The so-called Thief­taker Gen­eral is more god­fa­ther than God­send!


Jonathan Wild, the Thief­taker Gen­eral, was the man re­spon­si­ble for up­hold­ing law and or­der in early Ge­or­gian Lon­don. He was also one of the great­est crim­i­nal god­fa­thers the city had ever seen, con­trol­ling a vast un­der­world net­work that saw him grow rich on theft, black­mail and vil­lainy.

When Wild’s net­work un­rav­elled af­ter a se­ries of cat­a­strophic bun­gles, the Thief­taker Gen­eral found him­self on the wrong side of the law. He was bru­tally at­tacked in the court­room by Joseph ‘Blue­skin’ Blake, a for­mer as­so­ciate, and went to the scaf­fold as one of the most no­to­ri­ous, ruth­less men the cap­i­tal had ever known. His was a quin­tes­sen­tial mo­ral­ity tale of greed and just desserts, and his down­fall had an un­ri­valled im­pact on the world of en­ter­tain­ment.

In the years fol­low­ing his ex­e­cu­tion the Thief­taker Gen­eral be­came a fa­mil­iar in­flu­ence on au­thors and play­wrights. He was reimagined as Peachum in The Beg­gar’s Opera (1728), and fu­elled count­ess Ge­or­gian satires. Decades later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in­cor­po­rated el­e­ments of his char­ac­ter into the ge­nius Pro­fes­sor Mo­ri­arty, cre­at­ing a man who showed the world a re­spectable fa­cade, be­hind which he con­cealed a life of crime that few could ever hope to match.

Jonathan Wild’s hang­ing was such a big event that tick­ets were distributed to the pub­lic!

Jonathan Wild is pelted by the mob on his way to the gal­lows at Ty­burn

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