Charles Bronson (born Michael Gordon Peterson; December 6th, 1952) is an English criminal often referred to in the British press as the "most violent prisoner in Britain". He had a normal childhood and close relationship with his mother, and during his teenage years robbed many banks.
Born Michael Gordon Peterson in Luton, Bedfordshire, he was one of three sons of Eira and Joe Peterson. His father later ran the Conservative club in Aberystwyth. His uncle and aunt each served as mayor of Luton in the 1960s and 1970s. His aunt, Eileen Parry, is quoted as saying: "As a boy, he was a lovely lad. He was obviously bright and always good with children. He was gentle and mild-mannered, never a bully; he would defend the weak".
Peterson lived in Luton from the age of four, but when he was a teenager, his family moved to Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, where he started getting into trouble. By the age of 13, he was part of a gang of four robbers and was reprimanded in juvenile court after he was caught stealing. He enjoyed fighting from an early age, and was often absent from school. Bronson later returned to Luton, which he refers to as his hometown.
His first job was at Tesco, which lasted two weeks before he was dismissed for attacking his manager. He passed through a number of jobs, working as a hod carrier and in a number of factories. He was imprisoned for the first time at Risley, serving time on remand for criminal damage after he smashed some parked cars following an argument with his girlfriend's father. Following his trial, he was fined and given probation.
First arrested as a petty criminal, he was convicted and sentenced in 1974 to seven years' imprisonment for armed robbery. Additional time was added due to attacks on prisoners and guards. Upon his release in 1987, he began a bare-knuckle boxing career in the East End of London. His promoter thought he needed a more suitable name and suggested he change it to Charles Bronson in 1987, after the American actor.
He was returned to prison in 1988 after being convicted of planning another robbery. He is known as a violent inmate, and has taken numerous hostages in the course of confrontations with guards, resulting in his sentence later being changed to life imprisonment. He has been held at times in each of England's three prison psychiatric hospitals.
Due to his record of violent anger and mental illness in prison, Bronson is one of the highest-profile criminals in Britain. He has been featured in books, interviews, and studies in prison reform and treatment. He has said: "I'm a nice guy, but sometimes I lose all my senses and become nasty. That doesn't make me evil, just confused." He was the subject of the 2008 film Bronson starring Tom Hardy, a biopic based loosely on his life.
Bronson has written many books about his experiences and famous prisoners he has met throughout his incarceration. A self-declared fitness fanatic who has spent many years in segregation (solitary confinement), Bronson dedicated a book to exercising in confined spaces. He is an outsider artist; Bronson's paintings and illustrations of prison and psychiatric hospital life have been publicly exhibited and won him multiple awards.
In 2014, he changed his name again, this time to Charles Salvador, in a mark of respect to Salvador Dalí, one of his favourite artists. The Charles Salvador Art Foundation was founded to promote his artwork and "help those in positions even less fortunate than his own" to participate in art.