Gamaliel Ratsey is based on the real-life character of the same name who lived in Elizabethan England and was a highwayman and trickster. He is one of the main protagonists of the Anthony Horowitz novel The Devil and His Boy and he is an anti-hero in the story.
In the Army
Gamaliel Ratsey was a respected noble-born youngster who went to Ireland to fight for the English forces, and he was a very loyal soldier to the Queen and his country. He saw Queen Elizabeth the First several times, in fact on one occasion she was as close as a tree in a parkland. Gamaliel was in command of his own squadron, and fought bravely. He was well respected and when the war was over, he believed the Queen would reward him. But he found out she didn't care about ex-soldiers.
Converting to theft
So he got bored and ran away from home, becoming a highwayman, frequenting taverns and such places, living off the grid, and only rarely mixing with society. He occasionally lived with a band of thieves in London yet he didn't even trust them, believing they would betray him. He didn't even trust Molly Cutpurse, another famous thief.
Under the Slopes
Ratsey was a respected highwayman and thief who worked for Sebastian and Henrietta Slope, a wicked couple who owned the Pig's Head inn, who Ratsey often frequented, and he lurked outside the woods of the town in Suffolk, ready to ambush rich clients of the Slopes. In fact the Slopes paid him to do so. They used Thomas, a young orphan boy whose parents used to live in Framlingham castle, to report the clients to Thomas. Thomas hated doing so but feared the Slopes would kill him if he refused.
One day, a rich man came to the inn, called William Hawkins. He was an MI6 agent and loyal to the Queen but neither Thomas nor the Slopes knew this. He grew interested in Thomas (knowing Thomas for who he was, the Queen's relative) and wanted to take him away. Sebastian put up a fight, and then got Thomas to see Ratsey in the dark woods. Thomas met Ratsey, reported Hawkins, and heard about Ratsey's "tragic" life. Ratsey then said he'd be waiting for Hawkins tomorrow and left.
Hawkins did rescue Thomas from the Slopes, despite Sebastian trying to kill Hawkins. But to no avail - Ratsey ambushed them in the dense woods, and stepped out, a gun in his hand, and shot Hawkins dead after demanding his money and clothes. Hawkins told Thomas to go to Moorfield in London before he died.
Thomas got to London after a chain of events, and soon enough saw Ratsey at St Paul's Cathedral, asking if anyone had seen Thomas. He almost found himself in a black-market gang before Molly Cutpurse turned up and saved him, although initially she wanted to kill Thomas for disrupting her theft in the pub earlier. But she forgave Thomas and let him stay with her overnight.
Ratsey then ambushed Thomas on the Thames and chased him down to the riverbank, trying to kill him. Thomas used his newfound acting skills (because he'd joined an acting company with Molly's help) to escape. But Thomas escaped, and he was light enough to walk across the ice. Ratsey almost drowned in the ice but he got out, shivering.
Later that month, Ratsey was in a London inn (he had promised not to kill the owners if they provided him with food and shelter). Molly came to him and told him Thomas was going to be executed for "high treason" by attempting to kill the Queen with his theater group. Molly and Ratsey knew this was a lie, and broke into Parliament to find out what had really happened. They met the magician John Dee, who saved them from the Watch, and sent them through a hidden door where he said the Queen might be in there because he believed she'd left from all the noise they made. But he wished them luck (or his cat did) and they entered the hall.
Immediately they were surrounded and because Ratsey was in a mask, (of a fish) it looked like two demons had emerged from nowhere. But they were subdued and Ratsey prepared to fight but Molly recognized an official, Lord Moorfield, as the man Thomas should meet, and shouted about Thomas to him as they were dragged away.
Interrogation and release
Although it was presumed Ratsey was executed in the Tower, he and Molly both escaped. They were interrogated and found innocent. Ratsey's true plot - to save the Queen and Thomas - was revealed and he was given another chance to redeem himself. However, Horowitz notes that two years after the book was set Ratsey was betrayed by a criminal friend and he was hanged.
Gamaliel Ratsey was a polite, well-spoken and well-dressed man. He was usually honourable, giving his enemies a second chance. Ratsey was very intelligent for a man of his time, he spoke Latin. Also Ratsey was a wealthy lord and he may have taken some of his money to bribe other criminals as he started his criminal career.
A tall middle aged man with long black hair, Ratsey gave an impression of authority and command and a daring edge. Unlike many criminals, he outlived his associates until his luck ran out.