My novel takes place in London 1662. Plots abounded against the king. Taking the precedence from Cromwell, who had a vast spy network, the king used the dead Protectorate's men, then graduated to his own. By 1662, a spy network for the king was well established. The office of the undersecretary used spies, informers, and took unsolicited information from the casual man.
One of the most outrageous nonconformists (and NOT in my book. He didn't fit in the year or the place.) was Colonel Blood - a real person - who ranged the countryside and involved himself in plots the width and breadth of England. His insolence vexed authorities for a great number of years.
Born in Ireland to a protestant family, Thomas Blood was a Parliament man. When the royalists returned to rule after Cromwell, he went underground as a traitor. He orchestrated plots, killed and kidnapped men. He was the only man successful to steal the Crown Jewels.
His reputation carried much weight.
One day, an uncle of Blood was slated to hang. On the day of his hanging, 2000 people came to see the event, but when word spread Blood intended to gallop into town for a daring rescue, everyone ran away--including the hangman. They left the poor fellow on the gallows with the rope slung around his neck.
Blood never arrived to save his uncle. Eventually, the hangman returned to carry out his duty.
In spring of 1671, Blood hatched a plan to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. These jewels were brand-spanking new, due to the old ones having been taken apart, destroyed, bits sold or melted after Charles I was beheaded. With the Restoration, new Crown jewels were in order, and newly fashioned.
This irritated Blood.
The appointed Keeper of the Jewel House was Sir Gilbert Talbot, but he lived in Whitehall Palace, some distance from the Tower. The person who actually guarded the jewels was an old man of seventy-seven years. He was paid a pittance for his work, but allowed by the king to guide the curious to see the jewels. He demanded a fee, which helped supplement his poor income. He took the tourists to the basement of the Martin Tower and showed them the jewels. They were on display in a cupboard recessed in a thick wall with a cross-wired door. This allowed the folk to view the jewels without touching them.
A few weeks before Blood stole the jewels, he arrived at the Tower disguised as a minister in a cassock and long cloak. He was accompanied by a woman whom Thomas said was his 'wife'. After seeing the beauty of the jewels, the 'wife' acted very ill, and the seventy-seven year old ran to fetch her something to drink. A few days later, Blood still dressed as a minister showed up again, this time with gloves to thank the keeper for his kindness to the 'wife.'
Over the next weeks, Blood visited very kindly with the assistant keeper until the man felt comfortable with him, welcomed Blood into his home that were a few rooms in the upper floor of the Martin Tower. The old couple gave him dinners. They became fast friends.
Finally, Blood asked the old man to show some of his friends the jewels, and charmed, the old man did. Completely disarmed, the assistant keeper took them to the basement. As soon as they arrived, Blood threw a cloak over the old man and told him to be quiet. The old man cried out. Blood and his cronies hit him with a mallet where he fell to the floor, but the man cried out again. He was beaten and stabbed in the stomach. The men thought they had killed him.
Blood and his men stood before the Crown jewels: 'St Edward's and the King's State Crown, the scepter, the orb and the other pieces.' Blood took the lightest crown which was Charles II's; then hit it with the mallet until it flattened and could fit under his cloak. Stones from the crown fell out of their settings and to the floor. They were quickly gathered up and stuffed in pockets.
Suddenly, the assistant keeper's son disturbed their activity. With the squashed crown, they picked up the orb and ran out the door. As they fled, the old man shouted, 'Treason! Murder!'
Guards from the London Tower ran in hot pursuit. Blood and his cronies exited to the busy wharf. People were all around, yet two from the Tower were gaining on them. Blood swept off his hat, and cried, 'Stop thief!' Men jumped on the men of the Tower, which gave Blood and one of his men to make a dash for it.
But it did not last. As Blood tried to mount his horse, he was stopped by the men of the Tower, and arrested on the spot. They were taken back to await their fates.
No one knows why Blood took it upon himself to do this, but some feel the Duke of Buckingham supported him, which would make one great story. Ha! You think you can run off after reading this and write such a story? Never. It's mine!
Blood stayed in the Tower for several weeks, often being drilled for information, but he stoutly cried he'd talk to no one but the king. Amused, the king gave him an audience. He ended up so impressed by Blood's nerve, the king released him and gave him a pension.
Captain Blood ended up a popular man in England, Scotland, and Ireland. After he died, people did not believe he was dead and demanded his body be exhumed. They wanted proof.
Blood was dead, and the people believed.
For more information on espionage in London 1662, please see my novel upon its release in June 2012 Of Carrion Feathers. You'll find my other novels at: www.wings-press.com
My many thanks go to: Colonel Blood, the Man who STOLE the CROWN JEWELS by David C Hanrahan, and http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/captain-blood-steals-crown-jewels