Henry Every right in the public eye.

While the British Crown despised Every he was secretly a folk hero among the population who viewed him as a hero of the people. He is responsible for revitalizing piracy throughout the world as many disenfranchised sailors now saw the potential riches they could obtain through the trade. It is likely that hearing the stories of Henry Every growing up inspired sailors such as Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach and Benjamin Hornigold. As a testament to his legacy as the pirate king many pirates often named their ships the Fancy as well in homage to his great pirate ship.

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