June 9, 2010
Blood Tries to Steal Crown Jewels – 1671
On this date in 1671, Thomas “Captain” Blood tried to steal the Crown Jewels of England.
Captain Blood had earlier fought on both sides of England's Civil War, gained lands as a reward, lost lands as a punishment, plotted rebellion, tried to kidnap and kill an enemy, and fled from country to country.
He was, in other words, a troublemaker.
To begin his infamous attempt to steal the Crown Jewels, Blood dressed up as a parson and had a female accomplice pretend to be his wife. Like any other tourist, they paid the small fee to see the jewels, which were kept in the Jewel House at the Tower of London. The woman with Blood pretended to be ill, and the Jewel House keeper took her into his own nearby house, where his wife helped her “recover.”
A few days later, Blood went back with four pairs of white gloves as a gift for the keeper's wife. He continued to make friends with the keeper and his family. There was even talk of a marriage between the fictional parson's fictional nephew and the keeper's daughter.
One evening Blood, in his guise as the parson, and three other men were invited to dinner at the keeper's house, and while there as trusted friends, they asked to see the jewels. The men had sword blades hidden in their canes and knives and pistols in their pockets, and they conked and tied up the poor Jewel House keeper.
One of the thieves shoved the Royal Orb down his trousers, and another sawed the Sceptre with the Cross in half so he could hide it in his costume. Blood used a mallet to flatten St. Edward's crown and hid it in his cloak.
The orb is quite large to be hidden in someone's breeches!
It's the ball that Queen Elizabeth II is holding in this picture.
As the thieves tried to get away, they were chased by Tower guards and there was a bit of shooting and fighting. The guards won and were able to arrest all four men.
Blood was brought before the king to be judged for his robbery attempt, but the king (for some reason) decided to pardon Captain Blood. Not only that, the king gave Blood some land in Ireland, thereby providing him with a yearly income.
Nobody knows why the king pardoned Captain Blood. Perhaps Blood's bold actions appealed to the king...or maybe it was Blood's flattery that influenced him. Maybe the king was worried that Blood's men would be loyal to him and rebel if Blood was punished. There have been other suggestions, as well...but it remains a mystery to this day.
At any rate, Blood was free to be a part of London society, and he made many appearances at Court as well. What a surprising end to a tale of disloyalty and crime!
A writer named Rafael Sabatini wrote a fictional book called Captain Blood. Even though Sabatini's character had a different first name and a very different life than Thomas Blood, some of the real man's exploits (adventures)--and his colorful last name—provided inspiration for the novel, which became very popular.
A movie starring Errol Flynn was based on the novel, and (several centuries later) a computer game was named Captain Blood in homage to the movie.
Write a story.
Captain Blood's life, including his unsuccessful attempt to steal the Crown Jewels, makes for an interesting story. Try your hand at fictionalizing history by telling the tale with dialogue and exciting action sequences.
(When we write historical fiction, we try to keep the clothing and places as accurate as possible, and we often stick to the known facts about big events, but we feel free to make up conversations and detailed “little” events.)
Read a story.
The Tower of London is full of interesting stories, including some quite blood-drenched stories (some famous executions were performed there).
Read some of the stories here.
Tour a tower.
The Tower of London: the name sounds like it is just one building, with just one tower. But it is really an entire group of buildings and 21 different towers!
Take a virtual tower tour.
Do a jigsaw puzzle of the White Tower, the most famous of the towers.
Here is a picture of the Tower of London, ready to be colored.