Thomas Blood, that INFAMOUS Irish ‘bravo and desperado,’ attempted to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London on 9 May 1671, escaping with St Edward’s crown and the coronation regalia hidden in the breeches of his accomplices. He had already been involved in an abortive coup d'etat in Ireland and the attempted murder of the duke of Ormond outside Clarence House in St James'. Blood also planned to assassinate Charles II while the king was swimming in the River Thames, but had held his fire as his ‘heart [stopped] him, out of awe for His Majesty’.
Why was the colonel not immediately executed for treason? The plain truth is that this brash adventurer was more useful to Charles alive than hanging from the Tyburn gallows. Smooth-talking and brimming with Irish charm and wit, he assured the king that he fully deserved a reprieve, adding: 'If my life is spared, [I will be] your dutiful subject whose name is Blood, which I hope is not what your majesty seeks after’. He was generously pardoned for ‘all treasons, murders, felonies, assaults and batteries' committed by him.
But the monarch’s munificence did not stop with wiping his sheet clean of every crime. The king also granted him property in Ireland providing an income of 500 pounds a year for life. The colonel had now become a spy for the king eavesdropping on the gossip within the feverish atmosphere of court and , as a double-agent, regularly informing on those conspiring to overthrow Charles and restore Catholicism to England or return it to the austere, God-fearing republic it was only a few years before under Oliver Cromwell. Blood was also employed by politicians to bring down their rivals. From his base at White's coffee house, near London's Royal Exchange, he proundly proclaimed" 'It's no matter if one lets me fall, another takes me up. I'm the best tool they have'.
Robert Hutchinson, author and broadcaster started his working life as a reporter on regional newspapers before joining The Press Association, (the news agency for UK and Irish media) as a night sub-editor. He returned to reporting, later becoming Defence Correspondent. In late 1983 he joined Jane’s Publishing Company as one of the team that successfully launched Jane’s Defence Weekly and became Publishing Director of Jane’s Information Group in 1987, responsible for its magazines, newsletters, books and digital products.Leaving a decade later, he compiled and edited two ed...
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