bold and charming scoundrel
Thomas blood was born in Clare around 1618. His father was
an ironmater who also owned lands in Co. Meath and Co. Wicklow,
while his grandfather was Edmund Blood of Kilnaboy and Applevale.
Thomas spent most of his early life in England. In 1648
he married a Miss Holcroft in Lancashire and shortly afterwards
he returned to Ireland as an officer in the Cromwellian
army. He received grants of land in lieu of payment for
army service. These services are thought to have involved
espionage during the English Civil War.
However this particular Clare mans claim to fame was
his involvement in the robbing of the Crown Jewels.
The Crown Jewels were kept at the Tower of London in a basement
protected by a large metal grille. The Keeper of the Jewels
was Talbot Edwards who lived with his family on the floor
above the basement.
One day in 1671 Blood, disguised as a parson
went to see the Crown Jewels and became friendly with Edwards,
returning at a later date with his wife. As the visitors
were leaving. Mrs Blood had a violent stomach-ache and was
taken to Edwards apartment to rest. The grateful Parson
Blood returned a few days later with 4 pairs of white
gloves for Mrs. Edwards in appreciation of her kindness
to his wife.
The Edwards family and Parson Blood became close
friends and met frequently. Edwards had a daughter and was
delighted when Parson Blood proposed a meeting
between his wealthy nephew and Edwards daughter.
On 9th May 1671, Parson Blood arrived at 7am
with his nephew and two other men. While the
nephew was getting to know Edwards daughter
the others in the party expressed a desire to see the Crown
Edwards led the way downstairs and unlocked the door to
the room where they were kept. At that moment Blood knocked
him unconscious with a mallet and stabbed him with a sword.
The grille was removed from in front of the jewels and the
crown, orb and sceptre were taken out. The crown was flattened
with the mallet and stuffed into a bag, and the orb stuffed
down Bloods breeches. The sceptre was too long to
go into the bag so Bloods brother-in-law Hunt tried
to saw it in half!
At that point Edwards regained consciousness and began to
shout Murder, Treason!. Blood and his accomplices
dropped the sceptre and attempted to get away but Blood
was arrested as he tried to leave the Tower by the Iron-Gate,
after unsuccessfully trying to shoot one of the guards.
In custody Blood refused to answer questions, instead repeating
stubbornly, III answer to none but the King
Blood knew that the King had a reputation for liking bold
scoundrels and reckoned that his considerable Irish charm
would save his neck as it had done several times before
in his life.
Blood was taken to the Palace where he was questioned by
King Charles, Prince Rupert, The Duke of York and others
members of the royal family. King Charles was amused at
Bloods audacity when Blood told him that the Crown
Jewels were not worth the £100,000 they were valued
at, but only £6,000.
The King asked Blood What if I should give you your
life? and Blood replied humbly. I would endeavour
to deserve it, Sire!
Blood was not only pardoned, to the disgust of Lord Ormonde,
but was given Irish lands worth £500 a year. Blood
became a familiar figure around London and made frequent
appearances at Court.
Edwards who recovered from his wounds, was rewarded by the
King and lived to a ripe old age, recounting his part in
the story of the theft of the Jewels to all the visitors
to the Tower.
In 1679 Bloods phenomenal luck ran out. He fought
with his former patron the Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham
demanded £10,000 for some insulting remarks Blood
had made about his character. As Blood became ill in 1680
the Duke never got paid, as Blood died on August 24th of
the year at the age of 62.
He may have achieved fame in a manner not recognisable to
most of us in the modern era but Thomas Blood left a considerable
mark having left his native county before turning his hand
to unsuccessfully acquiring the Crown Jewels.
Courtesy of the Clare Champion