Colonel Thomas Blood attempted to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.

Blood was born in Ireland but travelled to England in 1642 following the outbreak of the English Civil War. Having originally fought on the side of Charles I, he switched to join the Roundheads midway through the war. Oliver Cromwell later made him a justice of the peace and granted him land as a reward.

Following the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, Blood lost the land he had been granted by Cromwell and fled to Ireland. After two failed attempts to kidnap and later kill the Duke of Ormonde, he staged his bid to steal the Crown Jewels.

Blood initially visited the Tower dressed as a parson and was accompanied by a woman pretending to be his wife who feigned a violent stomach ache that won sympathy from the family of Talbot Edwards, the Master of the Jewel House. They struck up a friendly relationship, and soon Blood proposed that his imaginary nephew should marry their daughter.

Blood, his ‘nephew’ and two other companions visited the Tower on 9 May. Edwards was persuaded to show them the Crown Jewels but, on unlocking the door, was hit with a mallet and stabbed. The thieves removed the metal grille from in front of the jewels and used the mallet to flatten the crown while the sceptre was cut into two. One of the thieves hid the orb in his trousers.

Edwards regained consciousness and raised the alarm. The thieves were apprehended as they ran to their horses, but Blood refused to answer questions for anyone except the King who not only pardoned Blood but also gave him land in Ireland worth £500 a year. Edwards, meanwhile, received a reward of £300.

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© Scott Allsop