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Thomas Blood

Thomas Blood, (yes, that was his real name) was an Irish adventurer of dubious character. He had fought for Oliver Cromwells Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War and had survived to return to Ireland. In 1663 he made a raid on Dublin Castle with some colleagues and attempted to seize the Lord Lieutenant, the Duke, of Ormonde. This failed, but seven years later, Blood once again tried to capture the Duke. This time the Duke was in London, and Blood did manage to captured him but then had to release him.

On the 9th May, at seven o'clock in the morning Colonel Blood, disguised as a parson and accompanied by three well-dressed young men, one of whom Blood claimed was his nephew, visited the Martin Tower to see the regalia. Blood had already been there a few days earlier, accompanied by a woman whom he claimed was his wife. A short while after arriving the woman pretended to be taken ill. A recently retired servant, Talbert Edwards who was living on the premises as newly appointed Master of the Jewel House kindly led the woman upstairs to his wife to look after her. On the second visit Blood brought a present for Edwards wife as a thank you for her attentions to his own wife. As soon as the party entered the jewel chamber, Blood pulled out a mallet from under his cloak and struck Edward's on the head. His accomplices bound and gagged him. Blood then seized the king's crown and tried to flatten it with the mallet so as to get it into his cassock pocket. His 'nephew' meanwhile pushed the orb into the slack of his breeches. The other two men frantically filed away at the sceptre trying to cut it in half.

By chance, Edwards son Wythe arrived quite unexpectedly on leave from military service abroad. Immediately his suspicions were aroused, and he rushed into the room to find his father lying unconscious on the floor, bleeding from a head wound. Blood and his gang fled, but three of the four were caught as they tried to get out the Tower, and the jewels were recovered severely damaged.

A report was immediately sent to the king at Whitehall, and Charles sent for Blood for private interrogation. What followed on from Blood's initial arrest, considering the severity of the crime was quite unbelievable. Far from being punished, Blood was pardoned, awarded a pension of £500 a year, and made welcome at court. Shortly after Blood's pardon the diarist Evelyn met him at Whitehall, and later wrote down his opinion: 'How he ever came to be pardoned and ever received into favour, not only after this but several other exploits almost as daring, both in Ireland and here, I never could come to understand. This man had not only a daring, but a villainous unmerciful look, a false countenance, but very well spoken, and dangerously insinuating.'

Unfortunately the Jewel-house Master, Talbot Edwards was not so well treated for his so called crime of negligence and gullibility. He was awarded a grant of £200 but it proved so hard for him to get the actual money that he sold his right to it for the amount in cash, and died in some misery in 1674. Since Blood's foiled attempt during that fate-full day in the 1600's there has been no further threat to steal the jewels.

As you can imagine the affair led to a severe tightening up of the procedure for displaying the Crown Jewels and for admitting visitors. This included the posting of an armed guard by the door of the chamber in the Martin Tower. The jewels remained in the Martin Tower until 1841 when following the great fire at the Tower a new secure building was constructed to house them.

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