On May 9, 1671, five men stole the crown jewels from the Tower of London. The leader of the party, an experienced criminal dressed as an Anglican priest, grabbed the imperial state crown and used a wooden mallet to flatten its raised bows in order to fit it in a small bag. Another stashed the gold orb in his breeches. With the elderly keeper of the jewels lying on the floor—brutally beaten and stabbed—they would have had a clean escape, except that, with providential timing, the keeper’s son chose that moment to return home after ten years overseas. The criminal party hurried away to the sound of the rising hue and cry. What followed was a cinematic chase. When finally taken prisoner, the “priest” told his captor that “It was a gallant attempt, however unsuccessful! It was for the crown.”

This was not...


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