In London, Thomas Blood, an Irish adventurer better known as ‘Captain Blood,’ is captured attempting to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
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 executed. He 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.
On 9 May 1671, Blood, disguised as a priest, managed to convince the Jewel House keeper to hand over his pistols. Blood’s three accomplices then emerged from the shadows, and together they forced their way into the Jewel House. However, they were caught in the act when the keeper’s son showed up unexpectedly, and an alarm went out to the Tower guard. One man shoved the Royal Orb down his breeches while Blood flattened the Crown with a mallet and tried to run off with it. The Tower guards apprehended and arrested all four of the perpetrators, and Blood was brought before the king. 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 1680 his body had to be exhumed in order to persuade the public that he was actually dead.
Image | The Wonderful Story of Britain: Stealing the Crown Jewels. The robbers gag the old keeper and then Captain Blood picks up the crown as the second man grabs the orb, while the third begins to file the sceptre in two, so that it can be easily hidden | Original artwork from Treasure no. 128 (26 June 1965)