“It was a gallant attempt, however unsuccessful!”
Thomas Blood was born in 1618 at County Meath, Ireland, the son of a blacksmith and grandson of an MP. During the Civil War he fought for the Royalists before changing sides to join Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads. At the cessation of hostilities, Cromwell made Blood a justice of the peace and awarded him land.
However, when Charles II became king Blood fled to Ireland where he became a focal point for rebels. His plot to kidnap James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was prevented the day before and Blood escaped to Holland. In 1670 he returned to England where he practised as a doctor or chemist in Romford Market in Essex. On the night of 6 December 1670 he attacked the Duke of Ormonde’s coach in St James’s Street, London, planning to take the duke to Tyburn (modern day Marble Arch) and hang him there, but Ormonde managed to escape.
Blood then planned to snatch the Crown Jewels. In the spring of 1671 he visited the Tower disguised as a clergyman with a female accomplice pretending to be his wife. While admiring the Crown Jewels the “wife” pretended to be ill and was helped by the Assistant Keeper of the Jewel House, 77-year-old Talbot Edwards. Over the next few days Blood and his wife befriended the Edwardses, even inventing a nephew who could marry their daughter. On 9 May Blood brought his “nephew” and two friends to view the Jewels.
Once inside, they attacked Edwards and bond and gagged him. Blood flattened St Edward’s Crown and hid it under his cloak while his crony Captain Robert Perrot put the Sovereign’s Orb down his trousers. A third man, Thomas Blood’s son, filed the Sceptre with the Cross in two as Edwards struggled against his bindings, finally freeing himself to shout, “Treason! Murder! The crown is stolen!” As they fled to their waiting horses, they were captured and Blood declared, “It was a gallant attempt, however unsuccessful! It was for a crown!”
Tower of London, England
7am Tuesday 9 May 1671
Blood was taken to Court where on 12 May he was questioned by King Charles, Prince Rupert, the Duke of York, and other members of the royal family. Remarkably, on 1 August the king pardoned Blood and gave him land in Ireland worth £500 a year. John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, wrote in his History Of Insipids, “Blood, that wears treason in his face, Villain complete in parson’s gown, How much he is at court in grace For stealing Ormond and the crown! Since loyalty does no man good, Let’s steal the King, and outdo Blood!” Blood died at 3pm on 24 August 1680 at his home in Bowling Alley, London.