History’s Boldest Heist – Stealing Crown Jewels

Kevin Mackoy
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The story of Thomas Blood’s audacious attempt to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London is a remarkable tale of deception and daring. Imagine a time when the most prized symbols of the British monarchy were under threat from a cunning and charismatic rogue. Let’s delve into the audacious plot that unfolded within the historic walls of the Tower.

In 1671, Thomas Blood, a man known for his charisma and wit, embarked on a mission that would go down in history. His plan was audacious yet deceptively simple. He would exploit the trust of an elderly Keeper of the Jewels, Talbot Edwards, who had unfettered access to the Crown Jewels. To achieve this, Blood employed a classic conman’s trick.

Blood, disguised as a humble pastor, managed to befriend Talbot Edwards through flattery and charm. He showered Edwards with praise and even had a beautiful actress pose as his wife, feigning a severe stomach ailment. This charade allowed Blood to gain entry to the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels were safeguarded.

Having successfully ingratiated himself into the Edwards family, Blood played his cards strategically. He pretended to have a wealthy nephew, the ideal suitor for Edwards’ daughter. Edwards, eager to secure a prosperous match for his daughter, readily agreed to arrange a meeting with this prospective suitor. Little did he know that Blood had more sinister intentions.

On the fateful morning of May 9, 1671, Blood and his accomplices arrived at the Tower of London. One of his associates, William Smith, waited outside with horses, while Blood, Robert Perrot, and Richard Halliwell accompanied Edwards to his residence. As they awaited Edwards’ wife to prepare a meal, Blood nonchalantly broached the subject of viewing the Crown Jewels—a request that seemed innocuous given Edwards’ role as their custodian.

With Edwards’ consent, the group descended into the room housing the Crown Jewels. However, as soon as the door was unlocked, Blood’s true intentions were revealed. The men viciously attacked Edwards, beating him mercilessly and even stabbing him in the stomach. Edwards was quickly restrained and gagged, unable to raise the alarm.

A Swift and Audacious Theft

With Edwards incapacitated, Blood’s gang wasted no time. Richard Halliwell stood guard as lookout while Blood, the son of a prominent blacksmith, embarked on the audacious theft. He seized the crown and hastily flattened it using a concealed mallet. Meanwhile, Robert Perrot boldly concealed the Sovereign Orb, symbolizing the power of the British Empire.

Their daring heist accomplished, the thieves made a swift exit from the Tower of London, mounted on waiting horses. The alarm was eventually raised, and a pursuit was launched to apprehend the audacious criminals. The story of Blood’s audacious attempt to steal the Crown Jewels had captivated the nation.

Remarkably, Thomas Blood managed to avoid the death penalty. His audacity had captured the imagination of many, including King Charles II himself. Instead of execution, Blood received a royal pardon and a sizeable estate in Ireland. It remains one of history’s most puzzling twists that this audacious thief was rewarded for his daring exploit.

The Legacy of a Daring Conman

The story of Thomas Blood and the Crown Jewels lives on as a testament to audacity and cunning. It reminds us that even the most secure treasures can fall victim to the wiles of a charismatic rogue. The Tower of London, once an impenetrable fortress, became the stage for an audacious caper that has left an indelible mark on history.

The Bewildering Fate of the Stolen Crown Jewels

While Thomas Blood’s audacious attempt to steal the Crown Jewels in 1671 is well-documented, there are intriguing lesser-known facts that add layers of intrigue to this historic heist.

Blood’s Not-So-Secret Identity: Thomas Blood was not just a common thief; he was a former Parliamentarian who had fought against the monarchy during the English Civil War. His transformation into a daring crown jewel thief is a fascinating twist in his life story.

The Missing Scepter: During the heist, Blood managed to seize the Sovereign’s Orb and the crown, but one crucial piece remained elusive—the Scepter with the Cross. Blood had attempted to steal it as well, but the scepter was too long to conceal, leading to its abandonment.

The Courageous Daughter: While Talbot Edwards, the Keeper of the Jewels, endured a brutal attack, his daughter bravely concealed the Imperial State Crown, preventing its theft. Her quick thinking helped safeguard one of the most iconic pieces of the Crown Jewels.

Blood’s Remarkable Escape: Following the heist, Thomas Blood and his accomplices fled, but they were eventually captured. Incredibly, Blood managed to secure an audience with King Charles II himself. His ability to engage the king in conversation and entertain him led to a royal pardon.

A Perplexing Motive: Blood’s motives for stealing the Crown Jewels remain a topic of debate among historians. Some suggest he aimed to sell the jewels to raise funds for a rebellion against the monarchy, while others believe he wanted to humiliate the king.

A Man of Many Aliases: Throughout his life, Thomas Blood operated under various aliases. He was known as Captain Blood, Major Blood, and even disguised himself as a parson, highlighting his versatility as a criminal mastermind.

Unsolved Mysteries: Despite his pardon, Blood’s later life is shrouded in mystery. Some accounts suggest he continued his life of crime, while others claim he turned into a spy for the monarchy. The truth remains elusive.

The Crown Jewels’ Checkered Past: Prior to their theft, the Crown Jewels had a history of being moved, hidden, and even damaged. During the English Civil War, they were dismantled, with many gemstones being sold or lost.

Recreating the Heist: In 2012, the Tower of London hosted an event to recreate Thomas Blood’s audacious heist. Actors portrayed the roles of Blood and his accomplices, allowing visitors to experience the tension and drama of the theft firsthand.

Eternal Fascination: Thomas Blood’s audacious heist continues to captivate storytellers, inspiring novels, films, and even documentaries. The enduring fascination with this historic event demonstrates its enduring allure.

The Tower of London’s Intriguing Tale

The Tower of London, a site steeped in history, holds within its walls the secrets of the Crown Jewels and the audacious heist that almost led to their loss. While the stolen jewels were eventually recovered, the legacy of Thomas Blood and his daring caper endures as a testament to the enduring allure of audacity and intrigue.

In the annals of history, one story stands out as an enduring testament to audacity and intrigue. The events that unfolded within the hallowed walls of the Tower of London in 1671 continue to captivate the imagination, reminding us that even the most heavily guarded treasures can fall prey to the daring ambitions of individuals like Thomas Blood.