Have Fun Storming the Tower

Wednesday, August 01, 2018


“Stop Thief! Stop Thief! A Highwayman!” by Randolph Caldecott, 1912. The New York Public Library, Children’s Book Illustrations.

During a lunch fair hosted at Strängnäs Cathedral on July 29, a thirteenth-century church located to the West of Stockholm, two thieves stole a set of Swedish royal jewels from a locked and alarmed glass case. The jewels (two crowns and a globus cruciger, or orb and cross), had been part of the funeral regalia for King Karl IX (also known as Charles) and Queen Kristina, who reigned from 1604 to 1611, and were buried with them. They were later taken from the burial site for display. The Associated Press reports:

Police sent out a helicopter and boat to hunt for the thieves but found nothing. Authorities said no one was hurt in the robbery but didn’t provide further details.

Tom Rowell, a visitor who was eating lunch outside, said he saw two men running from the cathedral toward a small nearby jetty where a motorboat was moored.

“The two men hurriedly jumped on board and it sped off,” Rowell said, adding that they “appeared non-Nordic.” He didn’t elaborate.

However, police spokesman Stefan Dangardt said “witnesses’ testimonies varied quite a bit” and it was also possible the thieves escaped on jet skis.

The men used two stolen black bicycles equipped with baskets and a child’s seat to race to the lake, Dangardt added.

On Wednesday, divers were looking for clues in and along the shores of Lake Malaren, Sweden’s third-largest freshwater lake. Police said the thieves could have fled further on jet skis.

While the stolen artifacts are of great historic and cultural value, police expressed skepticism about whether the burglary would bring the perpetrators financial gain.

The stolen pieces are “impossible to sell” because of their uniqueness and high visibility, Maria Ellior of the Swedish police’s National Operations Department told the Swedish news agency TT.


Tower of London, by Wenceslaus Hollar, c. 1677. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Junius S. Morgan, 1929.

Irishman Thomas Blood began a life of crime and revenge after his estate (which he had won by helping Oliver Cromwell overthrow King Charles I) was revoked after the 1660 restoration of Charles II to the English throne. Following a stint as a spy for the government—and several attempts to kidnap or murder his nemesis the Duke of Ormond—Blood stole the British crown jewels. Disguised as a parson, he spent weeks ingratiating himself in the home of Talbot Edwards, the elderly, live-in keeper of the jewels at the Tower of London, to trick him into providing access to the jewels, even going so far as to arrange a marriage between Blood’s fake nephew and Edwards’ daughter. Caught after the theft, he was later pardoned by King Charles II, who found the matter highly amusing. Historian W.C. Abbott wrote in 1911:

Edwards went on before to take the regalia out for exhibition. But as he stooped over the chest to get them he was seized suddenly from behind, a cloak was thrown over his head, he was bound and gagged, knocked on the head with a mallet, and all these measures having failed to prevent his giving an alarm, he was finally stabbed. One of the men with him seized the crown and bent it so that it went under his cloak. The other put the orb in the pocket of his baggy breeches, and began to file the scepter in two that it might be more easily carried. But as they were thus busied, by a coincidence, surely the strangest out of a play, at this precise instant Edwards’ son, Talbot, returned from the wars, bringing a companion with him. They accosted the third man who had remained as a sentinel at the foot of the stairs. He gave the alarm, the two men ran down the stairs and all three hurried off toward the Tower Gate. But there fortune deserted them. Edwards roused from his stupor, tore out the gag and shouted “Treason and Murder!” The daughter hurried to his side and thence to Tower Hill crying, “Treason! the crown is stolen!” Young Edwards and his companion, Captain Beckman, took up the alarm and hurried to the Keeper's side. Gaining from him some idea of the situation they rushed down and saw the thieves just going out the gate. Edwards drew his pistols and shouted to the sentinels. But the warders were apparently terrified and young Edwards, Beckman, and others who joined the pursuit closed in on the outlaws. They in turn aided the confusion by also crying “Stop Thief” so that some were deceived into believing the parson a party to the pursuit. Beckman seems to have caught him and wrestled with him for the crown, while a servant seized one of the other men. Beckman and Blood had a most “robustious struggle.” Blood had fired one pistol at Beckman, and when they grappled drew a second and fired again, but missed both times.