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Colonel Thomas Blood
(1618 - 1680)

Thomas Blood was born around 1618 in Co. Clare. His father was an ironmaster who also owned lands in Co. Meath and Co. Wicklow. His grandfather was Edmund Blood of Kilnaboy and Applevale.

Thomas spent most of his early life in England. In 1648 he married a Miss Holcroft in Lancashire and shortly afterwards he returned to Ireland as an officer in the Cromwellian army. He received grants of land in lieu of payment for army service. These services are thought to have involved espionage during the English Civil War.

However, in 1660 when the Monarchy was restored, Colonel Blood, as he liked to be known, lost all his lands. In revenge in 1663 he conspired to capture James Butler, the Duke of Ormond. He was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and was based at Dublin Castle. In disguise, and with the help of accomplices, he tried to force his way into the castle but the plot had been discovered.  Most of the gang were arrested but Blood, using various disguises as a Quaker and as a Priest, eventually escaped to Holland, where he stayed for a while.  He had earlier made a daring attempt to free his accomplices but had failed.  His brother Lackie ( some historians claim that Lackie was his brother-in-law ) was tried, convicted and executed for High Treason. Colonel Blood now had a price on his head in England.

Thomas was a mysterious character. He was linked to various dissident groups who were hostile to the Government, though he was also involved in Government Counsels. It is thought that he worked as a Double-Agent, playing both sides against each other.

In 1667, Blood was involved in an attempt to rescue an old friend of his, Captain Mason.  Mason was being escorted by government men to York.  A battle ensued and Blood was wounded but he succeeded in rescuing Mason.  Several troopers were killed and again a price was put on Colonel Blood's head.  Five hundred pounds was offered for his capture.  Once more, Blood was on the run from Government forces.  He assumed the name Thomas Allen and resided quietly in Kent for a time.

In 1670, Colonel Blood made another attempt at capturing the Duke of Ormond while the Duke was on a visit to England.  Blood's plan was to hang the Duke in Tyburn but he was rescued and despite Blood's pistol attack on him he escaped unharmed.  It is possible that Blood was acting on orders from George Villiers, the Second Duke of Buckingham.  Ormond's son accused Villiers of employing Blood to carry out the abduction.  Some believe that Blood was acting in revenge for the treatment of his gang in Dublin.  Others claim that Blood intended keeping Ormond in custody until he agreed to restore his Irish Estates to him.

In 1671 came the most famous of Blood's adventures - the stealing of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. His plans were elaborately laid. He went to the Tower disguised as a Parson.  He gained the confidence of Talbot Edwards, the Keeper, and promised to arrange a marriage between his imaginary nephew and Edwards' daughter.  Blood and his accomplices became well acquainted with the security arrangements. On May 9th 1671 the daring plan went into action. Blood persuaded Edwards to show the Crown Jewels to his friends. The gang bound and gagged Edwards and made off with the loot. Edwards managed to raise the alarm and the thieves were captured.  Blood was imprisoned in the Tower.   He refused to speak to anyone except the King.  Charles agreed to see him at Whitehall. On July 18th 1671 Thomas Blood was released from his prison cell.  His treasonable act should have led to his death but he found favour with King Charles and had his Irish Estates restored to him. Not only that, he was granted a pension of five hundred pounds per annum.

The mystery remains as to what Colonel Blood had done to gain the King's pardon. At some time in his life Blood must have served the King well as a Secret Agent. This was his reward.

The Duke of Buckingham seems to have been a patron or protector of Blood but a dispute arose between them. The Duke took action against him but before the action could be heard Colonel Thomas Blood died at his home in Bowling Alley, Westminster on August 24th 1680.   His reputation for trickery was such that his body was later exhumed by the authorities to verify the fact that he had died.

The fictional hero, Captain Blood, created by Rafael Sabatini, may have been based on this larger than life Clareman.

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