Wynne was a very successful burglar and thief during the reign of Elizabeth I. Following the brutal murder of a rich merchant and his wife, Wynne took ship with his wife, children and ill-gotten fortune for the colonies in Virginia. There he prospered and became very wealthy. After twenty years in Virginia, he decided that he wanted to see his native England once more before he died . . .
HIS notorious criminal was born at Ipswich in Suffolk, where, for aught we find to the contrary, he continued till he was between fifteen and sixteen, at which age he betook himself to the sea, which he followed between eight and nine years. Happening then to come to London, and habituating himself with ill company, especially lewd women, he left no villainy unperpetrated for the support of himself and them in their extravagances, till at last he became so expert in housebreaking, and, in short, all sorts of theft, that he was reckoned the most notable artist in his way of those times.
It was in the reign of that glorious monarch, Queen Elizabeth, that our artist flourished; accordingly we find that, scorning a meaner prey, he had once the boldness, or rather impudence, to rob the royal lodgings at Whitehall Palace of as much plate as amounted to above four hundred pounds; for which he had the ill-luck to be taken and committed to Newgate. But, fortunately for him, her Majesty's Act of Grace coming out soon afterwards, granting a free pardon for all offences, except treason, murder, and some other notorious crimes, he was allowed the benefit thereof, and obtained his liberty, amongst many other criminals, whom their evil courses had brought into the same condition.
But Wynne, making a very ill use of the royal mercy, and taking no warning, still pursued his vicious ways, till at last, being in imminent danger of being apprehended, he got into the service of the Earl of Salisbury, into whose kitchen he was received in the capacity of a scullion.
Whilst he was in this post he had the impudence to pretend love to the countess's woman, who, admiring such insolence in a fellow of his rank, returned his addresses with the greatest scorn and contempt. This exasperating Wynne, his pretended love turned to hatred, and he vowed revenge, which he effected soon after in this manner.
As she was coming downstairs one night after undressing her lady and putting her to bed, he used her so roughly that the poor gentlewoman was immediately put to bed very ill; and the earl being next day made acquainted with the whole story, took upon himself to be his judge, and ordered him to be forthwith stripped, and severely lashed by his coachman, which was executed to some tune upon the spot. However his lordship, not thinking this a sufficient punishment, threatened to have it repeated once a week for a month together, but Wynne, not liking his sentence, thought proper to seek out fresh quarters, and accordingly packed up his awls and went off. But resolving to be revenged on his prosecutors, before he took his final leave of the family, he broke open the trunk of the coachman who had flayed him, and robbed him of nine pounds. He borrowed likewise fifteen pounds of the master cook's, a silver dish of his lord's, and all the best clothes of the poor woman whom he had handled so unmercifully; after which he set out in quest of new adventures.
It seems that in Wynne's time innkeepers were not so sharp as they are at present; wherefore our artist would frequently dress himself in a porter's habit, with a knot and cord, and going to one of the best inns, fix his eye on any bundle or parcel which seemed to be of value, and throwing it upon his shoulders, when he saw the coast clear, walk off with it directly, without the servants having the least suspicion of him, although they met him, each of them thinking he was known by one of his fellow servants.
He followed this course about two years, in which time he got above two hundred pounds, which fell heavy on the carriers, who were obliged to make good what was lost. But dear-bought experience making them look better after what they were entrusted with for the future, he had no opportunity of supporting himself any longer that way, which obliged him to have recourse to other methods.
One day then, hearing a man, as he was going out of his house, tell his wife he should not be back again in less than five or six hours, he dogged him to the place whither he went, and going to an ale-house hard by, inquired the name of the people of the house. This done, he went back into the tradesman's neighbourhood, and getting his name after the same manner, goes to his wife and tells her that he was sent by Mr Such-a-one, where her husband was taken on a sudden so violent ill that it was questioned whether he would live or die; wherefore she was desired to make all the haste she could thither. At this the poor wife fell a-shrieking terribly, and after bidding the maid take care of the house, hurried away with the sham messenger, either to assist her husband or take her leave of him before he departed this world.
They had not gone very far together before Wynne pretended business another way, left the woman to pursue her journey by herself, and returning to the house again, told the maid her mistress had sent him to acquaint her that if she did not come back by such an hour she might go to bed, for she should not come home all night. As Wynne pretended to be mightily tired with having made so much haste, the maid asked him very civilly to walk into the kitchen and rest himself, which being what he wanted, he readily accepted. In the meanwhile, the poor wench going to fetch him something to eat, whilst her back was turned he knocked her down suddenly, and binding her hand and foot, and gagging her, he rifled all the trunks, boxes, chests of drawers and cupboards, carrying off to the value of two hundred pounds in plate and money.
He had now reigned about eight years in his villainy when, taking notice of an old man who had formerly been a linen draper, but being rich had left off trade and lived on what he had, together with his wife, in Honey Lane, near Cheapside, he had for a long time a strong desire of robbing them. Accordingly one night he resolved to put it in execution, and broke into their house; but not content with robbing them, he determined also to murder them, to prevent a discovery, which he did by cutting their throats in a most barbarous manner, as they were sleeping in their bed together. This done, he robbed the house to the value of two thousand five hundred pounds, and fled away, with his wife and four children he had by her, to Virginia
Next day, the old people being not seen by their neighbours either to go out or in as usual, and the house being close shut up from morning to nights they began to be surprised at the meaning of it; and some among them suspecting some foul play, a constable was sent for and the door broken open, when upon entering the chamber the old couple were found in their bed, to their great astonishment and horror, with their throats cut from ear to ear, and weltering in their blood.
A great inquiry and search was then made after the murderer; and a poor man who begged his bread, having been observed to walk to and fro about the door, and sometimes to sit on a bench belonging to the house, the day before the murder was perpetrated, he was apprehended on suspicion, and being carried before a justice of peace, was by him committed to Newgate. The poor wretch was afterwards brought upon his trial; and though there was no other proof against him than some suspicious circumstances, he was cast for his life, and sentenced to be hanged before the door of the murdered persons; which was accordingly executed, though he denied the fact to the last, as well he might, and he was afterwards hanged in chains at Holloway.
In the meanwhile Wynne was safe enough with his family beyond sea, where it pleased God that he thrived prodigiously with his ill-got money, the price of innocent blood. But having now been absent from his native country twenty years, and being very desirous of seeing it once before he died, designing afterwards to return back and lay his bones in Virginia, he took his leave of his wife, children and grandchildren (for his family had multiplied as well as his riches), and came over to England. But mark how Providence pursued him.
Being one day at a goldsmith's shop in Cheapside to buy a parcel of plate, which he designed to carry with him to Virginia, whilst he was bargaining for it and the master of the shop was weighing it, a great uproar arose in the street - some sergeants having arrested a gentleman, and he breaking from the catchpoles who were in pursuit of him. Hereupon Wynne ran out of the shop the same way as the mob, and some that were behind him crying out, " Stop him ! Stop him ! " his conscience flew in his face, so that he stopped short, and said: " I am the man." " You the man ! " cried the people. " What man ? " " The man," replied Wynne, " that committed such a murder in Honey
Lane twenty years ago, for which a poor man was hanged wrongfully."
Upon this confession he was taken into custody and carried to a magistrate, before whom he again owned the same; and being committed to Newgate, was tried, condemned and executed also before the house where he had perpetrated the murder; after which he was carried to Holloway and hanged in chains.
Thus the just judgment of God at last overtook him for shedding innocent blood, when he thought himself secure from the stroke of justice. Neither was it wanting to punish his wife and posterity for being privy thereunto, and living upon the fruits thereof, for his wife ran distracted upon receiving the news of his shameful end, and died so. Two of his sons also were hanged in Virginia, for a robbery and murder they committed there; and what plantations he had purchased were seized upon for the Queen's use, as forfeited by his conviction of murder and felony; so that his posterity were reduced to beggary ever after, and died very miserable.
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