Thomas Blood (1618-1680), a bold Irishman with the gift of the gab, goes down in history as the only man who stole the British Crown Jewels. He had to be a facet short of a brilliant cut to even come up with his scheme!

He was an unscrupulous if charming rogue who fought under King Charles I during the English Civil War, quickly switching to the Parliamentarian side under Cromwell when all was lost for the Royalists. When King Charles II was restored to the throne, Blood and his family sensibly withdrew to Ireland. There, he made two ambitious but failed attempts to kidnap the Governor of Ireland. Having tried seizing Dublin Castle, he must have considered himself sufficiently experienced enough to tackle the Tower of London where the Crown Jewels are kept. This he did by first insinuating himself on Talbot Edwards, the Keeper and his family, over a few visits, masquerading as a parson.

On May 9, 1671, he and his accomplices went into action. While one posing as his "wealthy nephew" chatted up Edward's pretty daughter, Blood and the others were taken to see the Crown Jewels. A farce ensued after they overpowered the Keeper and tied him up. Blood used a mallet to flatten the St Edward's State Crown to hide under his clerical coat, another man stuffed the Orb down his trousers and the third filed the St Edward's Sceptre in two pieces because it was too long to smuggle out. They were so inept that the elderly Edwards managed to free himself despite being hit on the head with the same mallet and stabbed before being tied up. The alarm was raised and the lot of them were apprehended before they got far.

Trying to steal the Crown Jewels was (and still is) an act of treason. The full penalty for treason back then was by hanging, drawing and quartering. Astonishingly, Blood weaseled his way out by first getting an audience with the King and then amusing said King so much so that he not only got a full pardon but was granted a pension of 500 pounds a year - a substantial sum for that era. Such was his slippery reputation that after he died, his body was exhumed to make sure that he was well and truly dead and not up to his old tricks!

Wikipedia : Thomas Blood
Wikipedia : English Civil War
Theft of the Crown Jewels
Trivia Library : time and history 7 am - British Crown Jewels stolen

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