18th August 1696. Piracy on the High Seas.
Today on the 18th day of August 1696 ‘in the eighth year of the reign’,[William III), saw the Proclamation of the Privy Council in Scotland for the apprehension of the pirate, Captain Henry Avery, the scourge of merchants ships.
His biggest coup which was to stir the British to action, happened when his ship The Fancy attacked the Mughal’s Indian Fleet returning from Mecca in September 1695.
The result was a letter to the English Privy Council by Sir John Gayer, Governor of Bombay, the base of the British East Indies Company, which was forced to pay compensation to the Mughal.
A £1,000 bounty was now offered for the capture of Every, in what must be considered the first world-wide hunt.
Henry Avery aka Every, was an English pirate operating in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, under several aliases which included Benjamin Bridgeman or ‘Long Ben’ to his crewmen.
He had by this time been elected admiral of a six-ship pirate flotilla of 440 men, which included Thomas Tew’s Amity. They awaited the Mughal’s Fleet, returning home-a Fleet which comprised 25 ships, including the 1600 tons Ganj-i-Sawai, of 80 cannons, and its escorts.
Every having made his base on the Island of Perim at the southern part of Red Sea, now in September 1695, fell upon the convoy near Surat, capturing the escort Fateh Muhammed, but his prize was the Flagship Ganj-i-Sawai.(1)
It was the capture of this ship and its fabulous wealth which was to constitute the biggest prize in piracy in Asia at that time. What happened to the men and females on board is best left to the imagination.
Not surprisingly the 6th Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb Alamgir, back in India, was incensed and considered retaliation against the East India Company’s HQ in Bombay.
He did close four factories and threatened to cease trading, until Every was captured. In the event the Company paid £600.000 in compensation, which helped mollify the situation.(2)
Every was the archetypal pirate and known as ‘King of the Pirates’, being one of the few to retain his loot, evading arrest or being killed.
Nowadays Every is not so well known as Bluebeard or Captain Kidd, but managed to take more loot than even ‘Black Bart’ Roberts, in a career which lasted only two years.
However he did inspire others to take up piracy, and a whole genre of literary works; and where would the modern kid be without Pirates?
(1) Perim was occupied by the British from 1857 to 1967.
(2) The 6th Mughal Emperor reigned from 1658-1707.
Bombay, initially owned by the Portuguese, became British, as the dowry of Catherine of Braganza when she married Charles II.
By Royal Charter 27.3.1668 the English leased it to the East India Company, who in 1687 transferred their HQ to Bombay from Surat.