Henry Every

Henry Every

Infobox Pirate
name=Henry Every
lived=c. 1653–?

caption=Captain Every escorted by an enslaved man. From an eighteenth century woodcut.
nickname=The Arch Pirate
placeofbirth=Plymouth, England
serviceyears=1695 - 1696
base of operations=Indian Ocean

Henry Every or Avery or Avary (born c. 1653 in Plymouth, disappeared from record 1696) was a pirate/marooner whose aliases included John Avary, Long Ben, and Benjamin Bridgeman. He is most famous for being apparently one of the few major pirate captains to retire with his loot without being arrested or killed in battle.

Early life

Every was a sailor from youth, serving on various Royal Navy ships. Accounts of uncertain veracity place him aboard the English fleet bombarding Algiers in 1671, buccaneering in the Caribbean Sea, and captaining a logwood freighter. By the early 1690s he had entered the Atlantic slave trade, in which he was known to buy slaves on the West African coast, then seize the slave traders themselves and chain them in his ship's hold alongside their former captives.

Piratical career

Every only made one voyage in his capacity as a pirate captain. But in that single journey he succeeded in committing, as Fraser puts it, "the single richest crime in history."

Mutiny and ascension to captaincy

In early 1694, Every was serving as first mate aboard the 46-gun privateer "Charles II", under a Captain Gibson, then anchored at La Coruña, Spain. Every and a few fellow conspirators succeeded in a well-planned mutiny and set Captain Gibson ashore. Then, he renamed the ship the "Fancy" and sailed for the Cape of Good Hope.

At the Cape Verde islands, Every committed his first piracy, robbing three English merchantmen. He proceeded next around the Cape of Good Hope to the island of Johanna in the Comoro Islands. Here he had the "Fancy" careened and razeed her, cutting away some of her superstructure to improve her speed. With this modification, the "Fancy" became one of the fastest ships then sailing in the Indian Ocean. Every promptly exploited his new speed advantage to capture a passing French pirate ship, looting the vessel and recruiting some forty of the crew to join his own company. His total strength was now possibly 150 men.

From 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, describing a signal English skippers could use to identify themselves so he could avoid them, and warning them that he might not be able to restrain his crew from plundering their ships if they failed to use the signal.

Taking the "Fateh Muhammed" and "Ganj-I-Sawai"

In August 1694, Every and the "Fancy" reached the Mandab Strait, where he teamed up with four other pirate ships, including Thomas Tew's sloop "Amity". Although a 25-ship Mughal convoy bound for India eluded the pirate fleet during the night, the following day they encountered the greatest ship in Aurangzeb's fleet, the "Ganj-I-Sawai", and its escort "Fateh Muhammed", both passing the straits en route to Surat.

Every and his men attacked the "Fateh Muhammed", which had earlier repulsed an attack by the "Amity", killing Captain Tew. Perhaps intimidated by the "Fancy's" 46 guns or weakened by their earlier battle with Tew, the "Fateh Muhammed"'s crew put up little resistance, and Every's pirates sacked the ship for £50,000 worth of treasure.

Every now sailed in pursuit of the "Ganj-I-Sawai", overtaking her about eight days out of Surat. The "Ganj-I-Sawai" was a fearsome opponent, mounting 62 guns and a musket-armed guard of four to five hundred, as well as six hundred other passengers. But the opening volley evened the odds, as one of the Indian ship's cannons exploded, killing three or four gunners and causing great confusion and demoralization among the crew, while Every's broadside shot his enemy's mainmast by the board. The "Fancy" drew alongside the "Ganj-I-Sawai" and the pirates clambered aboard.

A ferocious hand-to-hand battle ensued, in which Every's outnumbered crew lost 20 men. However, the superior Indian force was let down by its leader, Ibrahim Khan, who rushed below and hid among his concubines. After two hours of fierce but leaderless resistance, the Indians surrendered.

The victorious pirates then subjected their captives to several days of horror, raping and murdering prisoners at will, and using torture to force them to reveal the location of the ships' treasure. Some of the Muslim women committed suicide to avoid violation or humiliation. Those women who did not kill themselves or die from the pirates' brutality were taken aboard the "Fancy". The other survivors were left aboard their ships, which the pirates set free.

The loot from the "Ganj-I-Sawai" totalled between £325,000 and £600,000, including 500,000 gold and silver pieces. Every and the surviving pirate captains set sail for Réunion, where they shared out £1,000 and some gemstones to every man in the crew.

Return and disappearance

Every and the "Fancy" parted from their allies at Réunion. They set course, after some dissension, for Nassau in the Bahamas. Every took on 90 slaves on the way. At São Tomé he stopped to take on supplies, defrauding the Portuguese sellers. The "Fancy's" next stop was St. Thomas. where the pirates sold some of their booty. Finally they reached Nassau, where they bribed Governor Nicholas Trott to give them refuge.

Unable to buy a pardon from Trott or from the governor of Jamaica, Every's crew split up, some heading to North America, while the majority, including Every, returned to Britain aboard the sloop "Isaac", landing in Ireland. The female prisoners were not aboard, and it is unknown whether they escaped, were released, or were murdered. Although 24 of his men were caught, many soon after disembarking. Every was never seen again. His last words to his men were a litany of conflicting stories of where he planned to go, doubtless intended to throw pursuers off his trail.

In 1967, during the reconstruction of a temple dedicated to a local sea god at a fishermen's settlement opposite Fort Colaba (near Alibaug, 100 km south of Mumbai on the Arabian Sea coast) a plaque was found inscribed "Henry Every - County Donegal, Ireland-Death 1699" written in the Indian vernacular language Modi or the 17th century Marathi dialect. Unfortunately, the same settlement had been rebuilt after being destroyed number of times; by natural forces, by Siddis of Janjira, in civil wars between the Angrey brothers, and as punitive action taken jointly by the East India Co. with the help of the Prime Minister of the Maratha Confederacy Peshwa.

It cannot be determined whether the stone plaque (which is available in the Mumbai museum) is a grave stone or a memorial stone marking where Henry Every was cremated. Maratha naval history acknowledges the services of European privateers (French, Irish, Portuguese, Dutch, and English,) buccaneers and African and Arab pirates. Persian, Gujarati, Jewish, and Malabari sailors had also been hired to modernise the Maratha navy. These freebooters served in the Marathaa navy, training Maratha sailors, building ships, and procuring cannons, muskets and ammunition from Europe. Nor it can be confirmed that this marker is for the same famous Henry Every or to some namesake. Still, 50 years along, "Henry" and "Every" are popular names in the Alibaug fishermen community. Charles Johnson suggested that 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.marsh


The plunder of Aurangzeb's treasure ship had serious consequences for the British East India Company. The furious Mughal emperor closed four of the company's factories in India and imprisoned their officers, blaming them for their countryman's robberies and murders. To appease Aurangzeb, Parliament exempted Every from all of the several pardons and amnesties it would subsequently issue to pirates. It was partly the hope of catching Every that motivated several of England's most powerful Whigs to commission Captain William Kidd to hunt down pirates in the Indian Ocean.

Every's life inspired a number of accounts including the "The Life and Adventures of Captain John Avery" (c. 1709); a 1712 play, "The Successful Pyrate" by Charles Johnson; and a 1724 book by Daniel Defoe, "The king of the pirates, being an account of the famous enterprises of Captain Avary". His career inspired, very loosely, that of Captain Ben Avery, the hero of George MacDonald Fraser's 1983 spoof novel "The Pyrates".

Every's flag

According to contemporary observers, Henry Every's pirate flag was red with four silver chevrons. Although red was a popular color for pirate flags of the time, the meaning of the four chevrons is not obvious.

At some point long after Every's disappearance, another flag was ascribed to him: a white skull in profile wearing a kerchief and an earring, above a saltire of two white crossed bones, on a black field (see image at right). The original source in which this flag first appears is not known. If the flag is genuine, it contradicts the generally accepted belief that Emanuel Wynn was the first pirate to use the skull and crossbones motif, in 1700.


*David Cordingly, ‘Avery, Henry (bap. 1659, d. 1696?)’, "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, 2004
*"The Pyrates", George MacDonald Fraser, William Collins & Sons, 1983, ISBN 0-330-28390-1
*J. Franklin Jameson, "Privateering and Piracy in the Colonial Period: Illustrative Documents," New York: A.M. Kelley, 1923.
*Douglas Botting, "The Pirates", Time-Life Books, 1978.

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