Henry Every, the mystery of the most wanted and ever found pirate

Although he never achieved the same fame as other iconic pirates like Blackbeard O William Kidd, Henry Every it was one of those that had the greatest historical impact. In September 1695, he seized the flagship of the then richest man in the world at the time, the Mughal Emperor of India. AurangzebThis was not only very lucrative for him, but also had a major impact on UK foreign trade.

Even though his crimes in the Red Sea gave rise to the first international hunting and capture order and the first trial of the seventeenth century, perhaps the most surprising thing in its history is that they were not worth their death or capture.


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For the historian E.T. Fox This is what makes Every stand out the most from his contemporaries. “Almost all of the most famous pirates of the so-called ‘golden age of piracy’ (approximately 1690-1730) had traumatic endings. Many were captured and executed like Captain Kidd; others like Bartholomew Roberts Y Blackbeard, died in battle with the Royal Navy; some died alone, abandoned on a desert island or murdered by their mutinous crew ”, he points out in his book King of the Pirates: The Swashbuckling Life of Henry Every and adds that “None of them were as successful as Henry Every.”

For its part, Steven Johnson states in his book A pirate against capital (Turner), that “That generation of the Golden ageBlackbeard, Samuel Bellamy, Calico Jack– was very inspired by the crimes of Henry Every and the legends that revolved around him ”, and assures that“ Although Every is not as famous today as those iconic figures of the golden age, it had a more significant impact on the course of world events ”.

Very little is known about Henry Every; it is unknown when he was born and even his real name is doubted

Not much is known about the early life of this pirate. As Johnson points out in his book, most scholars agree that he was born near Plymouth (Devonshire, England) in the late 1650s, with which the great blow would have been committed around his 40 years.

Although the only letter in his handwriting was signed “Henry Every”, it is not known what it was actually called. There is speculation as to whether her last name is actually spelled Avery, or at the time other names such as Benjamin Bridgeman.

School of William Van der Velde 1663-1707. Pirates attack an English Warship. Oil on Canvas. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Pirates attacking an English ship, in a painting by William Van der Velde

Universal Images Group via Getty

As the author points out, the first clear references to Every are his youth enlistment in the Royal Navy during his adolescence and later that given by an agent of the Royal African Company, Thomas Phillips, who reports in 1693 that he had begun his career as a merchant of slaves. The following year, he reappears in historical records as the ship’s first mate. Charles II from the British company Spanish Expedition Shipping, whose objective was to enrich itself by rescuing treasures from sunken Spanish ships in the Caribbean.

The crew of which Every was a part set sail from England with the intention of making a strategic stop in La Coruña to stock up and carry out some paperwork before heading to the West Indies. However, the first part of the trip was postponed for several months. Stranded in Spain, the crew had not received their salary and began to despair. Every knew how to capitalize on the situation in a mutiny and the escape of the ship.

Every, a sailor from the Spanish Expedition Shipping, mutinied, took control of his ship and set sail for Madagascar

According to a witness of this event cited by Johnson in his book, once in the open sea, Every would have said to the crew of the ship: “Now I captain this ship (…) We have set course for Madagascar, and my intention is to accumulate fortune for myself and for the brave companions who join me ”. Those who remained on board the ship became pirates from that moment and the Charles II was renamed The Fancy (elegant or luxurious).

The island of Madagascar was tempting because, in addition to being known as a haven for pirates, it provided a good base for attacks on treasure ships making pilgrimages to Mecca by the Indian ocean. Before arriving there, the crew of the Fancy raided three English merchant ships on the islands of Cape Verde, and continued their course along the coast of Guinea, where they took advantage of the appearance of a merchant ship that the Fancy had, to deceive the locals, kidnap and sell some of them as slaves.

An idealized representation of the combat between the pirate Blackbeard and Lieutenant Robert Maynard

Third parties

During the first months of 1695 they spent in Madagascar, the Fancy’s crew made improvements that gave the ship great speed and agility. He also faced and looted two Danish corsairs and later a French one.

By the time summer arrived, and with more than 150 men on board, Every set his sights on your master plan. The real wealth was in the ships that made the pilgrimage to Mecca on the Red Sea. Specifically, in the fleet of the Mughal emperor who occupied the throne in India thirty years ago, Aurangzeb.

An alliance of six pirate captains coincided in the hunt for the ship with the fortune of Aurangzeb

This route turned out to be a meeting place for an overwhelming number of pirates of the time. Six captains with their ships met Every at this point on the map. “Those more than four hundred pirates gathered in June at Bab el-Mandeb they could well represent half of all the pirates in the world at that point in history, ”says Johnson. Arranged in the same place and with the same objective, they decided forge an alliance under the command of the captain of the Fancy.

Henry Every went from commanding a ship to leading a fleet. After missing a few failed opportunities during their pursuit of the emperor’s convoy, the pirates managed to seize the escort ship Fath Mahmamadi with the more than 60,000 pounds sterling in gold and silver that it loaded (equivalent to five million dollars today, according to Johnson points out in his book).

Captain Kidd in New York Harbour by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Captain William Kidd welcoming a young woman on board his ship; other men and women crowd the deck as another woman steps aboard. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)

An idealized view of pirates’ treatment of women; the reality was very different

Universal Images Group via Getty

A few days later, they attacked the emperor’s flagship, named Ganj-i-Sawai, which in Persian means excessive treasure. Some estimates speak of 200,000 pounds sterling at the time, which would be almost twenty million euros today. “Regardless of the estimate, the robbery … ranks as one of the most lucrative operations in crime history,” says Johnson.

However, the pirates were not satisfied with the riches they found. According to the version of events that would later appear in the mouths of the ballads and the pamphlets distributed in London, Every would have fallen in love with a granddaughter of the emperor who was on board. Some even claimed that the captain asked for his hand. In any case, it was an idealized account of events, which ensured that the women on board had never been disrespected. But this was not the only version.

The first versions spoke that Every fell in love with the emperor’s granddaughter, but reality married more with a rape

“The fact that the popular view of Every as a pirate in love … was challenged was in itself a significant change in the relationship between England and India. European seafarers had been committing barbaric crimes in remote parts of the world for at least two centuries, ever since the bloody raids of Drake in the port cities of Central America until the genocide perpetrated by the Dutch … in present-day Indonesia. However, stories of these atrocities rarely reached European capitals, ”explains Johnson.

In this case, however, there was a narrative that broke with the romantic account of the events. While the victims of the Dutch in Indonesia at the beginning of the 17th century had not had the resources or tools of complaint, this time “Henry Every had boarded a boat, owned by the richest man in the world, which, in addition, led an immense state apparatus that rivaled any of the governments of Europe “, says Johnson in his book.

Abdul Muzaffar Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb (14 October 1618 - 20 February 1707), commonly known as Aurangzeb Alamgir and by his imperial title Alamgir ('world-seizer' or 'universe-seizer') and simply referred to as Aurangzeb was the sixth Mughal Emperor and ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent during some parts of his reign. His reign lasted for 49 years from 1658 until his death in 1707. (Photo by: Photo 12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Emperor Abdul Muzaffar Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad, Aurangzeb (1618-1707)

Universal Images Group via Getty

According to the survivors, after boarding and controlling the ship, the pirates dedicated themselves tomurder and torture passengers to tell them where parts of the treasure were found. In addition, they dedicated themselves to raping several female passengers for days on board, including relatives of the emperor.

Once the Ganj-i-Sawai reached Surat, the news aroused anger. The pirates under not only had stolen the fortunes of the emperor, they had also violated his women while they participated in the most sacred pilgrimage for the Muslim faith. They had not committed a simple crime, but also a sacrilege. His actions were even interpreted as an act of war.

Every’s ‘coup’ threatened to destabilize political balances in the area, prompting the British to hunt down

Aurangzeb responded to the events by arresting senior officials from the English East India Company, who he believed had conspired against him. For the Company, the first public limited company in history, which had made a fortune from importing calico and chintz fabrics from India, Every became a great threatas it put in crisis the geopolitical stability that India needed for its commercial prosperity.

In an attempt to preserve their trade agreements, Aurangzeb was compensated for the stolen, promised to bring the pirates to justice, and both the Government and the Company put their agents and ships at the service of searching for the pirates, offering a great reward for his capture. Henry Every quickly became the UK’s most wanted man, but his whereabouts were never discovered.

The cinema has idealized the image of pirates.  In the photo, Captain Blood, 1935

The cinema has idealized the image of pirates. In the photo, Captain Blood, 1935

Bettmann Archive

The only thing that is known after the great robbery is that the pirates divided the booty and left for the Bahamas. A few were found and executed, while most fled to Europe or the American colonies. Of Every nothing else was ever heard. The mystery that marked his childhood would accompany him to the end.

“The mists that cloud the birth of the Devonshire sailor are almost as thick as those that surround his death,” says Johnson, explaining that the pirate became a legend of his time and, as such, a hero for some and a villain. for others. “He was a mutineer, a leader of the working class, an enemy of the state and a pirate king. And, in the end, he became a ghost, “he says.

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