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Thomas Blood

From Academic Kids

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Thomas Blood (1618 - August 24, 1680) was an English Colonel who is best known for attempting to steal the Crown Jewels of England from the Tower of London in 1671.

Blood was born in County Clare in Ireland. Like many he was educated in England. He returned to Ireland at Oliver Cromwell's request, receiving land grants as payment for his service.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, these grants were cancelled, and he lost most of his income. He conspired to kidnap James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The plan was foiled, but Blood managed to evade the authorities and escape to the Netherlands. He tried to abduct Butler again, in 1670, but this also failed.

In 1671, Blood made his infamous attempt to steal the Crown Jewels. Over several weeks he befriended the Jewel Keeper, Talbot Edwards. On May 9, 1671, having earned the trust of Edwards, he convinced him to show the jewels to his friends, who then hit Edwards on the head with a mallet and knocked him to the floor, where he was bound, gagged and stabbed. Edwards's son, who had been in the military in Flanders, chose that moment to visit his father for the first time in many years. When they spotted him approaching the Martin Tower where the jewels were kept the gang fled. Edwards sounded the alarm, and Blood and his co-conspirators were captured while trying to escape with the jewels. Blood never even managed to get outside the curtain walls of the Tower.

King Charles II met with Blood after the latter's trial. Before and during the trial Blood had refused to answer questions, saying "I'll answer to none but the King himself". At the meeting, the King asked Blood "What if I should give you your life?" and Blood humbly replied, "I would endeavour to deserve it, Sire!". For reasons not fully known, the King pardoned Blood, returned the original land grants, which generated income of five hundred pounds per annum. He also granted a general pardon for any crimes which Blood may have committed since the Restoration eleven years before.

Although Charles II was known as the Merrie Monarch, he is unlikely to have released Blood merely as a reward for his derring-do. Historians have noted the Royal money troubles, and have speculated that Blood was acting under orders. The jewels, most of which were made for Charles II, may have been destined to be broken up and sold on the continent and the proceeds used to refill the royal treasury.

Another theory is that the attempts on Ormonde were instigated by the Duke of Buckingham. Ormonde and Buckingham were feuding, perhaps Blood's pardon was a warning that Buckingham, as the King's favourite and chief minister, was immune.

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