The life of a pirate in the golden age of sail was a dangerous one. Most did not live to see old age, and even fewer managed to win the riches which brought them to this life. If the heavily armed and dangerous European naval ships did not see you hanged for your crimes, the lifestyle surely would ensure your life was short.
For a pirate to succeed at this life was rare indeed, but for a pirate to escape with his treasure and successfully disappear was almost unheard of. But this is a story of a pirate who may have done just that. This is the story of “Long Ben”, the “King of Pirates” and the most successful pirate of all time: Henry Every.
Trained by the Best
Born in Plymouth, England, in either 1653 or 1659, from the first Every was immersed in the British Royal Naval and seafaring traditions. Every’s father was also a seafarer, so he followed his footsteps and embarked on his first sea journey quite early in his life.
His career at sea started out as a humble mate on a merchant vessel. Although not a great deal is known about his early life, it is known that his passion for sea voyages and wanderer spirit were present from an early age. Eventually, Every joined the Royal Navy.
Trained by the finest sailing fleet in the world at the time, Every turned out to be an exceptional sailor. Although details before 1689 it is believed that every saw actions against Algiers and also became familiar with the Caribbean on a patrol ship at this time.
However, with the breakout of the Nine Years’ War in 1689 between France and a European coalition, we first see detailed records of Every’s naval career. Serving as a midshipman under the captaincy of Captain Francis Wheeler aboard the HMS Rupert, he saw action and assisted in the capture of a large French convoy off the coast of France.
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In June 1690, Every was promoted to the position of Masters Mate after the win secured by HMS Rupert. He was invited by the ship’s captain to join him on a bigger ship, the HMS Albemarle which later took part in the Battle of Beachy Head. However, the British lost this battle against the French, and Every was discharged from his naval duties.
A Trader of Slaves
Even though Every left the Royal Navy, the sea never left him. Shortly after being discharged from his naval duties, Every joined the business of slave trading between Africa and other countries, transporting kidnapped Africans to the Caribbean and the colonies.
It was probably around this time that Every first encountered the illegal side of seafaring, although by all accounts the money he earned from slave trading was substantial. According to many contemporary accounts, Every ran a slave-trading business successfully for two years after 1690. He ran this business under the protection of the Governor of the Bahamas.
Historians believe that this business must have been very profitable for Every because the Royal African company regularly supplied African slaves to Englishmen. African slaves were in demand, and Every used to supply them to his countrymen.
Since many English noblemen and rich people used to keep African slaves, Every must have made a lot of profit from the trades. He also gained a reputation as a man who was not above a little skullduggery to achieve his goals.
Every And Charles II
While there are records on Henry Every’s slave trading business till the year 1692, in 1693, he was hired as a first mate aboard the ship Charles II. The ship was a part of a privateering campaign set afloat with the help of some London-based investors, Irishmen and the consent and cooperation of the King of Spain.
Captained by Admiral Sir Don Arturo O’Byrne. The ship was supposed to sail around the West Indies and Caribbean Islands to conduct trade with Spanish settlers around the area. Given that England and Spain were enemies of France at this time, the flotilla also intended to steal from any French ships they encountered along the way, too.
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All this was backed by the Spanish Crown and deemed legal. However, the letter formalizing the legality of this voyage never came, and the investors also did not pay wages to the crew on time. After months of the voyage without substantial and timely wages from the sponsors, the crew resorted to mutiny.
Led by Every onto the deck of Charles II, the crew claimed the ship as their own and rejected the leadership of their captain who was ashore. There was a brief clash between the ship with other ships of the expedition fleet. However, Every and the crew managed to flee into the open sea.
Now confirmed pirates, the crew decided to sail into the Indian Ocean with Every as their captain. The Charles II was renamed the Fancy, and they set sail towards the Cape of Good Hope to skirt the south African coast. The expedition was quite successful for Every and the crew as they took no fewer than five ships from the African coast along the way.
Treasure Beyond Belief
Every had a short-lived piracy career that lasted for only two years. However, at that time, his exploits were so larger than life that he inspired many of the next generations to become pirates.
His greatest score, and the one which earned his reputation for all time, was from a Mughal fleet that was headed to Mecca for the annual pilgrimage. The capture of the Mughal Fleet was a massive operation that Every took up with five other famous pirates.
Surrounded and outmatched in straits en-route to Surat, a city in western India that the pirate fleet captured the Mughal fleet and looted many Mughal ships for wealth. The capture of the huge Ganj-i-Siwai made Avery one of the richest pirates of all time.
And just like that, he disappeared. The manhunt for Every was fierce after such a daring raid, and the man himself was last reliably seen on Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic, apparently heading west.
Despite his exploits and wealth, many believe that Henry Every died in extreme poverty after losing the looted wealth in gambling and to unscrupulous men. However everything from this point is guesswork. Did the greatest pirate who ever lived escape with his treasure? Who can say otherwise.
Top Image: Thought to be the most successful pirate ever, but what happened to Henry Every? Source: Fotokvadrat / Abode Stock.
By Bipin Dimri