Captain Blood The Infamous Crown Jewels Thief

Captain Blood

Blood was born in 1618 in County Clare Ireland, the son of a successful land-owning blacksmith of English descent. His grandfather was a member of the Irish Parliament, and had lived at Kilnaboy Castle. Blood received his education in Lancashire, England. At the age of 20, he married Maria Holcroft and then with his new bride returned to Ireland. 

Blood, a Parliamentarian during the English Civil War, was deprived of his estate in Ireland with the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. In 1663, he put himself at the head of a plot to seize Dublin Castle from supporters of King Charles II, but the plot was discovered and his accomplices were executed. He however escaped capture. 

In 1671, he hatched a bizarre plan to steal the new Crown Jewels, which had been refashioned by Charles II because most of the original jewels were melted down after Charles I’s execution in 1649. In April or May 1671 he visited the Tower of London dressed as a parson and accompanied by a female companion pretending to be his wife. The Crown Jewels could be viewed by the payment of a fee to the custodian. While viewing the Crown Jewels, Blood's ‘wife’ feigned a stomach complaint and begged the newly appointed Master of the Jewel House, 77-year-old Talbot Edwards, to fetch her some spirits. Given the proximity of the jewel keeper's domestic quarters to the site of the com- motion, Edwards' wife invited them upstairs to their apartment to recover, after which Blood and his wife thanked the Edwards’ and left. 

Over the following days Blood returned to the Tower to visit the Edwards’ and presented Mrs Edwards with four pairs of white gloves as a gesture of thanks. As Blood became ingratiated with the family, an offer was made for a fictitious nephew of Blood's to marry the Edwards' daughter, who, Blood alleged, would be eligible, by virtue of the marriage, to an income of several hundred pounds. 

On 9 May 1671, in furtherance of the deception, Blood convinced Edwards to show the jewels to him, his supposed nephew, and two of his friends while they waited for a dinner that Mrs Edwards was to put on for Blood and his companions. The jewel keeper's apartment was in Martin Tower above a basement where the jewels were kept behind a metal grille. Reports suggest that Blood's accomplices carried canes that concealed rapier blades, daggers, and pocket pistols. In entering the Jewel House, one of the men made a pretence of standing watch outside while the others joined Edwards and Blood. The door was closed and a cloak thrown over Edwards, who was struck with a mallet, knocked to the floor, bound, gagged and stabbed to subdue him. 

The Tower guards apprehended and arrested all four of the perpetrators. Following his capture, Blood refused to answer to anyone but the king and was consequently taken to the palace in chains, where he was questioned by King Charles, Prince Rupert, and others. King Charles asked Blood, “What if I should give you your life?”, and Blood replied, “I would endeavour to deserve it, Sire!” Charles was so impressed with Blood’s audacity that, far from punishing him, he restored his estates in Ireland and made him a member of his court with an annual pension. 

Captain Blood became a colourful celebrity all across the kingdom, and when he died in August 24th 1680 his body had to be exhumed in order to persuade the public that he was actually dead. 

Blood's epitaph read: 

Here lies the man who boldly hath run through,

More villainies than England ever knew;
And ne'er to any friend he had was true.
Here let him then by all unpitied lie, 

And let's rejoice his time was come to die. 

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