From the outbreak of the civil war, Francis, unlike his brothers Rowland and Thomas, was a vehement supporter of the parliamentary cause, while William Norwich, appointed vicar of Stathern in 1641,1 was unhesitatingly on the side of Charles I. Norwich had held the living only four years when he was fined £48 for adhering to the king's cause and refusing to give up the use of the prayer book in church. Hacker, as constable, collected the fine. In 1648, Norwich was deprived of his living, possibly at Hacker's instigation, and driven from his parish. For thirteen years he was left to keep himself and his wife as best he could. Meanwhile, two puritan ministers, Frecalton and Shephardson, were, in turn, put in possession of the living, men more in line with Hacker's own religious bent. The baptismal, marriage, and burial records were not kept with any degree of regularity during this period.

In the year 1646 Stathern was, for the last time, swept by plague and the burial records tell of seventeen deaths2 from that cause, marked with a cross in the register, from February to July. In a Latin note Norwich regards it as little short of a miracle that of those who showed the plague-marks, as many as half recovered. Among those who died of the plague were Barbara and Isabel Hacker, the squire's daughters, who were buried in Stathern churchyard, the 29th and 30th of April, 1646.

In his religious views Hacker was a stern presbyterian and, while strongly opposed to the anglican church, he was equally hostile to other puritans who did not accept his views. Before his death he declared 'that the greatest trouble he had upon his spirit was that he had formerly borne too great a prejudice in his heart towards the good people of God who differed from him in judg­ment.' Probably his treatment of the quakers who, in his day, under the leadership of George Fox, had stood sturdily for freedom of conscience, was the chief thing upon his mind. In his position of justice of the peace for the county, Hacker had had Fox brought before him for holding a quaker meeting near Leicester, and had threatened to imprison him if he came that way again. But, of course, Fox was not stopped by such a threat. Strangely enough, when he did come into Leicestershire in the following year Hacker's wife, Isabell, and his brother-in-law, Marshall, the husband of his sister Anne, were present at one of the meetings which Fox held in the district. Both of them were convinced and threw in their lot with the quakers. Fox records in 1655:3 'I went into Leicestershire where Colonell Hacker said he would imprison me againe. I came to Whetstone where his troopers had taken me before, and Colonell Hacker's wife and Marshall came to the meeting and was convinct (who remains a Freinde to this day).' When brought before the magistrates in 1663, Fox refers to the same events as evidence of his loyalty: ' I was carried up out of my ain countrie by Colonell Hacker (before Oliver Cromwell) as a plotter to bring in King Charles in 1654, and I had nothing but love and goodwill to the King . . . '

On the 10th July, 1643 Hacker was appointed one of the militia commanders for Leicestershire, the scene of most of his exploits during the civil war. On the 27th November, 1643 he and several others of the Leicester company were surprised and taken prisoners at Melton Mowbray,4 by Gervase Lucas, royalist governor of Belvoir Castle. A month later, December 28th, 1643, parliament ordered his exchange for Colonel Sands5: 'Ordered, that it be especially recommended to my Lord General, from this House, to exchange Mr. Hazlerigg, Captain Hacker and Mr. Arthur Stavely, for Sir Wingfield Bodenham, Lieutenant-Colonel Sands.' The captured were, all three, members of the Leicester committee.

At the capture of Leicester by the king in May, 1645 Hacker, who distinguished himself in the defence, was again taken prisoner.' The royalists,'records Hollings,6 'in pushing forward were furiously attacked by the horse stationed at the extremities of the inner breast­work under Captain Hacker and were again borne back over the breach with the loss of several of their number.' After the capitulation of the town Hacker, early in the morning with a few others, made his escape over the river Soar at Pike Head7 but after being closely pursued he was captured near Braunstone and subjected to the same confinement as the rest. Hacker was a member of the parliamentary committee during the siege.8 In spite of his bravery he was attacked for his conduct in a pamphlet by a certain James Innes9; this provoked a warm defence in a second pamphlet published by the Leicester committee. His services in the parliamentary cause are there detailed at length; particular praise is lavished on his behaviour at the capture of Bagworth House and his defeat of the royalists at Belvoir, where he was in command of the Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derby horse. Hacker, too, they say 'of all the prizes that ever he took, reserved nothing for himselfe, but gave all frankly to the State and his Souldiers'; also 'having layne long prisoner at Belvoir, was offered his pardon and the command of a regiment of horse to change his side and refused it with scorne; ' . . . . .choosing rather to suffer imprisonment and beggery than to take up arms against the Parliament' . . . ' We know no cause of this invictive spleen against him, but that he is a valiant souldier and one of the Committee.' Hacker could inspire both dislike and trust in his intimates.

At the defeat of the royalists at Willoughby Field10 in Nottinghamshire, July 5th, 164811 Hacker commanded the left wing of the parliamentary forces and was slightly wounded.

It was to his keeping that the king was committed during the trial at Westminster and, to his great credit it is recorded that he treated Charles very respectfully; it was also Hacker who was put in command of the soldiers guarding the scaffold on the day of the king's execution.12 At about ten o'clock on the morning of the execution Hacker came to fetch Charles to Whitehall. Attended by his servant, Herbert, and by Juxon, Bishop of London, they walked through St. James's Park. A guard of halberdiers surrounded the king and companies of foot were drawn up on each side of his way. "The drums beat and the noise was so great as one could hardly hear what another spoke," said a contemporary. It was a cold frosty morning and Charles walked, as he was used to, very fast and, calling to the guard ' in a pleasant manner,' told them to march apace. When he reached Whitehall he was kept waiting two or three hours, perhaps, suggests Firth, to give parliament time to pass an act forbidding the proclamation of a new king. There are two traditions of Charles's last words to Hacker, as the colonel was holding the axe in his hand, before passing it to the executioner; the local one is, ' Hacker, you will take care of my body,' unvouched for by any contemporary; the other, 'Take care that they do not put me to pain, and, sir, this, an' it please you.'13

Hacker returned to the hall after the execution, bringing with him the warrant upon which he had acted.

This warrant is now in the British Museum but was kept at the hall during all the years of the Commonwealth. It was addressed to 'Colonell Phayre, and to every of them,' and was signed by nearly sixty of the leading men of the parliamentary party, including Oliver Cromwell and Colonel Hutchinson.

It seems that Cromwell had ordered Colonel Huncks to write out a further order required by the executioner before he would do his work. Huncks was afraid. So Cromwell wrote the order with his own hand and then passed the pen to Hacker. Hacker, after a moment's hesitation, stooped and signed it. This was the last signature needed to ensure the king's execution, but it was also to entail the death of the signer.

1 List of vicars in Stathem parish church.
2 Stathern register of burials.
3 Fox's Diary, vol. i, pp. 194 and 424 n.
4 The Siege of Leicester in 1645—J. H. Rollings, p. 11.
5 Commons' Journals ii, 25 Dec.
6 Rollings' op cit., p  20.
7 Ibid, p 24
8 Ibid, p. 27.
9 An Examination of a Narration of the Siege of the Towne of Leicester, by James limes (copy in Leicester Public Library).
An Examination Examined, etc., (copy in Leicester Public Library).
10 Hutchinson Memoirs, pp. 439-40.   H.M.C. Portland, vol. 1, p. 475.
11 Wood, Nottinghamshire in the Civil War, p. 180.
12 Firth, Oliver Cromwell, pp. 226-7.
13 The Church of S. Guthlac. Stathern, p. 31. Rev. E. G. Pierson.