Memorials of the Tower of London
De Ros, William Lennox
COLONEL BLOOD'S ATTEMPT TO STEAL THE CROWN JEWELS. (1671.)
COLONEL BLOOD'S ATTEMPT TO STEAL THE CROWN JEWELS. (1671.)
A SHORTtime after Charles II. had appointed Sir Gilbert Talbot to be " Master of the Jewel House" in the Tower, several of the allowances of his office were reduced, and permission was given him, by way of compensation, to admit the public, under certain restrictions, to view the Regalia, paying the " Master" a regulated fee as his perquisite.
This liberty of access to the Jewel Office suggested to one Blood, a disbanded officer of Cromwell's army, the possibility of carrying off the crown and other valuables.
Having dressed up a woman of decent and quiet appearance to represent his wife, Blood attired himself as a clergyman, with cloak and cassock, according to the fashion of the time, and took her to the Tower, where they asked permission to see the jewels. While Mr. Talbot Edwards, the Deputy-Keeper, was showing them, the lady pretended sudden sickness, and Mrs. Edwards kindly asked her into their apartments, where she gave her some cordial which appeared to restore her; and with many thanks, the pretended clergyman and his wife took
|their leave, but not before Blood had availed himself of the occasion, to take a careful view of the localities, and to form his plan for the robbery.|
A few days after this he called with a present of gloves from his supposed wife to Mrs. Edwards, in return for her hospitality, telling her that his wife could talk of nothing but the kindness of " those good people at the Tower," and had desired him to mention, that they had a ward (a nephew) with a comfortable little estate in the country, and if such a match for their daughter would be agreeable to the Edwardses, they would with pleasure do their endeavour to forward it. Highly gratified by this plausible offer, the Edwardses invited Blood to dine with them that day, when he had the impudence to say a very long grace, with great appearance of fervour, concluding with a prayer for the King and Royal family. Noticing a pair of handsome pistols hanging against the wall of the parlour, he remarked that he should much like to buy them, if Mr. Edwards did not object to part with them, for a young friend in the army (his real object being to remove any defensive weapons from the house). He took his leave with a solemn benediction, and named a day for bringing his nephew to be introduced to Miss Edwards, requesting to be allowed to bring two country friends at the same time, to see the Jewels, before they returned to their homes. On the morning appointed, May 9, 1671, he arrived with three respectably dressed men, and as Mrs. Edwards and her daughter had not yet come down stairs, he asked Edwards to show his friends the Crown in the mean time. No sooner was this
|wish complied with, than they threw one of their cloaks over the old man's head, gagged him with a wooden plug with a breathing hole, and tied it tight with a string at the back of his neck. They then said they must have the Crown, Globe, and Sceptre, which if he quietly surrendered, but not else, they would spare his life. Poor Edwards, though eighty years old, instead of submitting to their conditions, made desperate struggles to get free and give the alarm, on which the villains gave him repeated blows on the head with a wooden mallet, and also stabbed him in the body, to silence his attempted cries. Blood now seized the Crown, one accomplice (Parrott) secreted the Globe, and the other proceeded, with a file they had brought for the purpose, to divide the Sceptre into two parts, for easier concealment; but at this moment the third man, whom they had left on the watch at the door below, gave an alarm, and in another moment Edwards's son, who, by a most fortunate chance, had just arrived from Flanders with Captain Beckman, his brother-in-law, hastened up stairs to salute his family. The villains made a rush past him, and, leaving the half-cut Sceptre behind them, escaped with the Globe and Crown, pursued by young Edwards and Beckman, shouting to stop the thieves. A warder at the drawbridge leading to the wharf, attempted to arrest their progress, but Blood firing a pistol in his face, he was so frightened, though the shot missed him, that he fell as if killed, and they got clear away by the wharf,and through the Iron Gate to St. Katherine's. At a place near this gate, they had appointed horses to meet them, and had nearly gained the spot, when Beckman,|
|who was a fast runner, overtook them, and though Blood fired another pistol at him, rushed upon him and seized him, when young Edwards coming up, he was overpowered, after a hard struggle, and brought back prisoner into the Tower.|
In this scuffle, the Crown, which Blood kept under his cloak, was knocked out of his grasp on the pavement, and a pearl and large diamond, with some stones of less value, were displaced; but they were nearly all picked up afterwards and restored. Parrott, who had, like his leader, been an officer in the Parliament's army, was captured, as well as two or three others who were waiting with the horses near St. Katherine's. This daring outrage having been immediately reported to Charles II., he took such interest in the matter, that he caused Blood and Parrott to be conveyed to Whitehall, in order to examine them himself.
When brought before the King, Blood's impudence was astonishing; not only did he acknowledge his recent offence without shame, but he boasted of the part he had taken some time before, in dragging the Duke of Ormond out of his coach in St. James's Street, and carrying him off to hang him at Tyburn, which was only prevented by the fortunate chance of his servants overtaking his captors, just in time for his rescue.
But the strangest piece of effrontery in Blood, not unmixed with a good deal of cunning, was his declaration to the King, that he had been engaged in a conspiracy to shoot him, when bathing near Battersea, being hidden with a carbine among some rushes, for the purpose,
|but " that his heart had been checked by an awe of Majesty, which caused him not only to spare the King's life, but to induce his associates also to abandon any further attempts at his assassination. As to giving the names of these associates, he said he would never betray a friend's life, nor deny a guilt to save his own." He said he knew the risk of such confessions, but "he had a large number of friends bound together by the most solemn oaths, to revenge each other's death, on whoever should bring them to justice. If His Majesty would now spare him and his accomplices in the Crown robbery, he would oblige the hearts of many; and as he and his fellow prisoners had shown that they could be daring in evil, so they would, if pardoned, be found ready to do great service to the King." At the termination of the examination, Blood and his accomplices were remanded to the Tower, but after a short imprisonment, were, to the astonishment of all, released without trial.|
For this ill-timed and unwarranted clemency, it is hard to assign any reason. To suppose that Charles was really intimidated by Blood's tale of impending vengeance, is quite inconsistent with his known courage in real danger. Yet he was so fully aware of the wrong he was committing, that he deemed an apology necessary to the Duke of Ormond in respect of the outrage which Blood had owned to having committed against his person. By the King's orders, Lord Arlington conveyed to the Duke a message " that it was His Majesty's pleasure that Blood should not be prosecuted, for reasons which he was commanded to give him;" but the Duke cut him short by
|saying "that His Majesty's command was the only reason that could be given, and therefore he need give him no others. "|
The circumstances of the outrage on the Duke of Ormond were as follows :-Blood had been a leader in the attempt to seize the Castle of Dublin, when the Duke of Ormond was Governor, and had narrowly escaped the gibbet on that occasion, by a hasty flight to England. To revenge himself on the Duke, he laid a scheme to attack him at night, when he was passing down St. James's Street in his coach, and so far did he succeed, that the Duke's life was at his mercy; but fortunately Blood was bent on a refinement of vengeance, and forcing the Duke to mount behind one of his associates, carried him off across the fields (now the Green Park) towards Tyburn, with the intention of there hanging him on the common gibbet.
After they had proceeded some distance, the Duke collecting himself for a sudden effort, threw the man behind whom he was bound, from his saddle, and falling with him, a desperate struggle took place in the mud, during which some of his servants arrived to his rescue, and Blood, discharging a pistol at the Duke without effect, galloped off and escaped in the darkness, but not before the Duke had recognised his features. Great suspicion was entertained, that the Duke of Buckingham, who detested Ormond, had set Blood upon this desperate attempt, and Lord Ossory, Ormond's son, was so convinced of it, that in the presence of the King and Court, he told him that he knew he was at the
|bottom of Blood's attack on his father, "but," added he, " I give you warning, if by any means my father comes to a violent end, I shall consider you as the assassin; I shall treat you as such; and wherever I meet you, I shall pistol you, though you stood behind the King's chair, and I tell it you in His Majesty's presence, that you may be sure I shall not fail of performance."|
The strangest part of this affair was, that Blood became a sort of hanger-on upon the Court at Whitehall, and eventually had a pension given him, besides some confiscated land in Ireland.
Towards the close of his life, he became a Quaker, and there was an old house at the corner of Peter Street, Westminster, where the tradition existed that he died in 1680.
Poor Edwards was but ill recompensed for the courage he had shown and the ill treatment he had received, of which he never entirely recovered, but died in 1674, and was buried under the floor of the Tower Chapel, with a small tablet over his grave. In one of those reckless reparations which so often were allowed in the Tower, the masons employed in repairing the Chapel floor threw this tablet aside, but it was luckily observed by Col. Wyndham in a heap of rubbish, and by the Constable's order fixed against the south wall, in safety from future injury.