Though frequently marked by moments of fantastical realism, the Uncharted games have always been grounded in real-world history. The journey of Sir Francis Drake, the myth of El Dorado, the lost city of Ubar–all these legends are based (at least loosely) on historical fact.
In Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the unimaginable treasure of the pirate Henry Every (alternately written as “Avery”) not only provides a catalyst for Nathan Drake’s final adventure, it also allows the narrative to revel in the very real exploits of history’s wealthiest and, in many ways, most successful pirate.
Without spoiling too much of the game’s plot, here are 10 fascinating facts that provide an overview of the real Henry Every’s life and crimes. Once you’ve beaten Uncharted 4, come back and compare the game’s hyperbolic fantasy to the historical reality.
Though he would eventually become the world’s most notorious criminal, Every started his sailing career as a member of the British Royal Navy, serving from 1689 to 1690. Documents show he likely participated in a number of famous battles–including several skirmishes related to The Nine Years’ War–and was eventually promoted to Master’s Mate on the HMS Rupert before being handselected by captain Sir Francis Wheeler to serve on the impressive 90-gun HMS Albemarle.
Another unexpected element of Every’s origin story: he was a documented family man. During his two years with the navy, Every routinely sent his wages to his loved ones rather than spending them on personal indulgences (at the time, professional sailors were far more likely to do the latter than the former). This wholesome behavior wouldn’t last forever, though…
Tricks of the Trade
After being discharged from the navy in August 1690, Every transitioned into a morally bankrupt but nonetheless lucrative line of work: slave trading. During this period, Every sailed both along the African coast and throughout the Caribbean. Though not entirely substantiated, Every would reportedly lure other traders onto his ship by flying the British flag before taking them captive and tossing them below deck with the rest of the human cargo.
From Trader to Traitor
Every’s time in the slave trade eventually led to a First Mate position in a new trading venture funded by British investors and backed by the Spanish government. Unfortunately, the crews found themselves trapped at port without pay for six months when Spanish officials refused (or simply failed) to grant the venture a letter of marque. Consequently, Every helped organize a bloodless mutiny in May 1694, which ultimately left Every in charge of a newly commandeered vessel after the former captain (and some loyal crewmen) elected to row ashore rather than join Every.
Madagascar At Last
Shortly after renaming his new ship The Fancy, Every quickly plundered five ships on his way down the west African coast. Once he finally rounded the Cape of Good Hope, Every and the Fancy did indeed dock in Madagascar in order to rest and resupply. This was most likely just a temporary stop, however, as Every’s biggest score was still six months off.
Know Your Enemy
During this same period, Every cleverly issued a “Declaration to English Ship Commanders,” which claimed (falsely) the Fancy would never attack an English vessel so long as English skippers used a specific signal to identify themselves. In reality, this maneuver was most likely a way for Every to avoid the wrath of the East India Company, whose vast resources and powerful ships made them the only real threat to pirates in the Indian Ocean.
In August 1695, Every oversaw what is considered the most profitable pirate heist in history. Together with five other pirate ships and 440 total crewmen, Every and the Fancy pursued 25 Grand Mughal vessels sailing through the Arabian Sea on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The convoy included the Ganj-i-sawai, a 1,600-ton behemoth loaded with gold, gems, and other treasures. Though several of the pirate ships fell behind during the chase and others were ensnared by smaller ships, Every eventually caught and engaged the Ganj-i-sawai, breaking its mainmast with a canon volley before boarding the ship and battling its crew. After hours of fighting, Every and his pirates triumphed.
To The Victor…
Despite incurring heavy losses, Every and his remaining crew escaped their encounter with the Ganj-i-sawai with an estimated £600,000 worth of jewels and precious metals, which equates to roughly £52.4 million in modern currency. Even after dividing this fortune among his men, Every was still, without question, the richest pirate on earth at the time.
The Long Arm of the Law
Every’s brazen attack on a foreign ship irreparably harmed England’s reputation on the global stage, so in response, British parliament declared the so-called Pirate King and his men “enemies of the human race” and put a £500 bounty on Every’s head. When the East India Company later matched that amount–leading to an absurdly large combined bounty–Every became the subject of the first recorded global manhunt in history.
Sail Away, Sail Away
The promise of riches and pardons wasn’t enough, however, as Every was never captured in spite of frequent sightings. Following its famous raid in the Indian Ocean, the Fancy sailed all the way to the Bahamas, stopping only on the inhabited Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic. Here the pirates hunted sea turtles and abandoned crew members who refused to continue the journey.
The Fancy did eventually reach the Caribbean, though, and from there, history becomes hazy. Some believe Every retired comfortably, settling on a tropical island or even changing his name and returning to England. Others claim he was swindled while trying to launder his fortune. Regardless of his ultimate fate, one thing is certain: Every was never killed or captured, and after just two years as a pirate captain, he escaped with more treasure than most would see in a lifetime.