Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Colonel Blood and the Crown Jewels of England


"I spoke to no one," said the Duke hastily--"nay, I mistake, I remember
a fellow whispered in my ear, that one, who I thought had left London
was still lingering in town. A person whom I had business with."

"Was yon the messenger?" said Ormond, singling out from the crowd who
stood in the court-yard a tall dark-looking man, muffled in a large
cloak, wearing a broad shadowy black beaver hat, with a long sword of
the Spanish fashion--the very Colonel, in short, whom Buckingham had
despatched in quest of Christian, with the intention of detaining him in
the country.

When Buckingham's eyes had followed the direction of Ormond's finger, he
could not help blushing so deeply as to attract the King's attention.

"What new frolic is this, George?" he said. "Gentlemen, bring that
fellow forward. On my life, a truculent-looking caitiff--Hark ye,
friend, who are you? If an honest man, Nature has forgot to label it
upon your countenance.--Does none here know him?

 'With every symptom of a knave complete,
  If he be honest, he's a devilish cheat.'"

"He is well known to many, sire," replied Ormond; "and that he walks in
this area with his neck safe, and his limbs unshackled, is an instance,
amongst many, that we live under the sway of the most merciful Prince of
Europe."

"Oddsfish! who is the man, my Lord Duke?" said the King. "Your Grace
talks mysteries--Buckingham blushes--and the rogue himself is dumb."

"That honest gentleman, please your Majesty," replied the Duke of
Ormond, "whose modesty makes him mute, though it cannot make him blush,
is the notorious Colonel Blood, as he calls himself, whose attempt to
possess himself of your Majesty's royal crown took place at no very
distant date, in this very Tower of London."

"That exploit is not easily forgotten," said the King; "but that the
fellow lives, shows your Grace's clemency as well as mine."

The story of Colonel Thomas Blood is difficult to fathom.  He tried to murder the Duke of Ormonde more than once, managed to dupe Talbot Edwards, the aged keeper of the crown jewels into trusting him, was caught red-handed with the jewels, and despite these crimes, persuaded King Charles II not only to pardon him, but to give him a grant of land.   His infamies even gained him a place in Walter Scott’s “Peveril of the Peak (text above).  Blood’s famous attempt at the jewels in the Tower of London occurred on May 9th, 1671.

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