A Bloody Scoundrel – The History Reader : The History Reader

Posted on Could 18, 2022

by Tom Clavin

 As so usually occurs, just lately I used to be researching one factor and located one other—on this case, a reputed pirate’s actual story. In 1671, a person recognized to historical past as “Captain Blood” tried to steal the crown jewels of England. Film buffs will most likely consider the 1935 movie with that title which launched Errol Flynn to the world in addition to the catnip mixture of Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. The movie was primarily based on Rafael Sabatini’s 1922 novel a couple of fictional Irish doctor turned pirate. However the true story is sort of totally different.

Thomas Blood was born in 1618 in County Clare in Eire. He was the son of a profitable Blacksmith of English descent who held lands within the Counties Clare, Meath, and Wicklow. His grandfather was a member of the Irish Parliament and had lived at Kilnaboy Fortress. Younger Blood obtained his training in Lancashire, England. On the age of 20, he married Maria Holcroft and, together with his bride, he went residence to Eire.

On the outbreak of the First English Civil Battle in 1642, Blood returned to England and initially took up arms with the Royalist forces loyal to Charles I. Because the battle progressed he switched sides and have become a lieutenant in Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads. In 1653, on the cessation of hostilities, Cromwell awarded now-Colonel Blood land grants and appointed him a justice of the peace. Nevertheless, following the ascension of King Charles II to the throne in 1660, Blood fled together with his household to Eire. The following confiscations and restitutions introduced Blood to monetary destroy. Understandably miffed, Blood sought to unite his fellow Cromwellians in Eire in an rebel.

He deliberate to storm Dublin Fortress, usurp the federal government, and kidnap James Butler, Duke of Ormonde and Lord Lieutenant of Eire, for ransom. However on the eve of the try, the plot was foiled. Blood managed to evade the authorities by hiding together with his countrymen within the mountains. Finally, he managed to flee to what’s now the Netherlands, however a couple of of Blood’s collaborators have been captured and executed. In 1670, regardless of his standing as a wished man, Blood returned to England and is believed to have taken the title Ayloffe and practiced as a health care provider or an apothecary in London.

His subsequent plan additionally concerned Ormonde. The latter had taken up residence at Clarendon Home. Blood adopted Ormonde’s actions and famous that he steadily returned late within the night accompanied by a small variety of footmen. On the night time of December 6, 1670, Blood and his accomplices attacked Ormonde. He was dragged from his coach and brought on horseback with the intention of hanging him at Tyburn. The gang pinned a paper to Ormonde’s chest spelling out their causes for his seize and homicide. Nevertheless, with the assistance of one in every of his servants who had given chase on horseback, Ormonde succeeded in liberating himself and escaped. The plot’s secrecy meant that Blood was not suspected of the crime, regardless of a reward being provided for the seize of the tried assassins.  

Blood didn’t lie low for lengthy, and inside six months he made his infamous try to steal the crown jewels. In Could 1671, he visited the Tower of London dressed as a parson and accompanied by a feminine companion pretending to be his spouse. Whereas viewing the crown jewels, Blood’s “spouse” feigned a abdomen grievance and begged the newly appointed Grasp of the Jewel Home, 77-year-old Talbot Edwards, to fetch her some spirits. Given the proximity of the jewel keeper’s home quarters to the location of the commotion, Edwards’s spouse invited them upstairs to their house to get better, after which Blood and his spouse thanked the Edwardses and left.

Over the next days, Blood returned to the Tower of London to go to the Edwardses and offered Mrs. Edwards with 4 pairs of white gloves as a gesture of thanks. As Blood turned ingratiated with the household, a suggestion was made for a fictitious nephew of Blood’s to marry the Edwardses’ daughter, who, Blood alleged, could be eligible, by advantage of the wedding, to an revenue of a number of hundred kilos a yr.

In furtherance of the deception, Blood satisfied Edwards to indicate the jewels to him, his supposed nephew, and two of his buddies earlier than dinner. Stories counsel that Blood’s accomplices carried canes that hid rapier blades, daggers, and pocket pistols. In getting into the Jewel Home, one of many males made a pretense of standing watch exterior whereas the others joined Edwards and Blood. The door was closed and a cloak thrown over the hapless Edwards, who was struck with a mallet, knocked to the ground, sure, gagged, and stabbed to subdue him.

Blood used the mallet to flatten St. Edwards Crown in order that he may disguise it beneath his clerical coat. One other conspirator filed the Sceptre with the Cross in two (because it didn’t match of their bag), whereas the third man stuffed the Sovereign’s Orb down his trousers. In the meantime, Edwards refused to remain subdued and fought towards his bindings. Fashionable stories describe Edwards’s son, Wythe, fortuitously coming back from army service in Flanders and taking place upon the tried theft. On the door of the Jewel Home, Wythe was met by the impromptu guard, who challenged him earlier than the younger Edwards entered and went upstairs. The “guard” then alerted his fellow gang members. At across the similar time, the elder Edwards managed to free his gag and raised the alarm, shouting, “Treason! Homicide! The crown is stolen!”

As Blood and his gang fled, they dropped the scepter and fired on the warders who tried to cease them, wounding one. One drawbridge guard was struck with worry and didn’t discharge his musket. As they ran alongside the Tower wharf it’s mentioned they joined the requires alarm to confuse the guards till they have been chased down by a Captain Beckman, brother-in-law of the youthful Edwards. Though Blood shot at him, he missed and was captured earlier than reaching the Iron Gate. Having fallen from his cloak, the crown was discovered whereas Blood refused to surrender, struggling together with his captors and declaring, “It was a gallant try, nonetheless unsuccessful! It was for a crown!” The globe and orb have been recovered though a number of stones have been lacking.

Following his seize, Blood refused to reply to anybody however the king and was consequently taken to the palace in chains, the place he was questioned by King Charles II, Prince Rupert, and others. The king requested Blood, “What if I ought to offer you your life?” Blood replied, “I might endeavor to deserve it, Sire!” To the disgust of Ormonde, Blood was not solely pardoned but in addition given land in Eire value £500 a yr. In distinction, Edwards’s household was awarded lower than £300 by the king, a sum which was by no means paid in full, however a minimum of he obtained to return to his duties on the Tower of London and regale guests together with his tales of the tried theft. Edwards died three years later and his tomb rests within the chapel of St. Peter’s Advert Vincula, on the Tower of London.

The explanations for the king’s pardon are unknown. Some historians have speculated that King Charles II could have feared an rebellion by followers of Blood, who have been thought to have taken an oath to their chief. Others speculated that the king had a passion for audacious scoundrels akin to Blood. One other potential purpose was Blood promised to maintain quiet in regards to the crown jewels being value solely £6,000 versus the £100,000 at which the Crown had valued them. There may be additionally a suggestion that the king was flattered and amused by Blood’s revelation that he had beforehand meant to kill him whereas he was bathing within the Thames however had been swayed in any other case, having discovered himself in “awe of splendor.”

In any case, following his pardon, Blood turned a well-recognized determine round London and made frequent appearances at Court docket, the place he was employed to advocate within the claims of suitors to the Crown.

In August 1680, some ailment induced Col. Blood to fall right into a coma. He quickly died at his residence in Bowling Alley, Westminster. His physique was buried within the churchyard of what’s now Christchurch Gardens. It’s believed that his physique was exhumed by the authorities for affirmation—such was his popularity for trickery, it was suspected he may need faked his dying and funeral to keep away from paying money owed. An epitaph written about him was not too flattering:

Right here lies the person who boldly hath run by means of
Extra villainies than England ever knew;
And ne’er to any pal he had was true.
Right here let him then by all unpitied lie,
And let’s rejoice his time was come to die.

By the best way, since we’re type of on the topic: Errol Flynn was solely 50 when he died in 1959, and he was buried within the Forest Garden Cemetery in California with six bottles of his favourite whiskey. His frequent on-screen lover, de Havilland, died two years in the past on the age of 104.

Initially printed on Tom Clavin’s The Overlook.

Picture Credit score: Gordon M. Grant

Tom Clavin is a #1 New York Instances bestselling creator and has labored as a newspaper editor, journal author, TV and radio commentator, and a reporter for The New York Instances. He has obtained awards from the Society of Skilled Journalists, Marine Corps Heritage Basis, and Nationwide Newspaper Affiliation. His books embrace the bestselling Frontier Lawmen trilogy—Wild Invoice, Dodge Metropolis, and Tombstone—and Blood and Treasure with Bob Drury. He lives in Sag Harbor, NY.

Tags: Crown Jewels of England, English Civil Battle, The Overlook, Thomas Blood, Tom Clavin