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Theft of English Crown Jewels

Updated on September 1, 2013

Colonel Thomas Blood was born in Ireland in 1618 to a respectable family, but he did not have a respectable life. He fought for both sides in the English Civil War and was appointed a justice of the peace by Cromwell. When Cromwell died and King Charles II was returned to the throne, Blood fled England for Ireland. He tried to stir up a rebellion in Ireland, but failed and he soon fled to the Netherlands.

In 1670, Blood returned to England in disguise, he was soon stirring up more trouble, trying his hand at kidnapping, which was unsuccessful. But Blood had another plan up his sleeve.

The new crown jewels were kept in the Tower of London. The old ones had been destroyed by Cromwell. Blood first visited the Tower disguised as a parson to get a look at the layout. He and a confederate tried to ingratiate themselves with the custodian’s family.

It was possible to view the jewels during the day by paying a fee to the custodian. Blood arranged to get an early private view at 7 am. Once he and his 2 companions were inside the room with the jewels, Blood proceeded to knock out the custodian. Blood used the same mallet he had used to subdue the custodian to flatten out the St. Edward’s crown, to make it easier to hide under his coat. One of his partners in crime, sawed the Scepter in two and hid it in his coat. The other criminal stuffed the gold orb down his pants.

An alarm was raised and the men were captured before they were even out of the tower courtyard. But this is where the story gets interesting. King Charles did not punish Blood, not at all, if fact he was rewarded with a position at court and land in Ireland that guaranteed Blood a substantial annual income.

The official story was that King Charles was so tickled by the daring of the plot that he could not punish any of the perpetrators. Neither Blood or his companions were ever punished. But was their daring the reason?

King Charles was a spendthrift and a womanizer, having at least a dozen illegitimate children by several of his many mistresses. Maybe the King was behind the robbery, hoping to sell the crown jewels for some ready cash. When Blood and his men were captured, the king didn’t dare prosecute for fear of what they would say.

Or maybe the jewels were stolen because they weren’t really jewels at all. In 1685, after King Charles had died, many of the jewels in the crown were found to be fakes. Several of mistresses of the late king were found to have jewels suspiciously like those that should have been in the crown. So were the crown jewels stolen to sell or to disguise the fact that they were fake? We will never know.


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