1643 – 1670
A gentleman highwayman who operated in the Maidenhead area.
Most highwaymen were thugs and murderers, but Claude Duval was different. Born in Normandy, he moved to Paris to look for work aged 14, before coming to England in 1660. In order to finance his gambling, drinking and womanising, he turned to highway robbery. Many of his raids took place at Maidenhead Thicket, and on the Bath Road.
Duval gained a reputation for gallantry. In his most famous exploit, he held up a lady’s coach, knowing that there was £400 on board. However, he took only £100, allowing the lady to keep the rest on condition that she danced a coranto with him on the heath.
Not all stories, though, show him in such a positive light. On another occasion he held up a lady’s coach, stealing everything including a silver baby’s bottle, only returning it when forced to do so by an accomplice.
Duval was arrested while drunk in a London pub, and taken to Newgate Prison. It is said that many women of high standing pleaded for his pardon, but to no avail – he was hanged at Tyburn in 1670, aged only 26. He is buried in Covent Garden Church.
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