The gripping story of one of the most enigmatic and alluring figures in British history: a dangerous double agent and Irish rogue in King Charles II's court.
One morning in May 1671, a man disguised as a parson daringly attempted to seize the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Astonishingly, he managed to escape with the regalia and crown before being apprehended. And yet he was not executed for treason. Instead, the king granted him a generous income and he became a familiar strutting figure in the royal court's glittering state apartments.
This man was Colonel Thomas Blood, a notorious turncoat and fugitive from justice. Nicknamed the 'Father of all Treasons,' he had been involved in an attempted coup d'etat in Ireland as well as countless plots to assassinate Charles II. In an age when gossip and intrigue ruled the coffee houses, the restored Stuart king decided Blood was more useful to him alive than dead. But while serving as his personal spy, Blood was conspiring with his enemies. At the same time he hired himself out as a freelance agent for those seeking to further their political ambition.
In The Audacious Crimes of Colonel Blood, bestselling historian Robert Hutchinson paints a vivid portrait of a double agent bent on ambiguous political and personal motivation, and provides an extraordinary account of the perils and conspiracies that abounded in Restoration England.
British historian Hutchinson (Young Henry) successfully describes how phenomenal self-preservation instincts and a highly unstable royal court allowed a man who stole the crown to become a royal spy. After the upheaval surrounding the 1660 restoration of Charles II cost the Blood family their Irish land, Thomas Blood, a former parliamentary soldier, channeled his bitterness into a long career of trying to recapture his holdings, or barring that, to cause financial and emotional damage to the king. Hutchinson relishes detailing Blood's motivation and the unlikely adventures that boosted his popularity while also deciphering his elastic personal ethics. Blood's personality is largely conveyed through his close relationships with his children as well as his dedication to heightening his reputation, which resulted in popular songs and poems being composed about him. The book's highlight is the well-planned, if comically implemented, heist of the crown jewels. Hutchinson's story operates more as a series of vignettes than as a fully fleshed-out biography, but Blood's remarkable tenacity shines through, illuminating a surprisingly efficient official spy ring and a wealth of other dark secrets behind the flamboyant and seemingly carefree court of the Merry Monarch. Illus.