James MacLaine

James MacLaine

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James MacLaine

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"Captain" James MacLaine (occasionally "Maclean", "MacLean", or "Maclane") (1724 – 3 October 1750) was a notorious highwayman with his accomplice William Plunkett. He was known as the "Gentleman Highwayman" as a result of his courteous behaviour during his robberies. He famously robbed Horace Walpole, and was eventually hanged at Tyburn. The film Plunkett & Macleane was based loosely on his exploits.MacLaine was the second of two sons of a Scottish Presbyterian minister who moved to Monaghan in the north of Ireland. The elder son also became a minister. Educated to become a merchant, MacLaine frittered away his inheritance in Dublin on fine clothes, gambling and prostitutes. He moved to London and married the daughter of an innkeeper or horse dealer. With the dowry of five hundred pounds, he set himself up as a grocer in Welbeck Street. His wife died within 3 years, and he ruined his business in adopting the airs of a gentleman to attract a new wealthy wife. He joined bankrupt apothecary William Plunkett as a highwayman.

Plunkett and Maclaine were responsible for around 20 highway robberies in six months, often in the then-relatively untamed Hyde Park. Amongst their victims were Horace Walpole and Lord Elgington. The thieves were always restrained and courteous, earning Maclaine the soubriquet "gentleman highwayman". The proceeds enabled him to live the high life, as he had always wanted.

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