Three years later Avery returned to England to find his father dead and his mother dying. Orphaned, he soon went back to sea to earn his livelihood. He sailed on a number of merchant ships, and some even suggest that he was involved with the slave trade. By 1694 he was the first mate on the privateer Charles, under the command of Captain Gibson. One night Gibson retired early after losing a bout with a bottle of rum, only to be awakened from a stupor by Avery in the middle of the night. Avery informed the Captain that the ship was under sail, and that he had taken command. He also indicated that they were headed for Madagascar where he and his followers intended to pursue their fortune, and that Gibson and the few crewmembers that still supported him were being set ashore in a small boat.
Upon reaching Madagascar Avery sent the following notice to England to be posted in British newspapers:
I was riding her in the Fancy, man-of-war formerly the Charles of the Spanish expedition… being then and now a ship of 46 guns, 150 men and bound to our fortunes. I have neither yet wronged English or Dutch, nor ever intend whilst I am commander…If you or any whom you may inform are desirous to know what we are at a distance, then make your ancient [ensign] up in a ball or bundle and hoist him at the mizen peak, the mizen being furled. I shall answer with the same, and never molest you, but my men are hungry, stout, and resolute, and should they exceed my desire I cannot help myself.
As yet an Englishman’s friendHenry Avery
Avery’s bold notice left little doubt as to his intentions, even towards his own countrymen. He soon forged an alliance with two other well known pirate captains of the day, Tew and Mission, and began patrolling the seas between India and the Middle East in search of Indian treasure fleets. In September, 1695, Avery and his fellow pirates came upon two treasure ships of the Grand Mogul
Once victory was secured by the pirates, the mayhem that occurred on board the Gang-I-Sawai may be unparalleled in buccaneer history. First the male passengers and crew were tortured to determine if any knew of treasure hidden onboard the ship, then they were hacked into pieces and their remains thrown overboard. Next, the female passengers, including the Grand Mogul’s own daughter, were raped repeatedly by the pirates until they tired of them. Finally, depending on which account one chooses to believe, the ravaged females were abandoned on a deserted island, thrown overboard by the pirates, or committed suicide by jumping overboard. Since any raped female was considered to be unsuitable for marriage under Muslim law, it is likely that some combination of the latter two theories best describes the fate of the unfortunate women.
The Grand Mogul was outraged by the pirates’ actions and banned any trade with the East India Company until Great Britain brought all of the pirates responsible to justice. Between the British Government and the East India Company a reward of 1500 pounds was posted for the capture of Avery and his crew.
Avery and his crew learned of their predicament when they sailed to New Providence, Bahamas. After failing to buy their pardon from the Governor, the pirates divided their treasure and fled. Some went to England where most were caught and hung. Avery sailed to Dublin. There are stories that he remained in hiding and lived comfortably off his share of the Grand Mogul’s treasure for the remainder of his days. The more common tale of Avery’s fate asserts that since he had taken his share of the treasure primarily in diamonds and was unable to appear in public for fear of capture, he gave his diamonds to friends to sell for him. When they failed to return, he is reported to have died in poverty.
Regardless of the real truth about his end, Avery enjoyed tremendous notoriety in his day and attracted many would be imitators to life on the high seas. As a result, he became known as the “Arch Pirate” or the “King of Pirates”.…end