Captain (Colonel ) Blood
and the Crown Jewels.

Thomas Blood, whether called
`Captain`, ` Colonel`  or `Parson` was a rogue and confidence trickster
par excellence. In May 1663 he had been involved in a plot to capture the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland which failed and he fled to England Whether or not he was entitled to the military or
ecclesiastical ranks must be questionable as at various times he claimed
all. He also claimed to have been a Justice of the Peace in Ireland where
his lands worth £500 per annum in rents had been confiscated in the post
Restoration redistribution of the grants previously made to Cromwell`s
soldiers. The story of Blood`s attempt to steal the Crown Jewels from the
Martin Tower at the Tower of London, was subject of an excellent documentary
repeated on BBC2 (2 March 2005) –  one of the series entitled `Days
that shook the world`.

The Crown Jewels had been
broken up by Cromwell`s regime and Charles II  had them replaced at the 
(then) incredible expense of £32,000. They were held under lock and key in
the Martin Tower of the Tower of London where their unpaid guardian was one
Talbot Edwards. In April 1671 Thomas Blood, masquerading as a minister of
the church, in the company of a woman, Jane Blain, an actress, paid to see
the crown jewels. In the course of this Jane complained of `qualms of the
stomach`  and feigned illness. She was taken to the Talbot`s rooms
while Blood took the opportunity to make a mental note of the security of
the jewel room, and noted a brace of pistols lying nearby. Subsequently
Blood returned to the Talbot`s accommodation with 4 pairs of white gloves
for Mrs Talbot and her daughter, as a thank you for caring for `Mrs Blood`.
In the burgeoning friendship between them, Blood then suggested a possible
marriage between Miss Edwards and his nephew Thomas Hunt ( in fact his son
Thomas Blood junior).

Subsequently Blood and his
accomplices returned to the Tower, ostensibly to introduce his nephew to
Miss Edwards. Taking the opportunity, the accomplices  asked to see the
jewels, which Talbot Edwards happily showed them. In the jewel room a bag
was thrown over Edward`s head and he was beaten with a mallet, but still
resisting and calling for help, he was stabbed in the stomach – but not
fatally.  Blood and his accomplices then broke open the display and
began to smash the crown and the orb, trying to flatten them so as to better
hide them in their clothing. Edward`s cries were heard and Blood attempted
to shoot his way out but the pistols from the jewel room misfired.
Perversely the thieves ran in panic and lost their way out; but of greater
consequence was the arrival on the scene of Talbot Edwards son, a seasoned
soldier who had been away for some ten years.  That he returned home
this very day must be down to Providence, but as a soldier carrying arms, he
cornered Blood and crew and his accomplices, and arrested them.

The broken jewels were
retrieved and the thieves thrown into the Tower dungeons where all seemed
set for their execution. But Blood was not yet done, as he pleaded  for
an audience with King Charles II.  After some time Charles granted an
interview and sought an explanation of the attempted robbery. Blood then
spun a lengthy yarn about the loss of lands in Ireland, and that he had
previously had an opportunity to shoot the king but had decided not to. In
particular, he wove into his story many names of  influential friends,
including the Earl of Buckingham the Prime Minister. The inference of his
story  was that public unrest, even rebellion, might arise if he was
executed. The King considered the matter at length until at the end of June
Blood`s real wife, Maria, petitioned for his release. At this time, and
probably foremost in the king`s mind, was the threat of war with Holland and
this quite likely influenced his decision. He most certainly did not want
public disorder at home when fighting a war in Europe and gave Blood a
pardon. Moreover the pardon excused all and any crimes etc committed in the
past 11 years, and he granted the return of Blood`s lands in Ireland.

The cost of repairing the
broken crown and orb was £7800. Talbot Edwards was promised a pension of
£200 a year, but this was never paid. He died in poverty three years later,
his place as guardian being taken over by an armed guard which exists to the
present day. Thomas Blood Junior was released from the Tower and is thought
to have emigrated to America.  Colonel or Parson Blood remained at
liberty and died in 1680.