24 September 1652 – Captain James Hind
What’s so special about that you’re probably thinking? Well, during his criminal career, he came close to killing Oliver Cromwell and if he’d have been successful, maybe we wouldn’t have had parliament as we know it today.
Of course, Hind wasn’t always a felon. Life had started off comfortably enough until He moved from Oxford to London. Unfortunately, there he soon got caught up with a highwayman by the name of Thomas Allen and together their lives of crime unfolded, according to ‘Newgate Calendar, Volume I’.
In Hind’s sight
The backdrop to this story was the Civil War and Hind’s illicit activities came amid the deposition of England’s king – Charles I. The king was caught following a war with the opposing Roundheads and once captured, he was beheaded.
Hind was a committed royalist and completely anti the execution, so it was uncanny that soon after this had happened, Hind came across the very man behind the execution – Cromwell himself – on the highway.
Well, not one to pass up an opportunity, Hind and Allen teamed up to try and bump him off. But Cromwell came with seven men in tow and they made short shrift of the two have-a-go antiheroes.
Allen was taken there and then and was eventually executed. Hind however lived to see another victim, but it is unbelievable how close he came to changing the face of British history.
Without his mate, Hind had to go it alone. And the big problem he faced was that Allen had been the pro of the team. Without Allen, Hind had to be even more careful.
Indeed he had even lost his ride. He’d ‘rode so hard to get out of danger after this adventure with Cromwell that he killed his horse’, according to a report in the Newgate chronicles.
But robbing was a nice little earner for our feisty felon and he continued his one-man crime wave. In fact, he had an inordinate talent for homing in on regicides. As well as Cromwell, he happened upon Hugh Peters (watch out for him on 16 October).
Naturally Peters wasn’t one to just sit back and let himself be fleeced. He valiantly tried to put the fear of God into Captain Hind, quoting the Commandment ‘Thou shalt not steal’.
As if Hind was interested in anything remotely Godly. Instead, the highwayman came back with the swift retort: ‘deliver thy money presently, or else I shall send thee out of the world to thy master in an instant.’ With that the tables were turned and the money duly handed over.
Uncannily, he met a third regicide – Sergeant John Bradshaw – who become Lord President and cast the death sentence on King Charles I.
When Hind happened upon him on the road, the highwayman announced ‘I fear neither you nor any king-killing son of a whore alive. I have now as much power over you as you lately had over the King, and I should do God and my country good service if I made the same use of it ; but live, villain, to suffer the pangs of thine own conscience’.
You’ve got to admit, he’s got quite a way with words…
Of course Hind got the money, but rather than scarper, he rubbed the sergeant’s nose in it, berating him for his role in the King’s death. He then apparently shot the six horses pulling Bradshaw’s carriage and made off with his newly acquired bounty.
Such was Hind’s notoriety that soon, few had not heard of him and he was eventually apprehended after his landlord in Fleet Street shopped him. The 34-year-old was duly found guilty of treason (among other crimes) and the penalty was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in Worcester.
Fittingly, as he about to be done, Hind admitted he was a keen royalist and had targeted Republicans out of sheer hatred, and with that he was excruciatingly dispatched and his head skewered onto the bridge over the River Severn, while the rest of him was displayed around the city.