On this day in history : 9th May 1671 – Irishman Colonel Thomas Blood attempts to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London…. Although caught red-handed he receives a Royal Pardon….

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Thomas Blood by G. Scott – Public domain

Blood was born in County Meath in 1618 into a respectful family; his father was a blacksmith and his grandfather a Member of Parliament….

In 1642, when the English Civil War broke out, he travelled to England to fight for King Charles I…. However, when it became obvious Cromwell was going to win he switched sides and joined the Roundheads…. After Cromwell came to power Blood was given a large estate and made a Justice of the Peace….

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Charles I standing beside Henry VIII’s crown and a gold orb and sceptre, 1631 – Daniel Mytens – Public domain

When Charles II was restored to the throne Blood fled back to Ireland, taking with him his wife and son…. Back on Irish soil he joined a group of Cromwell supporters and a plan was hatched to seize Dublin Castle and kidnap Lord Ormonde…. Only the plan failed and Blood was to flee once again, this time to Holland….

In 1670, under the name of Thomas Ayloffe, he returned to London and set up as a ‘doctor’ in Romford…. Later that same year another plot to capture Lord Ormonde once more failed – and so Blood came up with the idea of stealing the Crown Jewels….which had a reputed value of £100,000 – a colossal amount of money in the day….

One April day in 1671 he visited the Tower of London dressed as a parson and was accompanied by a female companion, possibly his wife…. For a small fee it was possible to request to view the Crown Jewels…. The Keeper of the Jewels was one Talbot Edwards, who lived with his family on the two floors above the basement where the Jewels were kept….

Blood’s ‘wife’ feigned feeling unwell, complaining of a violent stomach-ache…. She was taken upstairs to the Edwards’ apartments to rest…. A few days later Blood returned with four pairs of white gloves for Mrs Edwards to say ‘thank you’…. A friendship developed between Blood and the family….and it was suggested that a meeting between Blood’s wealthy ‘nephew’ and the Edwards’ daughter, Elizabeth, should take place…. So, a breakfast date was arranged….

At 7am, on the morning of the 9th of May, Blood arrived with his ‘nephew’ and two other men – one of which was his brother-in-law, Hunt…. Whilst his ‘nephew’ was getting acquainted with Elizabeth the others asked to see the Jewels….

Once in the basement room Edwards was struck unconscious with a mallet – and stabbed…. The men then ripped away the iron grill in place to protect the Jewels and removed the crown, orb and sceptre…. The crown was flattened with the mallet and concealed within a bag, the orb went down Blood’s breeches and they attempted to saw the sceptre in two – as it was too large to hide….

At this point Edwards regained consciousness and began to shout for help…. Blood and the other men ran….dropping the sceptre in the process…. After unsuccessfully attempting to shoot a guard Blood was detained whilst trying to escape through one of the Tower gates…. Once imprisoned he refused to answer questions – saying he would only speak to the King himself….

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Charles II holding the orb in 1661 – John Michael Wright – Public domain

Blood was brought before King Charles II and other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Rupert, the Duke of York…. Blood turned on his Irish charm and the King found him rather amusing…. The scoundrel even had the nerve to tell the King that in his opinion the Crown Jewels were not worth £100,000 – more like £6,000….

The King asked of Blood “What if I should give you your life?”…. to which Blood replied “I would endeavour to deserve it, Sire!”…. In return for his bare-faced cheek he received a pardon, land in Ireland worth £500 per year and became a frequent visitor to Court…. As for Edwards, he made a full recovery – was rewarded well by the King – and dined out on his story for a long while afterwards….

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Gryffindar CC BY-SA 3.0

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