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Richard Topcliffe

In Elizabethan England they didn't lock up their psychopaths and take anything remotely dangerous and pointy from their cells; they gave them nice clothes, money for even more dangerous pointy things, and top government jobs.

Born in 1532, Richard Topcliffe was an elected Member of Parliament, but was primarily employed by Burghley as an internal security operative. Topcliffe seems to have taken this as a green light to hurt people – primarily Catholics – and soon gained a reputation as a relentless and imaginative interrogator/torturer.

As Burghley's chief inquisitor he would torment Robert Southwell and interrogate Ben Jonson, amongst others.

So dedicated to his dirty work was Topcliffe that he took work home with him, creating a torture chamber at his house in Westminster.

At one point his employer Burghley was so disturbed by Topcliffe's appetite for destruction that he had him imprisoned. Topcliffe returned to favor, however, living to a ripe old age for the times, and retiring to estates presented to him by Elizabeth. Not surprisingly these estates were in Derbyshire - many miles away from Court.

He died in 1604 - probably in more comfort than most of his unfortunate victims.

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