The Bizarre Story Of The Crown Jewels Robbery

It is likely that there have been more jewel heists portrayed on film than have actually occurred in real life. The most famous of these tend to be comedy capers such as the Pink Panther franchise, the sort of stories that contain silly disguises and non-stop chaos. As a result, almost everyone likes the story of a good heist, while real-life reports of such crimes are always bound to disappoint us for not living up to their onscreen portrayal.

And then there are those true stories of jewel robberies that are as silly as they are action-packed, as bizarre as they are boisterous. And we only had to go back 350 years, to 17th century England, to find it.

This story centers around a man named Thomas Blood, an Irish-born "rogue" who went to England to fight in the English Civil War on the side of King Charles I in 1642, according to Historic UK. However, it is reported that when it became apparent that the Royalists were destined to lose, Blood switched sides — some think he was actually a double agent, serving the monarchy — and joined the Roundheads in support of Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell. When Cromwell rose to power, Blood was rewarded for his services with lands and titles, but it was not to last; when Cromwell's reign was overthrown and the monarchy reinstated in the Restoration of 1660, Blood was forced to escape to his native Ireland. But his greatest adventure was yet to come.

Thomas Blood and the capture of the Crown Jewels

Thomas Blood returned to England in 1670 a wanted man. He had attempted to seize Dublin Castle in an anti-monarchist coup, per Historic UK, but evaded capture by living under another name and posing as a physician. In fact, he was working on a scheme to steal the Crown Jewels, which were guarded for safekeeping, as they are now, in the Tower of London.

Per Clare Library, Blood's disguised himself as a clergyman and made regular visits to the Tower, where he befriended Talbot Edwards, the Keeper of the Tower, by lying that he could arrange a lucrative marriage for the Keeper's daughter. After gaining the guard's trust, he returned with his nephew, whom Blood had put forward for the marriage, and two accomplices. Blood asked Edwards to allow him and his friends to see the Crown Jewels (per Historic UK). Edwards admitted them, whereupon he was attacked and tied up while Blood's gang fled with their prize.

Per The Telegraph, in the chase that followed a guard was shot, Blood was arrested, and the royal scepter was dropped somewhere in the streets of London. (It was recovered.) And, in a strange turn of events for a proven anti-monarchist, Blood was able to convince King Charles II himself to pardon him at his trial and — even better — to give him a pension of £500 a year for life and restore his estates in Ireland (per Clare Library). The old charmer.