Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On this day in History, The Thomas Blood Heist

In 1671 Thomas Blood, an Irish fighter named Thomas Blood decided that it was in his best interest to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Thomas Blood was born in County Clare, towards the Southwest of Ireland in 1618. He would play a part in the English Civil War, starting as a Royalist and eventually, conveniently switching to become a supporter of the Roundheads when it looked like the Parliament would win. At some point he decided to steal the crown jewels from the Tower of London. He undertook this venture on May 9, 1671.

St. Edward's Crown was
hammered to be flat by
Blood and his men so it
could fit in somebody's
trousers on the way out
of the Tower of London.
Prior to actually attempting the theft he had befriended the guard of the Crown Jewels. He went so far as to provide the guard with a promise of marriage for the guard's daughter that would include a nice little inheritance. Having tricked the old guard (he was in his 70's at the time), he entered the Jewel House with a number of accomplices who were aided by the use of canes. These canes were not necessary for the aid of walking, rather, they contained hidden swords, shanks and single shot pistols to aid the would be robbers. Once inside they clubbed the old guard and stabbed him before gagging him. Thomas Blood and his fellow cohorts then got their hands on St. Edward's Crown, the Sovereign's Orb and the Sceptre with the Cross and mangled them so that they would fit in their clothing in a concealed way.

The heist failed spectacularly. Blood was caught before leaving the Tower of London and his capture meant certain death. But in a weird twist of fate, Blood would be pardoned. His pardoning came because of two reasons, which may may or may not be mutually exclusive. It's possible that King Charles II decided to pardon Blood because Blood had a large enough following that King Charles II didn't want the headache that would follow Blood's execution or, that Charles II was so amused by the bodacious bungled burglary that he decided to pardon Blood on account of amusement. Much to the chagrin of English lords, Blood was not only pardoned but given land in Ireland and a title. Whoever said that crime doesn't pay was either lying or completely ignorant of this massive, albeit unsuccessful heist.

The heist was doomed, but daring enough to be celebrated centuries later. There have been 3 movies made about the theft, the most recent one being made in the 1960's. Given the current market of Hollywood it wouldn't surprise me if some epically terrible movie remake of this was in the works right now. But, in addition to awful 30's, 50's, 60's and subsequent remakes to come in the future, the heist inspired an incredibly nerdy board game called Outrage! The game basically has the objective to steal the crown jewels. It's not super fun. It's pretty lame in fact, but it's got a weird cult following. The following was popular enough that somebody decided that the game should include real jewels that were supposed to resemble the real crown jewels. This more expensive set retails for nearly $15,000, making it the world's most expensive board game. But, you can find it on eBay for about $19, minus the expensive jewels.

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