The strange escapades of Colonel Thomas Blood

The Irish rogue tried to steal the crown jewels, and shoot Charles II while he was skinny-dipping. So why, asks Robert Hutchinson, did the king go on to offer him a job?

An illustration of Colonel Blood

This article was first published in the June 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

Colonel Thomas Blood, that infamous Irish “bravo and desperado”, tried to steal the crown jewels from the Tower of London on 9 May 1671, escaping with the imperial state crown and the coronation regalia secreted in the breeches of one of his accomplices. When he was captured on the wharf outside the fortress, he cheekily acknowledged that the outrage “was a gallant attempt, however unsuccessful… [but] it was for a crown”.

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