Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Blood, Thomas

BLOOD, THOMAS (1618?–1680), the adventurer, better known as Colonel Blood, born about 1618, or soon afterwards, was the son of a blacksmith in easy circumstances, possessed of property in ironworks. The place of birth is unwrtain; it was probably in Ireland. Of his early life little is known, except that he took the parliamentary side. Having visited Lancashire, Blood married there a Miss Holcroft. about 1618, and returned to Ireland. He was made a J.P. by Henry Cromwell, and had large assignments of land as payment for his services and zeal. His prosperity was threatened by the Restoration, the land being taken from him, and he associated with snc of the Cromwellians as were ripe for insurrection. Two of their designs were to surprise Dublin Castle, and to seize the person of the lord-lieutenant, James Butler, duke of Ormonde. The management of these attempts was entrusted to Blood. The enterprises, planned for 9 or 10 March 1663, were to be effected simultaneously. One of the confederate council, named Philip Arden, betrayed the plot to Ormonde. It been arranged that several of the conspirators were to wait inside the castle, holding ‘petitions for presentation, while eighty of the disbanded soldiers were to remain outside, disguised as blacksmiths and carpenters. The signal for the expected commotion was to be given, after Ormonde arrived, by a man who pretended to be a baker stumbling and overthrowing s basketful of white loaves. The men on guard would then scramble to seize the bread, and while discipline was thus relaxed they were to be seized, and disarmed by the sham petitioners, who would be assisted by their confederates from outside, and imprison their adversaries. A discovery that they had been betrayed by Arden did not daunt Blood, who, with his men, arranged to anticipate the day first named, choosing 5 March instead. Twelve hours earlier than the time now fixed most of the confederates were arrested, Blood escaping; but his brother-in-law Lackie was among those captured, imprisoned, tried, convicted, and executed, on the charge of high treason. The Irish parliament ordered Blood's declaration to be burnt by the hangman. He made an attempt to rescue Lackie and the others and nearly succeeded in it. Hs found himself proclaimed, a large reward being offered for his apprehension; but he had fled to the hills, and remained there in safety, con- fiding in the fidelity of the native Irish and such old Cromwellians as would shelter him. He assumed various disguises, and continually changed his places of refuge, sometimes assuming to be a quaker, sometimes an anabaptist, an independent, and even a Roman catholic priest. Rapidly flitting about among all sorts of people, entering sympathetically into their grievances and family aiiairs, instead of shrouding himself in mystery and thus exciting suspicion, he succeeded in baffling pursuers, and became acquainted with many desperate characters. When the danger became urgent he quitted Ireland, crossed to Holland, found a welcome among the disaffected sectaries, and obtained countenance from Admiral de Ruyter.

His daring spirit prompted him to return to England, where he associated with the zealous Fifth Monarchy men, and gained so much asoendency over them that ie is declared to have established a court-martial at a tavern over some members who were under suspicion of having betrayed the secrets of their council ; the culprits were condemned to death, but their lives were spared at his intercession. It is not improbable that he was at this time, and also still later, acting a double part, kcepi the government informed of so much as mglxt secure his own safety. He removed to Scotland and joined the covenanters in their revolt, not quitting them until after the defeat on Pentland Hills, 27 Nov. 1666, when more than five hundred were killed. He then returned to England, crossed to Ireland, landing three miles from Carrickfergus, but was ursued so closely by Lord Dungannon that he again removed to England.

His next adventure was the rescue of his friend, Captain Mason, from a uard of eight troopers, men selected by the duke of York for their courage and trustworthiness. Mason was being sent northward for trial at the assizes; but it was not until near Doncaster that Blood, with only three companions, found an opportunity of engaging the soldiers, and obtaining a victory, at the cost of wounds to himself. Several troopers lost their lives. Five hundred pounds being otfered for his capture he lay hidden until his severe wounds were healed, disguised as a medical practitioner, and then lived quietly at Rumford ( Kent) under the name of Thomas Allen, alias Ayliffe. In November 1570 William, prince of Orange, came to England, and the uke of Ormonde attended him on his be entertained by the city. Colonel Blood had never forgiven Ormonde’s punishment of old associates in Dublin, so with five companions he waylaid the coach wherein his enemy rode through St. James's Street when returning to Clarendon House. The six footmen had been stopped previously. The duke was taken forcibly from the coach by Blood and his son-in-law, Thomas Hunt, who mounted him on horseback in the grasp of a confederate, to whom he was buckled. Nothing less was intended than to hurry the duke to Tyburn, and there hang him on a common gibbet in requital of his having hanged others. The coa/ohrnan gave the alarm, with another hastened after Ormonde, and overtook him while struggling with the stout horseman, whom he had cast out of the saddle. Being buckled together they had fallen, Ormonde undermost and in great danger. The ruffians fired at the duke, but missed him in the dark, and escaped on horseback. This was near Berkeley House, afterwards Devonshire House. If Blood had not left his men, going on in advance to arrange the rope on the allows, the duke could not have been saved. It was believed that George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, had engaged Blood to perpetrate this crime, and Ormonde's son, Lord Ossory, in the king's presence distinctly charged Buckingham with the baseness of such private revenge. Thomas Carte, biographer of Ormonde, got the story of the rebuke and_cha1lenge from Robert Lesley of Glaslogh, in co. Monaghan, who had received it from the lips of Dr. Turner, bishop of Ely. Probably no instigation was required beyond the bitterness of Blood`s own desire for vengeance on his former enemy. Yet Buckingham afterwards appeared as B1ood’s introducer to the king, and announced that the man could make discoveries. Among the persons suspected of complicity in this outrage, Bishop Kennet mentions ‘Richard Holloway, a tobacco-cutter of Frying-pan Alley; Thomas Hunt, one Hurst, and Ralph Alexander.’ Kennet believes that Blood did not intend to hang the duke, but to keep him in custody until he had signed a deed restoring the Irish estates which had formerly possessed. Richard Baxter was inclined to take this view, but Archdeacon Eachard adheres to the Tyburn story. Six months later Blood made his great attempt to steal the crown jewels, on 9 May 1671, and this ultimately led to his regaining the Irish estates.

John Strype, in continuing to the date of 1720 John Stowe’s ‘Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster’ (first written in 1598), gives a full account of the attempted robbery, declaring that he received it direct from Mr. Talbot Edwards himself, the late keeper of the regalia, who was nearly eighty years old. But Strype assigns a wrong date (sixth edition, 1754), 1673, instead of 1671. About three weeks before the attempt Blood came to the Tower of London ‘in the habit of a parson, with a long cloak, cassock, and canonical girdle, and brought a woman with him, whom he called his wife, although in truth his wife was then sick in Lancashire. This pretended wife desired to see the crown, and having seen it feigned to have a qualm come upon her.’ She prevailed on Edwards to send for some spirits, and, when his own wife brought some, the stranger was invited into their private rooms to rest on a bed. At departure ‘they seemed very thankful for this civility.’ Three or four days later Blood returned, to the Tower, bringing a present of four or five pairs of white gloves for Mrs. Edwards, and speedily improved the acquaintanceship. After a short interval, to avoid suspicion, he proposed to bring a nephew, ‘who hath two or three hundred a year in land, and is at my disposal,' in order to make a match between him and the pretty daughter of Mrs. Edwards. This was assented to, and an invitation given to dine with the family at once, Blood saying ace with great show of devotion and loyalty, ending with a prayer for the king, queen, and royal family. After dinner he inspected the rooms, and managed to disarm the house of a handsome case of pistols, by pretending to purchase them as a present to a young nobleman, his neighbour. At departure he made an appointment to bring his nephew for a meeting with the intended bride, fixing the day and hour, 9 May, at seven o’clock in the morning. At the time preparations had been made by the unsuspecting family, the young lady in her best attire sending her waiting-maid to bring early news of the bridegroom's appearance. Blood brought three companions, who appear to have been one Parrot, Tom Hunt, and another, Richard Hallowell or Holloway. Parrot was a silk-dyer of Southwark, and had been lieutenant to Major-general Harrison, who suffered as a regicide (possibly the same Robert Parrot who was hanged for his part in Monmouth’s rebellion in 1685). They were all armed, with rapiers in their canes, and every one had a dagger and pocket-pistols. Blood, Hunt, and Parrot entered the house, the fourth stayed outside to keep watch. He was the youngest, and the maid believed him to be the enamoured nephew.

On pretence of waiting until his wife came before going to the ladies, Blood prevailed on Edwards to show the crown jewels to his friends, to pass the time. When all had entered the room and closed the door as usual, Edwards was attacked, a cloak thrown over his head, a gag thrust into his mouth, ‘a great plug of wood with a small hole in the middle to take breath at. This they tied on 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.’ They told him that they would not harm him further if he submitted quietly, but that they were determined to carry off the crown, globe, and sceptre, and would show no mercy if he gave an alarm. Nevertheless he tried to make a noise and be heard above. They therefore knocked him down with a wooden mallet, and pointed three daggers at him. He still tried to call aloud; they beat him again and stabbed him, but not mortally, although they believed him to be dead. Then Parrot put the globe in his loose breeches. Blood held the crown, after crushing it, under his parson's cloak. The third prepared to file the sceptre in two and put it in a bag. At this moment young Edwards returned. He had been with Sir John Talbot in Flanders, and was newly home on leave to see his old father. After being stopped by the man who kept watch, young Edwards went to his mother and sister; while the conspirators, receiving notice of danger, made off with their plunder. The old man regained consciousness, gave the alarm, and was heard by his daughter, who rushed out, crying, ‘Treason, the crown is stolen!’ Blood and Parrot were hastening away, but young Edwards and Captain Beckman on hearing the cry pursued them, so that, despite resistance, they were captured with the jewels still in their possession. ‘It was a bold attempt,’ Blood boasted, ‘but it was for a crown.' Instead of being executed for this attempt he met reward. His audacity saved him. Examined before Dr. Chamberlain, and next before Sir William Waller, Blood refused to make confession except to the king himself, and Charles admitted him to his presence, being desirous of seeing so bold a ruffian. Blood avowed that the plan was his own, but threatened that his confederates would avenge his death; refused to impeach others, but avowed his share in the capture of Ormonde, and that awe of his majesty’s sacred person had hindered him from perpetrating assassination when the king was bathing at Battersea. He not only escaped punishment, but obtained the forfeited Irish estates of 500l. annual value, and seemed to have interest at court, being often seen in the presence-chamber. Before long he quarrelled with his protector, Buckingham, or at least fell under accusation of conspiring to have him charged with an atrocious crime. Innocent or guilty (and it seems probable that it was a trick to ruin him), he was committed by the court of kind's bench for 10,000l. damages of the Buckingham slander. He found bail and returned to his house in Bowling Alley, Westminster. His health, but not his spirit, was broken. His sickness lasted fourteen days. He declared himself not afraid of death, but fell into a speechless lethargy on the Monday, and died on Tuesday, 24 Aug. 1680. He was buried on the 26th, at Tothill Fields. Rumours being afloat that it had been a sham funeral, to keep the living man hidden elsewhere, his body was exhumed on the following Thursday, and identified at an inquest, after which it was reburied. Thus ended his remarkable life. Like William Bedloe he died a natural death, contrary to every expectation. John Evelyn met him at the treasurer's dinner-table on 10 May 1671.

[Carte's Life of James Butler, duke of Ormonde; Strype's Continuation of Stowe's Survey of London and Westminster, 6th ed. 1754; The Narrative of Col. Thomas Blood concerning the design reported to be lately laid against the Life and Honour of his Grace George, duke of Buckingham, &c., 1680; Remarks on the Life and Death of the fam'd Mr. Blood, 2nd edition, with large additions, printed for Richard Janeway, 1680; An Elegie on Colonel Blood, notorious for stealing the Crown, &c., who died 26 (sic) Aug. 1680. This Elegy is in rhymed verse (seventy-six lines), and begins, 'Thanks, ye kind Fates, for your last favour shown.' It is reprinted in vol. vi. of the Ballad Society's Roxburghe Ballads, and ends with the Epitaph:—

Here lies the man who boldly hath run through
More villanies than ever England knew;
And ne're to any friend he had was true.
Here let him then by all unpitied lie,
And let's rejoice his time was come to die.

London, printed by J. S. in the year 1680.]

J. W. E.