- "Our Captain Davis was killed today in a Portuguese ambush. Headstrong fool..."
- ―Bartholomew Roberts on the late Howell Davis, 1719.[src]
Howell Davis was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in the city of Milford Haven. He became the captain of the sloop Saint James and operated in the Cape Verde islands and West Africa, raiding Portuguese ships. During this time, he recruited Bartholomew Roberts into his crew when he captured the ship that Roberts was working aboard; Roberts eventually became Davis' right-hand man and a navigator aboard the Saint James.
In May 1719, Davis and Roberts landed on the island of Príncipe, a Portuguese colony, with Davis planning to kidnap the Portuguese governor. However, Davis and many of his men were killed in a Portuguese ambush orchestrated by the Templars John Cockram and Josiah Burgess. Roberts managed to survive the ambush, and was subsequently chosen as the new captain of the Saint James by the surviving crew members, after they were freed from their imprisonment by Edward Kenway, who came to the island in search of the Sage.