BLOOD’S ATTEMPT TO STEAL THE CROWN FROM THE TOWER.
Regalia in the Tower of London1671 – THE daring attempt made by the ruffian Blood to steal the Crown, is one of the most extraordinary incidents that ever happened within the walls of the Tower of London.
After Sir G. Talbot had been appointed Master of the Jewel House, he assigned the profits which arose from exhibiting the regalia to an old confidential servant of his father, named Talbot Edwards, who was still keeper at the time of the concerted robbery.
About three weeks prior to his attempt, Blood, a disbanded officer of the Protectorate, went to the Tower in the habit of a parson, “with a long cloak, cassock, and canonical girdle,” accompanied by a woman whom he called his wife; his real wife being then in Lancashire. The lady requested to see the crown, and her wish having been gratified, she feigned “a qualm upon her stomach,” and Mrs. Edwards, after giving her some spirits at her husband’s request, courteously invited her to repose herself upon a bed. She soon recovered; and, “at their departure, they seemed very thankful for this civility.”
After an interval of a few days Blood returned, and gave Mrs. Edwards four pair of white gloves, as a present from his pretended wife. At a subsequent visit he told her, that his wife, “could discourse of nothing but the kindness of those good people of the,Tower;” and that “she had long studied, and at last bethought her, of a handsome way of requital.”
“You have,” quoth he, “a pretty gentlewoman to your daughter, and I have a young nephew who has two or three hundred a year in land, and is at my disposal. If your daughter be free, and you approve it, I will bring him here to see her, and we will endeavour to make it a match.” This was readily assented to by old Mr. Edwards, who invited the disguised ruffian to dine with him on that day: the invitation was willingly accepted, and Blood; “taking upon him to say grace,” performed it with great seeming devotion, concluding his “long-winded” oration with a prayer for the king, queen, and royal family.
After dinner, “he went up to see the rooms, and seeing a handsome case of pistols hang there, expressed a great desire to buy them to present to a young lord who was his neighbour;” but this was merely a pretence, by which he thought to “disarm the house,” and thus execute his design with less danger. At his departure, “which was with a canonical benediction of the good company,” he appointed a day and hour for introducing his young nephew to his future bride; and, as he wished, he said, “to bring two friends with him to see the regalia, who were to leave town early on that morning,” the hour was fixed at about seven o’clock.
On the appointed morning, (viz. May the 9th, 1671,) “the old man had got up ready to receive his guest, and the daughter had put herself into her best dress to entertain her gallant, when, behold, parson Blood, with three more, came to the Jewel House, all armed with rapier blades in their canes, and every one a dagger and a pair of pocket pistols. Two of his companions entered in with him, and a third stayed at the door it seems for a watch.”
Blood told Mr. Edwards, that they would not go up stairs until his wife came, and desired him to show his friends the crown to pass the time till then. This was complied with; but no sooner bad they entered the room where the crown was kept, and the door as usual been shut, than “they threw a cloak over the old man’s head, and clapt a gag into his mouth, which was a great plug of wood, with a small hole in the middle to take breath at; this was tied with a waxed leather, which went round his neck. At the same time they fastened an iron hook to his nose, that no sound might pass from him that way other.”
Thus secured they told him, “that their resolution was to have the crown, globe, and sceptre; and, if he would quietly submit to it, they would spare his life, otherwise he was to expect no mercy.” Notwithstanding this threat, “he forced himself to make all the noise that he possibly could, to be heard above:” they then “knocked him down with a wooden mallet, and told him, that if he would yet lie quiet, they would spare his life, but if not, upon his next attempt to discover them, they would kill him, and pointed three daggers at his breast.” Mr. Edwards, however, by his own account, was not yet intimidated, but “strained himself to make the greater noise.” In consequence, they gave him “nine or ten strokes more upon the head with the mallet, (for so many bruises were found upon the skull,) and stabbed him into the belly.” This ferocious treatment occasioned the old man, “now almost eighty years of age,” to swoon; and he lay some time in so senseless a condition that one of the miscreants said, “he is dead, I’ll warrant him.” Edwards, who had-come a little to himself heard his words and conceiving it best to be thought so, “lay quietly.”
The rich prize was now within the villain’s grasp, and one of them, named Parrot, “put the globe orb into his breeches; Blood held the crown under his cloak,” and the third was proceeding to file the sceptre in two, in order that he might be put into a bag, “because too long to carry,” when their proceedings were interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a son of Mr. Edwards, from Flanders, who, having first spoken to the person who stood on the watch at the door, went up stairs to salute his relations. Seizing the opportunity, the ruffians instantly “hasted away” with the crown and orb, leaving the sceptre unfiled.
The old keeper now raised himself, and freeing his mouth from the gag, cried “Treason! Murder” which being heard by his daughter, she rushed out of doors and reiterated the cry, with the addition, “the crown is stolen.”
Excerpt from The Cabinet of Curiosities, or Wonders of the World Displayed – 1840