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Law and Order in LondonCrime and Punishment: Captain Richard Dudley
Posted on Jun 08, 2002 - 10:27 PM by Bill McCann

A Companion of the Highway Man whom King Charles II dubbed Swiftnicks for his Ride to York. Executed 22nd of February, 1681.

Richard Dudley was a gentleman descended of a very good family in Northamptonshire, but his father being ruined for exerting his loyalty in the time of the unhappy rebellion, when a cursed republican party most villainously murdered King Charles 1. before his own palace, he had little or no estate left him ; yet, for his father's sake, King Charles II., after his restoration, gave him a captain's commission in a regiment of foot; in which post he behaved himself very sincere; for being at Tangier, and one day the regiment ordered to be drawn out in battalia, Captain Dudley perceiving one of the men belonging to his company to stand a little out of his rank, he presently commanded a sergeant to knock him down.

Accordingly the command was obeyed, but not to his liking; for calling the sergeant to him again, and taking the halberd out of his hand, quoth he: " When I command you to knock down a man, knock him down thus." So with the right end of the halberd he cleft his skull in two; of which he immediately died.

When Tangier was demolished, and all our forces were then recalled from thence, Dick Dudley came into England at the same time ; but living here at a very extravagant rate, he could support himself in no manner of way but by taking on the road what he thought was a fair prize. The highway he quickly made his exchange, and would venture very boldly for what he got; but one time, being apprehended in London for robbing the Duke of Monmouth near Harrow- on-the-Hill, he was committed to the Poultry Compter.

Either this place is the emblem of a bawdy-house or a bawdy-house of it, for nothing is to be seen in any room but scurvy beds and bare walls ; nevertheless it is a sort of a university of poor scholars, in which three arts are chiefly studied viz. to pray, to curse and to write letters. But Dudley, breaking out of this mansion of sorrow and tribulation, not long after obtaining his liberty met with John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, coming from his seat at Woodstock, and setting on his lordship and his retinue, which was his chaplain, a couple of footmen and a groom, he took from him above one hundred guineas and a gold watch.

The chaplain then beginning to catechise Dudley for his unlawful actions, quoth he: I don't think I commit any sin in robbing a person of quality, because I keep generally pretty close to the text, 'Feed the hungry and send the rich empty away'. ; which was true in the main, for whenever he had got any considerable booty from great people, he would very generously extend his charity to such as he really knew to be poor.

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After this exploit, Dick Dudley meeting Captain Richard- son, the keeper of Newgate, on the road betwixt London and Tunbridge, in whose clutches he had been three or four times, he commanded him to stand and deliver; but Richardson refusing to deliver, withal threatening what he would do if ever he came into his custody again, quoth he:

I expect no favour from the hands of a jailer, who comes of the race of those angels that fell with Lucifer from Heaven, whither you'll never return again. Of all your bunches of keys, not one hath wards to open that door; for a jailer's soul stands not upon those two pillars that support Heaven, Justice and Mercy; it rather sits upon those two footstools of Hell, Wrong and Cruelty. So make no more words about your purse, for have it I will, or else your life.

Hereupon Captain Richardson was obliged to grant his request, and betwixt Dudley and the waters drinking at Tunbridge, went home as well purged and cleansed as a man could desire.

This daring robber had committed several most notorious robberies on the road with that famous highwayman, Nicks, on whom King Charles II. was pleased to confer the name of Swiftnicks, from his robbing a gentleman near Barnet about five in the morning, being come then from Blossom's Inn in London, and taking from him five hundred and sixty guineas. He rode straight to York, and appeared there on the bowling-green about six in the evening of the same day; and being apprehended and tried for the aforesaid robbery, before Judge Twisden, being acquitted of it, and the judge mistrusting something of the matter, after strictly examining him. Mr Nicks, owned the fact when he was out of danger, and was made a captain in the Lord Moncastle's regiment in Ireland, where he married a great fortune, and afterwards lived very honest.

But at last, this country being too hot for Dick Dudley, upon the account of robbing General Monk, who had ordered a strict search to be made after him, he was forced to fly into France; from whence, travelling to Rome, he was in very great necessity indeed. Not long after his arrival into this kingdom again, meeting with a Justice of the Peace on the road betwixt Midhurst and Horsham, in the county of Sussex, " Stand and deliver " was the language which he spoke to his worship, who, making a very stout resistance, shot Dudley's horse under him; but at the same time, being wounded in his arm, he was obliged to surrender at discretion.

Then the resolute highwayman, searching his pockets, out of which he took twenty-eight guineas, a gold watch and silver tobacco-box, next securing the magistrate's horse, quoth he :

Since your worship has previously broke the peace, in committing a most horrid and barbarous murder on my prancer, which, with my assistance, was able to get his living in any ground in England, I must make bold to take your horse by way of reprisal; however, I'll not be so uncivil as to let a man of your character go home afoot, for, for once, and not use it, I'll make one Justice of the Peace carry another.

So, stepping into a field where an ass was grazing, he brought him into the road, and putting the justice on his back, as he was tying his legs under the beast's belly, quoth he:
I know I offend against the rules of heraldry, in putting metal upon metal, but as there's no general rule without an excep- tion, I doubt not but all the heralds will excuse this solecism committed in their art, which I look upon to be as great a bite and cheat as astrology.
Thus taking his leave of the justice, his worship rode a very solemn pace, till the grave creature brought him safe into Petworth, where his worship had as many people staring at him as if he had been riding through the town in triumph.

At last, Dick Dudley attempting to rob the Duke of Lauderdale, when riding over Hounslow Heath, he was conquered in his enterprise, and committed to Newgate; and when he came to his trial at justice hall in the Old Bailey, above eighty indictments being preferred against him for robberies committed only in the county of Middlesex, he pleaded guilty. Then, receiving sentence of death, he was (though great intercession was made for his life to King Charles) executed at Tyburn, on Tuesday, the 22nd of February, 1681, aged forty-six years.

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