John Nichols Thom, 'Mr Tom' (1799-1838), formerly a wine merchant in Cornwall, celebrated as a famous imposter and madman who invented numerous aliases, including 'Sir William Percy Honeywood Courtenay, the Knight of Malta', 'The Hon. Sidney Percy', 'Count Moses Rothschild', 'Squire Thompson' and 'King of Jerusalem'
This picture possibly derives from that painted in watercolours by H. Hitchcock, an artist from Canterbury, illustrating the 'Knight of Malta' in Eastern dress with a scimitar, looking similar to Henry VIII. This imposture forms the subject of a ballard entitled 'The Knight of Malta' in Harrison Ainsworth's Rookwood. Mr Thom proclaimed himself the 'Messiah' circa 1836, and is believed to be the cause of the last pitched battle on English soil, the Battle of Bossenden Wood, known as 'The Courtenay Rebellion'. Eleven people died in the battle, three were transported and six got a years hard labour. His grave was guarded so that his followers believing his claim to be the 'Messiah' might not assert that he had risen on the third day. The spot where he fell is marked on the ordinance survey map as 'Mad Thom's Corner'.