One early spectacular thief was Colonel Thomas Blood. Born in Ireland to a rich blacksmith in 1618, he longed for adventure, joining the Fifth Monarchy Men, an apocalyptic cult dedicated to destroying the English monarchy.
When the English Civil War broke out he did a U-turn, fighting for the Royalists, but changed sides when it was obvious they'd be defeated. Rewarded by marrying an heiress, with the 1660 Restoration of the Stuarts he fled to Holland.
In 1670 he returned to England as a doctor and failed in an attempt to kidnap and murder the Duke of Ormond. He then decided to steal the Crown Jewels. As 'Parson Blood' he befriended the Keeper of the jewels, Talbot Edwards. On 9 May 1671, he and three others killed Edwards and made off with the St Edwards Crown, sceptre and orb. The alarm raised, they were all caught.
Blood demanded to see the king. He then made up a story of a plot to kill him, the King believing his words and pardoning him for exposing the plot. Blood lived out his life in London's high society.
(c) Anthony North, Feb 2007