Thomas Blood and a Plot to Pilfer the Crown Jewels
As a Roundhead, Thomas Blood was inevitably keen to demonstrate his displeasure following the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, and, it was with a desire to express this discontentment that, in 1671, he plotted to pilfer the Crown Jewels from The Tower of London.
The Jewels could be viewed at the tower and it was under this pretence that Blood, dressed as a parson and accompanied by a woman pretending to be his wife, first observed them. Here, Blood’s “wife” feigned a stomach complaint and begged the Master of the Jewel House, Talbot Edwards, to fetch some spirits. Edwards’ wife invited them upstairs to their apartment to recover. Returning later with a gift of thanks, Blood became gradually ingratiated into the family and eventually an offer was made for a fictitious nephew of Blood’s to marry the Edwardses’ daughter.
On May 9th, Blood convinced Edwards to show him, his ‘nephew’, and two companions, the Jewels. Concealing rapier blades and pistols Blood and two fellow conspirators followed Edwards into the Jewel House, where the Jewels were kept behind a metal grille, whilst the other conspirator stood watch outside. As they entered the room a cloak was thrown over Edwards before he was struck, knocked to the floor, bound, gagged and stabbed, in an attempt to subdue him.
After removing the metal grille, Blood used a mallet to flatten out St. Edward’s Crown so he could hide it beneath his coat. The Sceptre with the Cross was cut in two to fit in their bag, while the Sovereign’s Orb was stuffed down one man’s trousers. Possibly, the disturbance caused by Edwards’ struggle raised the alarm, however, popular reports describe the fortuitous return of Edwards’ son, Wythe, who happened upon the theft and confronted the look-out, who alerted his fellow conspirators to their having been discovered. Ungagged, Edwards was able to sound the alarm with his cries of “Treason! Murder! The crown is stolen!”
As Blood and his gang fled it is said they joined the calls for alarm to confuse the guards. They dropped the sceptre and fired on the warders who eventually succeeded in capturing them. Having fallen from his cloak, the crown was found while Blood refused to give up. The orb was recovered, although several stones were missing and others were loose.
Blood refused to answer to anyone but the king so was taken to the palace, bound in chains, and questioned by King Charles and other members of the royal family. He was not only pardoned, but also given land. The reasons for the pardon are unknown though historians have speculated that the king may have feared a revengeful uprising by Blood’s followers, or that the king had a fondness for audacious scoundrels and was amused by Blood’s revelation that he had previously intended to kill the king as he bathed in the Thames but had changed his mind having found himself in “awe of majesty”. Following his pardon Blood became a familiar figure in London and made frequent appearances at Court, where he was employed to advocate in the claims of suitors to the Crown.