|Born||20 August 1659|
|Died||Uncertain (proposed 1699–1714, aged 40–55)|
Uncertain (proposed Devon, England)
The Arch Pirate
The King of Pirates
|Base of operations||Atlantic Ocean, along the Pirate Round, and the Indian Ocean|
|Commands||Fancy, formerly Charles II|
|Wealth||At least 11 vessels captured by September 1695, including the Ganj-i-Sawai|
Henry Every, also known as Henry Avery (20 August 1659 – after 1696), sometimes erroneously given as Jack Avery or John Avery,[a] was an English pirate who operated in the Atlantic and Indian oceans in the mid-1690s. He probably used several aliases throughout his career, including Benjamin Bridgeman, and was known as Long Ben to his crewmen and associates.[b]
Dubbed "The Arch Pirate" and "The King of Pirates" by contemporaries, Every was infamous for being one of very few major pirate captains to escape with his loot without being arrested or killed in battle, and for being the perpetrator of what has been called the most profitable act of piracy in history. Although Every's career as a pirate lasted only two years, his exploits captured the public's imagination, inspired others to take up piracy, and spawned works of literature.
Every began his pirate career while he was first mate aboard the warship Charles II. As the ship lay anchored in the northern Spanish harbour of Corunna, the crew grew discontented as Spain failed to deliver a letter of marque and Charles II's owners failed to pay their wages, and they mutinied. Charles II was renamed the Fancy and Every elected as the new captain.
Every's most famous raid, on 7 September 1695, was on a 25-ship convoy of Grand Mughal vessels making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, including the treasure-laden Ghanjah dhow Ganj-i-Sawai and its escort, Fateh Muhammed. Joining forces with several pirate vessels, Every found himself in command of a small pirate squadron, and they were able to capture up to £600,000 in precious metals and jewels, equivalent to around £97.1 million in 2022. This caused considerable damage to England's fragile relations with the Mughals, and a combined bounty of £1,000—an immense sum at the time—was offered by the Privy Council and the East India Company for his capture, leading to the first worldwide manhunt in recorded history.[c]
Although a number of his crew were subsequently arrested, Every himself eluded capture, vanishing from all records in 1696; his whereabouts and activities after this period are unknown. Unconfirmed accounts state he may have changed his name and retired, quietly living out the rest of his life in either Britain or on an unidentified tropical island, while alternative accounts consider Every may have squandered his riches. He is considered to have died sometime between 1699 and 1714; his treasure has never been recovered.
Modern scholarship suggests Henry Every was born on 20 August 1659 in the village of Newton Ferrers, about 9.7 kilometres (6 mi) southeast of Plymouth, Devon, England. Parish records suggest that he was the son of John Every and his wife, Anne (maiden name unknown); the Every family of Devon was quite established at the time, and it is likely he was a kinsman of the Every family of Wycroft Castle. According to the deposition of William Phillips, a member of Every's crew who gave a "voluntary confession" after his capture, in August 1696 Every was "aged about 40 years," his mother lived "near Plymouth," and his wife was a periwig seller who lived "in Ratcliffe Highway." Every was married and records suggest that he wed one Dorothy Arther at St James Duke's Place in London on 11 September 1690, though there is no evidence that he had any children.
The earliest biographical account of the man, The Life and Adventures of Capt. John Avery (London: J. Baker, 1709), states that he was born in 1653 in Cattedown, Plymouth. Although this location and date are now known to be incorrect, they have been frequently cited in earlier literature. (Another suggested year for Every's birth is 1665, though this too is in error.) The memoir's Dutch author, who wrote his account a little over a decade after the pirate had vanished, uses the name Adrian van Broeck, but this is probably a pseudonym. The account tells of Van Broeck's short captivity by Every's crew aboard Fancy, and claims that Every's father was a trading captain who had served in the Royal Navy under Admiral Robert Blake. Several later accounts of Every's life, most prominently Daniel Defoe's The King of Pirates (1720), have made reference to the earlier work, but it is of questionable veracity and has been described by the Dictionary of National Biography as "fiction, with scarcely a substratum of fact."
Although a theory existed that Every's birth name was actually Benjamin Bridgeman (especially in light of his nickname "Long Ben"), and that "Henry Every" was in fact an alias, modern scholarship has debunked it. It is accepted by historians that "Henry Every" was the pirate's real name, given that he used this name when he entered the Royal Navy. As this was prior to the onset of his piratical career, he would have had no need for an alias; he used the name "Bridgeman" only after committing piracy. Every may have been a cousin of the well-known Every baronets, though this has not been proven conclusively.
Every was probably a sailor from his youth, serving on various Royal Navy ships. Popular accounts state that Every served aboard the English fleet bombarding Algiers in 1671, buccaneered in the Caribbean Sea, and even captained a logwood freighter in the Bay of Campeche, although these stories come from Van Broeck's fictional memoir. The substantiated record picks up in March 1689, shortly after the breakout of the Nine Years' War.
During the conflict, England and its allies—the Grand Alliance—Bavaria, the Dutch Republic, the Palatinate, Saxony, and Spain—were waging war against Louis XIV of France in an attempt to contain French expansion, and it was against this background that Every, now in his early thirties, was working as a midshipman aboard the sixty-four gun ship of the line HMS Rupert, then under the command of Sir Francis Wheeler. Every's naval records suggest he was something of a family man, who spent "little of his wages on extras such as tobacco and regularly consigned his pay to his family."
In mid-1689, HMS Rupert helped capture a large French convoy off Brest, France. This victory gave Every an opportunity to better his fortunes and by the end of July he was promoted to Master's mate, although he was probably the most junior of HMS Rupert's three Master's mates. In late June 1690, he was invited to join Captain Wheeler on a new ship, the ninety-gun HMS Albemarle. He likely participated in the Battle of Beachy Head against the French two weeks later, an engagement which ended disastrously for the English. On 29 August of that year, Every was discharged from the Royal Navy.
After his discharge from the Royal Navy in 1691, Every became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. He was employed by the royal governor of Bermuda, Isaac Richier, to transport enslaved Africans from West Africa to the Americas; during this period, Every operated primarily as a slave trader along the Guinea coast. According to English historian Douglas Botting, "[as] a slaver Avery seems to have been more devious than most other practitioners of that sordid craft."
In 1693, Every's activities along the Guinea coast had led other slave traders to take notice of him; Captain Thomas Phillips, a Welsh slave trader and captain of the Hannibal, a slave ship in the employ of the Royal African Company (RAC), wrote in his journal that "I have no where upon the coast met the negroes so shy as here, which makes me fancy they have had tricks play'd them by such blades as Long Ben, alias Avery, who have seiz'd them and carry'd them away." Every was also known to lure slave traders onto his ship by flying friendly colours, then seizing and chaining them in his ship's hold alongside their captives. Phillips, who according to his own writings had come across Every on more than one occasion—and may have even known him personally—also took note of Every's unusual slave trading commission from Richier, an unpopular royal governor who was later removed from his post in 1693 for misbehaviour. However, historians have noted that this part of Every's life is relatively undocumented.
In the spring of 1693, several London-based investors led by Sir James Houblon, a wealthy merchant hoping to reinvigorate the stagnating English economy, assembled an ambitious venture known as the Spanish Expedition Shipping. The venture consisted of four warships: the pink Seventh Son, as well as the frigates Dove (of which famed navigator William Dampier was second mate), James, and Charles II (sometimes erroneously given as Duke).[d]
Charles II had been commissioned by England's ally, Charles II of Spain (the ship's namesake), to prey on French vessels in the West Indies. Under a trading and salvage license from the Spanish, the venture's mission was to sail to the Spanish West Indies, where the convoy would conduct trade, supply the Spanish with arms, and recover treasure from wrecked galleons while plundering the French possessions in the area. The investors promised to pay the sailors well: the contract stipulated a guaranteed monthly wage to be paid every six months throughout deployment, with the first month's pay paid in advance before the start of the mission. Houblon personally went aboard the ships and met the crew, reassuring them of their pay. Indeed, all wages up to 1 August 1693, not long before the start of the mission, were paid on that date.
As a result of his previous experience in the navy, Every was promoted to first mate after joining the Spanish Expedition. The convoy's four ships were commanded by Admiral Sir Don Arturo O'Byrne, an Irish nobleman who had previously served in the Spanish Navy Marines. The voyage was soon in trouble, as the flag captain, John Strong, a career mariner who had previously served with Sir William Phips, died while the ship was still in port. Although he was replaced by Captain Charles Gibson, this would not be the last of the venture's misfortunes.
By early August 1693, the four warships were sailing down the River Thames en route to Spain's northern city of Corunna. The journey to Corunna should have taken two weeks, but for some reason the ships did not arrive in Spain until five months later. Worse still, the necessary legal documents had apparently failed to arrive from Madrid, so the ships were forced to wait. As months passed and the documents still did not arrive, the sailors found themselves in an unenviable position: with no money to send home to support their families and unable to find alternative sources of employment, they had become virtual prisoners in Corunna.
After a few months in port, the men petitioned their captain for the pay they should have received since their employment began. If this request had been granted, the men would no longer have been tied to the ship and could easily have left, so predictably their petition was denied. After a similar petition to Houblon by the men's wives had also failed, many of the sailors became desperate, believing that they had been sold into slavery to the Spanish.
On 1 May, as the fleet was finally preparing to leave Corunna, the men demanded their six months of pay or threatened to strike. Houblon refused to acquiesce to these demands, but Admiral O'Byrne, seeing the seriousness of the situation, wrote to England asking for the money owed to his men. However, on 6 May some of the sailors were involved in an argument with O'Byrne, and it was probably around this time that they conceived of a plan to mutiny and began recruiting others. One of the men recruiting others was Every. As William Phillips, a mariner on Dove, would later testify, Every went "up & down from Ship to Ship & persuaded the men to come on board him, & he would carry them where they should get money enough." Since Every had a great deal of experience and was also born in a lower social rank, he was the natural choice to command the mutiny, as the crew believed he would have their best interests at heart.
On Monday, 7 May 1694, O'Byrne was scheduled to sleep ashore, which gave the men the opportunity they were looking for. At approximately 9:00 p.m., Every and about twenty-five other men rushed aboard Charles II and surprised the crew on board. Captain Gibson was bedridden at the time, so the mutiny ended bloodlessly.[e] One account states that the extra men from James pulled up in a longboat beside the ship and gave the password, saying, "Is the drunken boatswain on board?" before joining in the mutiny. Captain Humphreys of James is also said to have called out to Every that the men were deserting, to which Every calmly replied that he knew perfectly well. James then fired on Charles II, alerting the Spanish Night Watch, and Every was forced to make a run to the open sea, quickly vanishing into the night.
- 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
- Here is 160 od french Armed men now att Mohilla who waits for Opportunity of getting aney ship, take Care of your Selves.
After sailing far enough for safety, Every gave the non-conspirators a chance to go ashore, even deferentially offering to let Gibson command the ship if he would join their cause. According to Charles Ellms, Every's words to Gibson were, "if you have a mind to make one of us, we will receive you; and if you turn sober, and attend to business, perhaps in time I may make you up of my lieutenants; if not, here's a boat, and you shall be set on shore." The captain declined and was set ashore with several other sailors. The only man who was prevented from voluntarily leaving was the ship's surgeon, whose services were deemed too important to forgo. All of the men left on board Charles II unanimously elected Every captain of the ship. Some reports say that Every was much ruder in his dealings with Gibson, but agree that he at least offered him the position of second mate. In either case, Every exhibited an amount of gentility and generosity in his operation of the mutiny that indicates his motives were not mere adventure.
Every was easily able to convince the men to sail to the Indian Ocean as pirates, since their original mission had greatly resembled piracy and Every was renowned for his powers of persuasion. He may have mentioned Thomas Tew's success capturing an enormous prize in the Red Sea only a year earlier. The crew quickly settled the subject of payment by deciding that each member would get one share of the treasure, and the captain would get two. Every then renamed Charles II the Fancy—a name which reflected both the crew's renewed hope in their journey and the quality of the ship—and set a course for the Cape of Good Hope.
At Maio, the easternmost of the Cape Verde's Sotavento islands, Every committed his first piracy, robbing three English merchantmen from Barbados of provisions and supplies. Nine of the men from these ships were quickly persuaded to join Every's crew, who now numbered about ninety-four men. Every then sailed to the Guinea coast, where he tricked a local chieftain into boarding Fancy under the false pretense of trade, and forcibly took his and his men's wealth, leaving them slaves. Continuing to hug the African coastline, Every then stopped at Bioko in the Bight of Benin, where Fancy was careened and razeed. Cutting away some of the superstructure to improve the ship's speed made Fancy one of the fastest vessels then sailing in the Atlantic Ocean. In October 1694, Fancy captured two Danish privateers near the island of Príncipe, stripping the ships of ivory and gold and welcoming approximately seventeen defecting Danes aboard.
In early 1695, Fancy finally rounded the Cape of Good Hope, stopping in Madagascar where the crew restocked supplies, likely in the area of St. Augustine's Bay.[f] The ship next stopped at the island of Johanna in the Comoros Islands. Here Every's crew rested and took on provisions, later capturing a passing French pirate ship, looting the vessel and recruiting some forty of the crew to join their own company. Every's total strength was now about 150 men.
At Johanna, Every wrote a letter addressed to the English ship commanders in the Indian Ocean, falsely stating that he had not attacked any English ships. His letter describes a signal English skippers could use to identify themselves so he could avoid them, and warns them that he might not be able to restrain his crew from plundering their ships if they failed to use the signal. It is unclear whether this document was true, but it may have been a ploy by Every to avoid the attention of the East India Company (EIC), whose large and powerful ships were the only threat Fancy faced in the Indian Ocean. Either way, the letter was unsuccessful in preventing the English from pursuing him.
In 1695, Every set sail for the volcanic island of Perim to wait for an Indian fleet that would be passing soon.[g] The fleet was easily the richest prize in Asia—perhaps in the entire world—and any pirates who managed to capture it would have been the perpetrators of the world's most profitable pirate raid. In August 1695, Fancy reached the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, where Every joined forces with five other pirate captains: Tew on the sloop-of-war Amity, with a crew of about sixty men; Joseph Faro on Portsmouth Adventure, with sixty men; Richard Want on Dolphin, also with sixty men; William Mayes on Pearl, with thirty or forty men; and Thomas Wake on Susanna, with seventy men. All of these captains were carrying privateering commissions that implicated almost the entire Eastern Seaboard of North America. Every was elected admiral of the new six-ship pirate flotilla despite the fact that Tew had arguably more experience, and now found himself in command of over 440 men while they lay in wait for the Indian fleet. A convoy of twenty-five Grand Mughal ships, including the enormous 1,600-ton Ganj-i-sawai with eighty cannons, and its escort, the 600-ton Fateh Muhammed, were spotted passing the straits en route to Surat. Although the convoy had managed to elude the pirate fleet during the night, the pirates gave chase.
Dolphin proved to be far too slow, lagging behind the rest of the pirate ships, so it was burned and the crew joined Every aboard Fancy. Amity and Susanna also proved to be poor ships: Amity fell behind and never again rejoined the pirate flotilla (Tew having been killed in a battle with a Mughal ship), while the straggling Susanna eventually rejoined the group. The pirates caught up with Fateh Muhammed four or five days later. Perhaps intimidated by Fancy's forty-six guns or weakened by an earlier battle with Tew, Fateh Muhammed's crew put up little resistance; Every's pirates then sacked the ship, which had belonged to one Abdul Ghaffar, reportedly Surat's wealthiest merchant.[h] While Fateh Muhammed's treasure of some £50,000 to £60,000 was enough to buy Fancy fifty times over, once the treasure was shared out among the pirate fleet, Every's crew received only small shares.
Every now sailed in pursuit of the second Mughal ship, Ganj-i-Sawai (meaning "Exceeding Treasure," and often Anglicized as Gunsway), overtaking it a few days after the attack on Fateh Muhammed. With Amity and Dolphin left behind, only Fancy, Pearl, and Portsmouth Adventure were present for the actual battle.
Ganj-i-sawai, captained by one Muhammad Ibrahim, was a fearsome opponent, mounting eighty guns and a musket-armed guard of four hundred, as well as six hundred other passengers. But the opening volley evened the odds, as Every's lucky broadside shot his enemy's mainmast by the board. With Ganj-i-sawai unable to escape, Fancy drew alongside. For a moment, a volley of Indian musket fire prevented the pirates from clambering aboard, but one of Ganj-i-sawai's powerful cannons exploded, instantly killing many and demoralizing the Indian crew, who ran below deck or fought to put out the spreading fires. Every's men took advantage of the confusion, quickly scaling Ganj-i-sawai's steep sides. The crew of Pearl, initially fearful of attacking Ganj-i-sawai, now took heart and joined Every's crew on Indian ship's deck. A ferocious hand-to-hand battle then ensued, lasting two to three hours.
Muhammad Hashim Khafi Khan, a contemporary Indian historian who was in Surat at the time, wrote that, as Every's men boarded the ship, Ganj-i-sawai's captain ran below decks where he armed the slave girls and sent them up to fight the pirates. Khafi Khan's account of the battle, appearing in his multivolume work The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians, places blame squarely on Captain Ibrahim for the failure, writing: "The Christians are not bold in the use of the sword, and there were so many weapons on board the royal vessel that if the captain had made any resistance, they must have been defeated." In any case, after several hours of stubborn but leaderless resistance, the ship surrendered. In his defense, Captain Ibrahim would later report that "many of the enemy were sent to hell." Indeed, Every's outnumbered crew may have suffered anywhere from several to over a hundred casualties, although these figures are uncertain.
According to Khafi Khan, the victorious pirates subjected their captives to an orgy of horror that lasted several days, raping and killing their terrified prisoners deck by deck. The pirates reportedly utilized torture to extract information from their prisoners, who had hidden the treasure in the ship's holds. Some of the Muslim women apparently committed suicide to avoid violation, while those women who did not kill themselves or die from the pirates' brutality were taken aboard Fancy.
Although stories of brutality by the pirates have been dismissed by sympathizers as sensationalism, they are corroborated by the depositions Every's men provided following their capture. John Sparkes testified in his "Last Dying Words and Confession" that the "inhuman treatment and merciless tortures inflicted on the poor Indians and their women still affected his soul," and that, while apparently unremorseful for his acts of piracy, which were of "lesser concern," he was nevertheless repentant for the "horrid barbarities he had committed, though only on the bodies of the heathen." Philip Middleton testified that several of the Indian men were murdered, while they also "put several to the torture" and Every's men "lay with the women aboard, and there were several that, from their jewels and habits, seemed to be of better quality than the rest." Furthermore, on 12 October 1695, Sir John Gayer, then-governor of Bombay and president of the EIC, sent a letter to the Lords of Trade, writing:
It is certain the Pyrates, which these People affirm were all English, did do very barbarously by the People of the Ganj-i-sawai 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.
Later accounts would tell of how Every himself had found "something more pleasing than jewels" aboard, usually reported to be Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb's daughter or granddaughter. (According to contemporary EIC sources, Ganj-i-sawai was carrying a "relative" of the Emperor, though there is no evidence to suggest that it was his daughter and her retinue.) However, this is at odds with the deposition of Philip Middleton, who testified that "all of the Charles's men, except Every, boarded [Fateh Muhammed and Ganj-i-sawai] by Turns." At any rate, the survivors were left aboard their emptied ships, which the pirates set free to continue on their voyage back to India. The loot from Ganj-i-sawai, the greatest ship in the Mughal fleet, totaled somewhere between £200,000 and £600,000, including 500,000 gold and silver pieces. All told, it may have been the richest ship ever taken by pirates (see Career wealth below).
Every's pirates now busied themselves dividing their treasure. Although it is sometimes reported that Every used his phenomenal skills of persuasion to convince the other captains to leave the Mughal loot in his care, quickly slipping away into the night with the entire haul, this comes from Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates, an unreliable account. More reliable sources indicate that there was an exchange of clipped coins between the crews of Pearl and Fancy, with Every's outraged men confiscating Pearl's treasure. (Portsmouth Adventure observed but did not participate in the battle with Ganj-i-sawai, so Faro's crew received none of its treasure.) Every's men then gave Mayes 2,000 pieces of eight (presumably an approximate sum as the treasure captured would have been in Indian and Arabian coins of a different denomination) to buy supplies, and soon parted company.
Fancy sailed for Bourbon, arriving in November 1695. Here the crew shared out £1,000 (roughly £93,300 to £128,000 today)[i] per man, more money than most sailors made in their lifetime. On top of this, each man received an additional share of gemstones. As Every had promised, his men now found themselves glutted with "gold enough to dazzle the eyes." However, this enormous victory had essentially made Every and his crew marked men, and there was a great deal of dispute among the crew about the best place to sail. The French and Danes decided to leave Every's crew, preferring to stay in Bourbon. The remaining men set course, after some dissension, for Nassau in the Bahamas, Every purchasing some ninety slaves shortly before sailing. Along the way, the slaves would be used for the ship's most difficult labor and, being "the most consistent item of trade," could later be traded for whatever the pirates wanted. In this way, Every's men avoided using their foreign currency, which might reveal their identities.
Sailing from the Indian Ocean to the Bahamas was a journey halfway around the world, and Fancy was forced to stop along the way at Ascension Island, located in the middle of the Atlantic. The barren island was uninhabited, but the men were able to catch fifty of the sea turtles that crawled ashore to lay their eggs on the beach, providing them enough food for the rest of the voyage. However, about seventeen of Every's crew refused to go any further and were left behind on the island.
The plunder of Emperor Aurangzeb's treasure ship had serious consequences for the English, coming at a time of crisis for the East India Company (EIC), whose profits were still recovering from the disastrous Child's War. The EIC had seen its total annual imports drop from a peak of £800,000 in 1684, to just £30,000 in 1695, and Every's attack now threatened the very existence of English trade in India. When the damaged Ganj-i-sawai finally limped its way back to harbor in Surat, news of the pirates' attack on the pilgrims—a sacrilegious act that, like the raping of the Muslim women, was considered an unforgivable violation of the Hajj—spread quickly. The local Indian governor, Itimad Khan, immediately arrested the English subjects in Surat and kept them under close watch, partly as a punishment for their countrymen's depredations and partly for their own protection from the rioting locals. A livid Aurangzeb quickly closed four of the EIC's factories in India and imprisoned the officers, nearly ordering an armed attack against the English city of Bombay with the goal of forever expelling the English from India.
To appease Aurangzeb, the EIC promised to pay all financial reparations, while Parliament declared the pirates hostis humani generis ("enemies of the human race"). In mid-1696, the government issued a £500 bounty on Every's head and offered a free pardon to any informer who disclosed his whereabouts. When the EIC later doubled that reward (to £1000), the first worldwide manhunt in recorded history was underway. The Crown also promised to exempt Every from all of the Acts of Grace (pardons) and amnesties it would subsequently issue to other pirates (for instance in 1698). As it was by now known that Every was sheltering somewhere in the Atlantic colonies, where he would likely find safety among corrupt colonial governors, he was out of the jurisdiction of the EIC. This made him a national problem. Accordingly, the Board of Trade was tasked with coordinating the manhunt for Every and his crew.
Douglas R. Burgess argues in his 2009 book The Pirates' Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History's Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America that Fancy had reached St. Thomas, where the pirates sold some of their treasure. In March 1696, Fancy anchored at Royal Island off Eleuthera, some 50 miles (80 km) northeast of New Providence in the Bahamas. Four of Every's men took a small boat to Nassau, the island's largest city and capital, with a letter addressed to the island's governor, Sir Nicholas Trott. The letter explained that Fancy had just returned from the coast of Africa, and the ship's crew of 113 self-identified interlopers (unlicensed English traders east of the Cape of Good Hope) now needed some shore time. In return for letting Fancy enter the harbor and for keeping the men's violation of the EIC's trading monopoly a secret, the crew would pay Trott a combined total of £860. Their captain, a man named "Henry Bridgeman," also promised the ship to the governor as a gift once his crew unloaded the cargo.
For Trott, this proved a tempting offer. The Nine Years' War had been raging for eight years, and the island, which the Royal Navy had not visited in several years, was perilously underpopulated. Trott knew that the French had recently captured Exuma, 140 miles (230 km) to the southeast, and were now headed for New Providence. With only sixty or seventy men living in the town, half of whom served guard duty at any one time, there was no practical way to keep Nassau's twenty-eight cannons fully manned. However, if Fancy's crew stayed in Nassau it would more than double the island's male population, while the very presence of the heavily armed ship in the harbor might deter a French attack. On the other hand, turning away "Bridgeman" might spell disaster if his intentions turned violent, as his crew of 113 (plus ninety slaves) would easily defeat the island's inhabitants. Lastly, there was also the bribe to consider, which was three times Trott's annual salary of £300.
Trott called a meeting of Nassau's governing council, likely arguing that interloping was a fairly common crime and not a sufficient reason for turning away the men, whose presence now aided Nassau's security. The council agreed to allow Fancy to enter the harbor, apparently having never been told of the private bribe. Trott sent a letter to Every instructing him that his crew "were welcome to come and to go as they pleased." Soon after, Trott met Every personally on land in what must have been a closed-door meeting. Fancy was then handed over to the governor, who found that extra bribes—fifty tons of ivory tusks, one hundred barrels of gunpowder, several chests of firearms and ammunition, and an assortment of ship anchors—had been left in the hold for him.
The wealth of foreign-minted coins could not have escaped Trott. He must have known that the ship's crew were not merely unlicensed slavers, likely noting the patched-up battle damage on Fancy. When word eventually reached that the Royal Navy and the EIC were hunting for Fancy and that "Captain Bridgeman" was Every himself, Trott denied ever knowing anything about the pirates' history other than what they told him, adamant that the island's population "saw no reason to disbelieve them." This he argued despite the fact that the proclamation for the pirates' capture specifically warned that Every's crew could "probably be known and discovered by the great quantities of Gold and Silver of forreign Coines which they have with them." In the meantime, however, Every's men were free to frequent the town's pubs. Nevertheless, the crew soon found themselves disappointed with the Bahamas; the islands were sparsely populated, meaning that there was virtually no place to spend the money they had pirated. For the next several months the pirates spent most of their time living in relative boredom. By now Trott had stripped Fancy of everything valuable, and it was lost after being violently driven against some rocks, perhaps deliberately on the orders of Trott, who was eager to rid himself of a key piece of evidence.
Douglas R. Burgess argues in his 2009 book The Pirates' Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History's Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America that: When the proclamation for the apprehension of Every and his crew reached Trott, he was forced to either put a warrant out for Every's arrest or, failing to do so, effectively disclose his association with the pirate. Preferring the former choice for the sake of his reputation, he alerted the authorities as to the pirates' whereabouts, but was able to tip off Every and his crew before the authorities arrived. Every's 113-person crew then fashioned their hasty escape, vanishing from the island with only twenty-four men ever captured, five of whom were executed. Every himself was never seen again. His last words to his men were a litany of conflicting stories of where he planned to go, likely intended to throw pursuers off his trail.
It has been suggested that because Every was unable to buy a pardon from Trott or from the governor of Jamaica, his crew split up, some remaining in the West Indies, the majority heading to North America, and the rest, including Every himself, returning to England. Of these, some sailed aboard the sloop Isaac, while Every and about twenty other men sailed in the sloop Sea Flower (captained by Faro) to Ireland towards the end of June 1696. They aroused suspicions while unloading their treasure, and two of the men were subsequently caught. Every, however, was able to escape once again.
British author and pirate biographer Charles Johnson suggested that, after attempting to sell his diamonds, Every died in poverty in Devon after being cheated out of his wealth by Bristol merchants. It is, however, unclear how Johnson could have discovered this. If Every was known to be living in poverty, it is most likely that he would have been apprehended and the large bounty on his head collected. So ascribing this fate to Every may have been a type of moral propagandizing on Johnson's part. Others have suggested that after Every changed his name, he settled in Devon and lived out the rest of his life peacefully, dying on 10 June 1714; however, the source for this information is The History and Lives of All the Most Notorious Pirates and their Crews (London: Edw. Midwinter, 1732), considered an unreliable (and slightly expanded) reprint of Johnson's General History. In October 1781 John Knill, the Collector of Customs at St Ives, Cornwall, held a meeting with a descendant of Every who stated that his ″father had told him that Captain Every, after wandering about in great poverty and distress, had died in Barnstaple, and was buried as a pauper ...″
As the manhunt for Every continued in the decade following his disappearance, sightings were frequently reported, but none proved reliable. After the publication of a fictional memoir in 1709, which claimed Every was a king ruling a pirate utopia in Madagascar, popular accounts increasingly took on a more legendary, romantic flavor (see In contemporary literature). Although such stories were widely believed to be true by the public, they had no basis in reality. No reliable information about Every's whereabouts or activities emerged after June 1696.
About 75 of Every's crew sailed to North America in hopes of escaping the transcontinental manhunt. His crew members were sighted in the Carolinas, New England, and in Pennsylvania; some even bribed Pennsylvania Governor William Markham for £100 per man. This was enough to buy the governor's allegiance, who was aware of their identity and reportedly even allowed one to marry his daughter. Although other local officials, notably magistrate Captain Robert Snead, tried to have the pirates arrested, the governor's protection ensured that they remained audacious enough to boast of their exploits "publicly over their cups". When Snead's persistence started to irritate the governor, the magistrate was reprehended:
He [Markham] called me rascal and dared me to issue my warrants against these men, saying that he had a good mind to commit me. I told him that were he not Governor I would not endure such language, and that it was hard to be so treated for doing my duty. He then ordered the constables not to serve any more of my warrants; moreover being greatly incensed he wrote a warrant with his own hand to the Sheriff to disarm me.
Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and other colonies published the proclamation authorizing Every's arrest, but rarely went beyond this. Although harboring pirates became more dangerous for the colonial governors over time, only seven of Every's crew were tried between 1697 and 1705, and all of these were acquitted.
Ancient coins taken from Ganj-i-Sawai were discovered in 2014 at Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, Rhode Island. Later on, more coins were unearthed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and North Carolina.
John Dann (Every's coxswain) born in East Hoathly, Sussex, was arrested on 30 July 1696 for suspected piracy at the Bull Hotel, a coaching inn on the High Street of Rochester, Kent. He had sewn £1,045 in gold sequins and ten English guineas into his waistcoat, which was discovered by his chambermaid, who subsequently reported the discovery to the town's mayor, collecting a reward in the process. In order to avoid the possibility of execution, on 3 August Dann agreed to testify against other captured members of Every's crew, joining Middleton, who had given himself up to authorities a few weeks prior. Soon after, twenty-four of Every's men had been rounded up, some having been reported to authorities by jewelers and goldsmiths after trying to sell their treasure. In the next several months, fifteen of the pirates were brought to trial and six were convicted. As piracy was a capital crime, and the death penalty could be handed down only if there were eyewitnesses, the testimony of Dann and Middleton was crucial.
The six defendants—Joseph Dawson, 39 years old, from Yarmouth; Edward Forseith, 45, Newcastle upon Tyne; William May, 48, London; William Bishop, 20, Devon; James Lewis, 25, London; and John Sparkes, 19, London—were indicted on charges of committing piracy on Ganj-i-Sawai, with the trial commencing on 19 October 1696 at the Old Bailey. The government assembled the most prominent judges in the country to attend the trial, consisting of presiding judge Sir Charles Hedges, Lieutenant of the High Court of Admiralty; Sir John Holt, Chief Justice of the King's Bench; Sir George Treby, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; and six other prominent judges. Other than Joseph Dawson, all the pirates pleaded not guilty.
One of the witnesses against the accused mutineers was David Creagh, second officer of Charles II. He testified that after refusing to participate in the mutiny—the only officer to do so—he was ordered to return below deck. On the way to his cabin, Creagh encountered May, Captain Gibson's former steward. May, described by Every as one of the "true cocks of the game, and old sportsmen," was zealously supportive of the mutiny, and Creagh testified of their exchange:
I met with W. May, the Prisoner at the Bar. What do you say here? says he. I made him no Answer, but went down to my Cabin; and he said, God damn you, you deserve to be shot through the Head; and he then held a Pistol to my Head. Then I went to my Cabin, and presently came orders from Every, that those that would go ashore, should prepare to be gone. And when the Captain was got out of Bed, who was then very ill of a Feaver, Every came and said, I am a Man of Fortune, and must seek my Fortune.
Despite considerable pressure on the jury to find the defendants guilty, with Judge Advocate of the Admiralty Dr Sir Thomas Newton reminding the jury that the consequences of an acquittal would be "the total loss of the Indian trade, and thereby the impoverishment of this kingdom," the jury passed a verdict of not guilty.
The shocked court rushed through another indictment, and twelve days later the pirates were tried on a different set of charges, this time on account of conspiring to steal Charles II with piratical intent. Although their position would be legally dubious today, the 17th century court imposed on the defendants the legal burden of proving themselves innocent of mutiny, having been found aboard "a ship...run away with." As before, the court continually stressed the need for the pirates' conviction. Judge Hedges condemned the "dishonorable" former jury and instructed their successors to act with "a true English spirit" by passing a conviction, repeatedly reminding them to "support...the navigation, trade, wealth, strength, reputation, and glory of this nation." This time, the jury returned a guilty verdict.
The pirates were given their last chance to show why they should be spared execution, with most simply claiming ignorance and pleading for mercy. May argued that, being "a very sickly man," he had "never acted in all the voyage," while Bishop reminded the court that he was "forced away," and, being only eighteen years of age during the 1694 mutiny, desired mercy. Dawson, the only defendant to plead guilty, was granted a reprieve. The remainder of the death sentences were upheld. Sparkes was the only pirate to publicly express some regret, but not for piracy, which was of "lesser concern"—instead, he was repentant for the "horrid barbarities he had committed, though only on the bodies of the heathen," implying that he had participated in the violation of the women aboard the Mughal ships. His "Last Dying Words and Confession" declared that his eyes were "now open to his crimes," and he "justly suffered death for such inhumanity."
On 25 November 1696, the five prisoners were taken to the gallows at Execution Dock. Here they solemnly gave their dying speeches before a gathered crowd, which included Newgate Prison ordinary Paul Lorrain. As they faced the River Thames, the place where the Spanish Expedition voyage began only three years earlier, the pirates were hanged.
Dann escaped the hangman by turning King's witness. However, he remained in England, having received on 9 August 1698 an, "Order for one Dann, lately Every's mate but pardoned, to attend the Board to-morrow." This he did on 11 August at the East India House, giving details of his voyage and plunder on board Fancy. In 1699, Dann married Eliza Noble and the following year became a partner to John Coggs, a well-established goldsmith banker, creating Coggs & Dann at the sign of the King's Head in the Strand, London. The bankers (particularly Dann) were duped by fraudster Thomas Brerewood, one of their clients, and in 1710 the bank became insolvent. Dann died in 1722.
The value of Ganj-i-Sawai's cargo is not known with certainty. Contemporary estimates differed by as much as £300,000, with £325,000 and £600,000 being the traditionally cited numbers. The latter estimate was the value provided by the Mughal authorities, while the EIC estimated the loss at approximately £325,000, nevertheless filing a £600,000 insurance claim.
It has been suggested that the EIC argued for the lowest estimate when paying reparations for Every's raid, with the company's president naturally wanting the most conservative estimate in order to pay as little for the damages as possible. Others contend that the Mughal authorities' figure of £600,000 was a deliberate overestimate aimed at improving their compensation from the English. While some historians have argued that £325,000 was probably closer to the true value, partly because this agreed with the estimate provided by contemporary Scottish merchant Alexander Hamilton, then stationed in Surat, and partly for the above reasons, others have criticized this position as being largely unsubstantiated.
Although Every's capture of Ganj-i-Sawai has been cited as piracy's greatest exploit, it is possible that other pirates have perpetrated even more profitable raids. In April 1721, John Taylor and Olivier Levasseur captured the 700-ton Portuguese galleon Nossa Senhora do Cabo ("Our Lady of the Cape"), bound to Lisbon from the Portuguese colony of Goa. It had been damaged in an Indian Ocean storm and was undergoing repairs at the French island of Réunion when the pirates struck. Reportedly carrying the retiring Luís Carlos Inácio Xavier de Meneses, 1st Marquis of Louriçal, the galleon was laden with silver, gold, diamonds, gems, as well as pearls, silks, spices, works of art, and church regalia belonging to the Patriarch of the East Indies. The total value of the treasure on board has been estimated as being anywhere from £100,000 to £875,000 (£500,000 in diamonds and £375,000 in other cargo), all of which was divided among the crews of Cassandra and Victory, captained by Taylor and Levasseur respectively. If the latter number is correct, it would far eclipse Every's haul.
Historian Jan Rogoziński has called Cabo "the richest plunder ever captured by any pirate," estimating its reported treasure of £875,000 to be worth "more than $400 million." In comparison, the EIC's estimate of £325,000 for Ganj-i-Sawai's goods equals "at least $200 million." If the larger estimate of £600,000 is taken, this would be equivalent to $400 million, approximately rivaling the raid committed by Taylor and Levasseur. In any case, if one accepts the EIC's estimate of £325,000, Rogoziński writes that even then "only two or three times in history did criminals take more valuable loot."
Fateh Muhammed's cargo was valued to £50,000–60,000 according to the estimate provided by Dann at his trial; this amount is worth some $30 million in modern currency. Every is known to have captured at least eleven vessels by September 1695, including Ganj-i-Sawai. Aside from Emperor Aurangzeb's fleet, one of the more fruitful prizes was Rampura, a Cambay trading ship that produced the "surprising haul of 1,700,000 rupees."
Every's exploits immediately captivated the public's imagination, and some considered him a sort of gallant maritime Robin Hood who exemplified the working class idea that rebellion and piracy were acceptable ways to fight back against unfair captains and societies. By joining the pantheon of other "noble pirates," including Francis Drake and Henry Morgan, Every doubtlessly inspired many others to take up piracy. In particular, Every accomplished his feats while many infamous pirates of the post-Spanish-Succession period—Blackbeard, Bartholomew Roberts, Calico Jack, Samuel Bellamy, Edward Low, Stede Bonnet, and others—were still children, and his exploits had become legendary by the time they were young men.
English pirate Walter Kennedy, who was born the same year Ganj-i-Sawai was plundered, had learned of Every's story at a young age and committed it to memory. When he retired from piracy, he returned to London to spend his riches, even opening a brothel in Deptford. However, Kennedy's crimes caught up with him and in 1721 he was arrested and sentenced to death. While he awaited his execution, Kennedy's favorite pastime was recounting tales of Every's adventures.
Another Irishman, Edward England, one-time quartermaster to Charles Vane, spent most of his career in the Indian Ocean raiding Mughal ships in much the same way Every had done two decades earlier. After parting ways with Vane, England raided slaving ships off the coast of West Africa. In 1720, he captured a 300-ton Dutch East Indiaman of thirty-four guns off the Malabar Coast, and renamed his new flagship to Fancy. Unfortunately for England, he was subsequently marooned on Mauritius by his mutinous crew after refusing to grant them permission to torture their captives. After fashioning a makeshift raft, he drifted to the very island believed to be ruled of the King of Pirates himself. No pirate utopia awaited him, however, and he died an alcoholic beggar. Ironically, this was the fictional but moralized fate Charles Johnson ascribed to Every in his General History. It has been suggested that, like Every before him, England had a "brief, yet spectacular career," and he may have come "closest to living out the Every legend."
Some fictional and semi-biographical accounts of Every were published in the decades following his disappearance. In 1709, the first such account appeared as a 16-page pamphlet titled The Life and Adventures of Capt. John Avery; the Famous English Pirate, Now in Possession of Madagascar (London: J. Baker, 1709). It was written by an anonymous author who, using pseudonym "Adrian van Broeck," claimed to be a Dutchman who endured captivity by Every's crew. In the account, Every is depicted as both a treacherous pirate and a romantic lover; after he raids the Mughal's ship, he runs off with—and later marries—the Emperor's daughter. The couple then flee the Mughal's army to Saint Mary's Island, where Every sets up a pirate utopia similar to the fictional pirate state of Libertalia. Every even has several children with the princess and establishes a new monarchy. The King of Madagascar soon commands an army of 15,000 pirates and a fleet of 40 warships, and is said to be living in fantastic luxury in an impregnable fortress beyond the reach of his English and Mughal adversaries. Furthermore, Every mints his own currency: gold coins engraved in his royal likeness.
Although wild rumours of Every's fate had been circulating for years, Adrian van Broeck's fictionalized biography provided the popular legend of Every that was to be borrowed by subsequent publications. Over time, much of the English public came to believe the memoir's sensationalist claims. European governments were soon receiving people who claimed to be Every's ambassadors from Saint Mary's, and as the legend grew even heads of state started to believe the astonishing stories. At one point, "English and Scottish officials at the highest level gave serious attention to the proposals of these 'pirate diplomats'," while Peter the Great "tried to hire the Saint Mary's pirates to help build a Russian colony on Madagascar." The idea of a pirate haven on Saint Mary's had become a household idea.
Owing to his notoriety, Every was, along with Blackbeard, one of the few pirates whose life was dramatized on stage. In 1712, playwright Charles Johnson published his highly romanticized tragicomedy The Successful Pyrate. It proved to be at once both controversial and successful, and was performed to regaled audiences at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, appearing in print in London the following year. The play was not without its detractors, however. Dramatist and critic John Dennis wrote a letter to the Master of the Revels criticizing him for licensing the play, which he blasted as "a prostitution of the stage, an encouragement to villainy, and a disgrace to the theater." Nevertheless, the play ran into several editions.
In 1720 Every appeared as the primary character of Daniel Defoe's The King of Pirates and as a minor character in his novel Captain Singleton. Both tales acknowledged the widely believed stories of Every's pirate republic. It was Charles Johnson's influential General History (1724) that established the competing account of Every. Arriving over a decade after Adrian van Broeck's memoir, Johnson's "historical" account revealed that Every was cheated of his wealth after attempting to sell his ill-gotten goods, in the end "not being worth as much as would buy him a coffin." Yet another account appeared in The Famous Adventures of Captain John Avery of Plymouth, a Notorious Pirate (London: T. Johnston, 1809), although this is likely a retelling of earlier publications.
In addition to the play and books written about Henry Every, a successful ballad was also printed in England during his career. Titled "A Copy of Verses, Composed by Captain Henry Every, Lately Gone to Sea to seek his Fortune," it was first published as a broadside sometime between May and July 1694 by the London printer Theophilus Lewis, and was reportedly written by Every himself. Consisting of 13 stanzas set to the tune of the 1686 ballad "The Success of Two English Travellers; Newly Arrived in London," it was subsequently collected by Samuel Pepys and added to the Pepys Library. At least 9 different reprints of the ballad, of varying similarity to the original published by Lewis, were printed between 1694 and 1907. More recently, the ballad has been featured in Roy Palmer's Oxford Book of Sea Songs (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).
"A Copy of Verses" contains a few statements, such as Every's declaration to have been "part-owner" of land near Plymouth, that were later corroborated by William Philips, the captured crew member with whom Every had once shared information. Despite this, it is unlikely Every wrote the verses. A more likely scenario is that one of the approx. 15 or 20 loyal sailors who refused to join the mutiny had shared their knowledge of Every upon returning to England, where it was quickly turned into a ballad. A slightly modified copy was delivered to the Privy Council of England by Sir James Houblon on 10 August 1694, where it was used as evidence during the inquiry on the mutiny. By announcing Every's supposed intentions of turning pirate even before the mutiny was carried out, the ballad may have served to strengthen the council's convictions that the mutinous crew harbored piratical intentions from the outset. It is thus possible that the ballad was written and distributed as a way to convict Every. In any case, the strength of the ballad likely played a role in the government's outlawing of Every nearly 2 years before he had become known as the most infamous pirate of his time.
During Every's career, the government used the media to portray him as a notorious criminal in an effort to sway public opinion on piracy, but the result has been described as a "near-total failure." Much of the public continued to remain sympathetic to the pirate's cause.
There are no reliable contemporary accounts of Every's pirate flag. According to the ballad "A Copy of Verses," Every's flag was red with four gold chevrons. The ballad suggests that the flag also had green lining the border, but more likely the ballad was mentioning a shield. Although red was a popular colour for pirate flags of the time, the meaning of the four chevrons is not certain; it may be an attempt (justified or not) to link Every with the West-Country gentry clan of Every whose coats-of-arms showed varying numbers of chevrons, red on gold or vice versa. However, there is no reliable evidence that Every actually flew such a flag. Another flag ascribed to Every depicts a white skull in profile wearing a kerchief and an earring, above a saltire of two crossed bones, on a black or red field.