In addition to successfully pulling off one of the most lucrative heists in the history of piracy, Henry “Long Ben” Every (circa 1655 – disappeared 1699) was one of the few major pirates who reportedly lived to retire with his loot, without being killed in battle or arrested and executed. His life inspired a popular play, The Successful Pyrate, about a pirate who retires after one year of piracy and lives the rest of his life under an assumed name as a rich man.
Born in Plymouth, England, Every went to sea at an early age. By 1694, he was First Mate in the Charles II, a privateer serving the king of Spain, when he led its disgruntled crew in a mutiny that seized the ship. Renaming the vessel the Fancy, the now-captain Every issued a proclamation that English ships had nothing to fear from him, then fell upon foreign vessels as he sailed into the Indian Ocean.
Arriving in Madagascar in 1695, Every had the Fancy refitted and modified for speed, then, after seizing a French ship and convincing 40 of its crew to join him, he sailed north to intercept the Indian Mughal fleet as it returned from its annual pilgrimage to Mecca. In cooperation with 5 other pirate ships, Every intercepted the Mughal fleet and captured a ship whose holds yielded about £60,000 pounds – a sizeable haul in those days.
Every and his crew wanted more, however. Not long after, they caught up with the Mughal fleet’s flagship, the Ganj-i-Sawai, with 62 guns and 500 musket men, and seized it after an hours-long ferocious fight, during which the Mughal captain panicked and fled to hide below decks among concubines. After securing the vessel, Every and his crew then went on a days-long orgy of rape and torture.
The loot from the Ganj-i-Sawai came to about £600,000 pounds in gold, silver, precious metals and goods, which was the largest single haul ever scored by a pirate. Not wanting to share with the other pirate ships, Every and his men tricked them, loading their holds with the loot and arranging to meet and divide the bounty, but took off instead. The Fancy, recently modified for speed, soon out-sailed the other pirate ships, whom followed in her wake in impotent rage, until she disappeared below the horizon.
The Fancy made it to the Caribbean, and after the loot was divided, the crew split up and Every disappeared from history. It was commonly assumed that he established a new identity somewhere and lived his remaining days in great wealth, but some sources claim that he returned to England, only to be swindled out of his riches, and ended his days an impoverished pauper.