13 June 2017

Highwaymen: Pirates of the Road

 .... my guest this week: Cryssa Bazos

 Rogues, pirates and scoundrels. Why are we so fascinated by them?  Is it the sense of adventure or living vicariously through those who are not confined by rules? Since you’re following Helen’s blog, you know all about pirates, so I’m here instead to wax poetic about a different type of pirate, one that ruled the dark byways and wooded trails—the highwayman.

Also called highpads and knights of the road, highwaymen have seized the public’s imagination for nearly four hundred years. They’ve been celebrated for their cunning and daring, often considered the aristocrats of the criminal world; a cut above the common criminal.

Attribution: British Library via Visual Hunt [Public Domain]
Before engaging in their nefarious profession, it was not uncommon for many of these highwaymen to have been reasonably educated and employed in influential households, so they knew a thing or two on how to converse with polite society.

While the 18th century experienced a golden age for highwaymen, similar to pirates (who hasn’t heard of Dick Turpin?), the public’s fascination with these rogues goes back even further, to the 17th century, and there were a surprising number of infamous ones, including Captain Hind, Charles Duvall, and the Wicked Lady, highway(woman) Katherine Ferrers.

Attribution: The British Library via Visual Hunt [Public Domain]
The 17th century was a time of political turmoil not just in England - the Thirty Years War, War of the Three Kingdoms, specifically the English Civil War. Even during the latter part of the century, when the English crown changed hands peacefully through the Glorious Revolution, you had the ousted Jacobites to contend with. After the English Civil War, many Royalist soldiers couldn’t return to their sequestered estates and found themselves bankrupt. For these men, highway robbery was a matter of survival; for others, it was a way to avenge themselves against an enemy who had executed their king.
Attribution: NPG D29229; James Hind published
by John Scott (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) 
A highwayman who became famous for harassing Roundheads was Captain James Hind. Though Hind had been engaged in highway robbery with the Bishop Allen gang before the war, he gained notoriety for his activities during the war. Hind became a bit of a folk hero - charming, witty, entertaining his “clients” in exchange for relieving them of their purses. He couldn’t resist harassing barristers, tax collectors and pompous wealthy merchants, so you can appreciate why the masses loved this guy. There were even stories of him taking pity on the destitute by giving them back some of his “earnings”.

One of my favourite Captain Hind stories involves a bailiff, an innkeeper and a usurer. Once in Warwickshire, Hind came upon a disturbance in front of a public house which blocked traffic. The innkeeper owed £20 to the usurer, but because business was poor, he couldn’t repay the debt on time, and the officials had come to arrest him and seize what they could.

Hind felt sorry for the man. He settled the bond, paid the innkeeper’s debt and the bailiff’s fees from his own funds. Everyone was happy - the bailiffs toddled off and the usurer left the innkeeper in peace. The man’s goods had been saved.

The grateful innkeeper invited Hind to be his guest for as long as he desired, but Hind excused himself, claiming he had a matter to attend first. Hind rode after the usurer, and when they were far enough away from the town, held him up. Not only did Hind retrieve the £20 he had given to settle the bond, he stole another £20. Later than night, Hind returned to the innkeeper and gave him the cancelled bond along with £5, saying, “he had good luck by lending his money to honest men.”
[Helen says: 'I'm laughing here - what a wonderful man!']

When the English Civil War broke out, Captain Hind chose the King (rather surprising considering he lived outside the law). He fought as a Foot soldier under William Compton, the Governor of Banbury, and received his commission from him at Colchester during the second Civil War.

The legend of Captain Hind grew into the 18th century, until he became a Royalist beacon of resistance, robbing the Roundheads and leaving good Royalists unmolested. In particular, he targeted the regicides, those responsible for the King’s trial and execution. He out-sermoned Hugh Peters, robbed the King’s judge, John Bradshaw, and nearly succeeded in holding up Oliver Cromwell’s coach. All tall tales, but the public ate them up.

His service record, however, was rooted in fact, not myth. After King Charles I was executed, Hind left England and travelled to The Hague, where the new king, Charles II, lived in exile. Curiously, he stayed a few days before sailing for Ireland on a ship that carried the “king’s effects.” Cromwell’s men were engaged in fierce fighting in Ireland, and it’s possible that the ship carried supplies, and very likely dispatches for King Charles II’s supporters. Hind spent several months there fighting with the Royalists, and when Charles made an alliance with the Scots to support him against the English Parliament, Hind followed him to Scotland where he pledged him his sword.

A year later, Hind with the King’s army, returned to England. The King got as far as Worcester before being penned in at all sides by Cromwell’s army. On September 3, 1651, the final battle of the Civil War was fought.

It was a disaster, with Royalists fleeing for their lives. Being an enterprising fellow and an expert at finding hidden trails, Hind managed to escape and made it back to London, where he lived incognito for five weeks until he was caught.

Hind was never tried for highway robbery. Instead, Parliament wanted him for treason, for they believed that he had been responsible for the King’s escape from Worcester. Eventually, Hind was found guilty and was hanged, drawn and quartered. His last words on the scaffold were a reaffirmation of his loyalty to the King.

Attribution: Captain James Hind, via Visual Hunt
Captain Hind, highwayman, rogue and keen wit remained an unrepentant Royalist to the very end.

About Traitor’s Knot
England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor's Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

Praise for Traitor's Knot

"A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story. Five stars." Elizabeth St. John, bestselling author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife

“Cryssa Bazos is equally at home writing battle scenes as writing romance, and the pace keeps the reader turning the pages.” - Deborah Swift, bestselling author of The Gilded Lily.

Cryssa Bazos is a member of the Romantic Novelist Association, the Historical Novel Society, the Writers' Community of Durham Region and the Battle of Worcester Society. Her articles and short stories have been featured in various publications, both in Canada and the UK. She is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors site and blogs as the 17th Century Enthusiast. 

Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot, was placed 3rd in Romance for the Ages in 2016 (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance).

Social media and buy link:

Twitter: @CryssaBazos

Traitor’s Knot is available through Amazon.  http://mybook.to/TraitorsKnot

 And as an extra bonus: Loreena McKennitt The Highwayman ...


  1. Wow! Sounds like a great read. There's something dangerously attractive about these bad boys - and looking backwards, they exude a lot more glamour than our modern day rogues. I'll give you a tweet in a mo. :-)

  2. Thank you for having me Helen!

  3. I like that you delve behind the surface to show the raison d'etre for so many of those who took to the highways. Tales of Robin Hood flew through my mind as I read your post, Cryssa. I simply must read your book!


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