Henry Every, also known as Henry Avery (20 August 1659 – after 1696), sometimes erroneously given as Jack Avery or John Avery, 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.
Dubbed “The Arch Pirate” and “The King of Pirates” by contemporaries, Every was infamous for being one of 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 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 £91.9 million in 2021, making him the richest pirate in the world. 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.
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 anywhere between 1699 and 1714; his treasure has never been recovered.
If you are a Doctor Who fan (and who isn’t?) you will remember Henry from the episode “The Curse of the Black Spot”