Precious Stones - Robberies
( Originally Published 1880 )[an error occurred while processing this directive]
A ROBBERY in the ancient Treasury of Westminster Abbey was perpetrated in the year 1303. The details, which are very curious, are given by Mr. Joseph Burtt, Assistant Keeper of the Public Records. At that time Edward I was preparing to take summary vengeance upon the Scotch for their so-called rebellion against his power. Upon the first of May, or late in the preceding month (for the accounts vary a little) the daring attempt was made, and the treasure carried off. The king acted with his usual vigour ; a writ was issued from Linlithgow on June 6th, directing investigations to be made, and from Kynlos, on October 10th, another writ was sent to Roger Brabazon, and other justices, reciting that whereas the Abbot of Westminster and forty-eight brethren, "commonachi ejusdem domus " (who are mentioned by name), and thirty-two other persons there named, were indicted for the robbery, and they had been committed to the Tower—and they assert they are falsely so charged, and beg that the truth may be inquired into—the said justices are directed to hear and deter-mine the same.
It appears that the sacrist of Westminster having found certain cups, etc., spoke to some of the monks, and asked their advice thereon. They advised him to consult John de Foxle, and he, not knowing of the robbery, advised that the abbot should maintain his right to them as being found within the liberty of the church. Other proceedings of the sacrist, if truly reported, leave no doubt of his guilt. William the Palmer, the keeper of the king's palace, said he often saw the sacrist, the sub-prior, and other monks, go in and out, early and late, about the time of the burglary, and they often carried many things towards the church—he knew not what. John Albon was the designer of certain tools for breaking open the Treasury—Alexander de Pershore threatened to kill him if he revealed the design—and on a certain day he saw the same Alexander and certain monks enter a certain boat of the Abbey at the King's bridge, and take with them two large panniers covered with black leather, in which there was a great weight—he knew not what. The same persons returned late in another boat, and landed at the Abbey Mill. John de Ramage was suspected, because he was often going in and coming out of the Abbey, and on a sudden he dressed himself very richly, bought horses and arms, and boasted he was able to buy a town if he pleased. John de Linton scattered dirt on the ground near the Treasury, and destroyed all traces of the robbers. It was he who sowed hemp in the cloister garth. Many persons, especially goldsmiths and dealers, appear to have been implicated through the agency of the sacrist, and the other robbers. Richard de Podelicote went to Northampton and Colchester to get rid of some of the jewels there, and several worthy citizens of London are recorded as having purchased some " cheap " lots of precious stones and plate.
Just before the robbery, some friends of William de Palais " met in a certain house within the close of the prison of the Fleet, together with a horseman and four ribald persons unknown, and there stayed two nights eating and drinking, and in the middle of the third night they went armed towards Westminster, and returned in the morning. This they did for two nights, and then came no more. And as the treasury was broken into about that time—say the jurors—they were suspected of the felony. Much of the treasure seems to have been hid in the immediate neighbourhood of the Abbey, to be carried off at the convenience of the thieves. A linendraper at St. Giles's had a large pannier full of broken vessels of gold and silver sent to him by certain monks of Westminster, about which he became so alarmed when the royal proclamation was published, that he gave it to a shepherd-boy to hide in Kentish Town, where it was found. Some of the treasure found its way across the water, but was not traced, although the boatmen of the river from Lambeth to Kingston were examined. The case against the sacrist and the monks appears to be that the robbery could not have been committed without their knowledge, the gates of the Close must have been opened to admit some of the thieves, and they had the keys of them, while they refused admittance to a man who had bought the herbage of the cemetery, as they knew what was hid there, and that afterwards much treasure was known to have been taken to the sacrist's house, and claimed by him. Their antecedents were brought forward to strengthen the case against them, for it is said, " there was a great suspicion against the monks, because four years ago an attempt was made to break open the treasury in the cloister, which was inquired into, and the Abbot made peace with the King respecting it."
It seems that the Master of the Wardrobe himself, John de Drokenesford, was present in London on the king's affairs when the investigations into the robbery commenced. On June 20th he came to Westminster, where he was informed of the robbery, and in the presence of Ralph de Sandwich, Keeper of the Tower of London, two Justices of the King's Bench, the Mayor of the City, the Prior of Westminster, and others of the neighbourhood, " he produced the keys of the said treasury, which had been kept in a canvas pouch, sealed with the perfect seal of the King's Cofferer, and carried by him ; and he took the said keys and opened the door of the treasury, and entered therein with the company assembled, and he found the treasury broken into, the chests and coffers broken open, and many goods carried away." An indenture describing with great minuteness the exact state of the case, was drawn up ; and in this curious document we get a complete view of the interior of the vaulted chamber, and the anxious assembly investigating the extent of the damage so ruthlessly committed. It gives three lists, headed, "Jocalia dimissa in thesaurario," " Jocalia furtive surrepta de thesaurario Domini Regis et postea reinventa," and " Jocalia inventa in custodia Sacristæ Westm'." It was evident however, at once, that many more valu-ables might have been carried off had the robbers been more accomplished in their craft, for there appears a long and goodly list of jewels, rings, and plate of various kinds, including the king's great crown and three other crowns embellished with precious stones, which had been left behind. The thieves had been embarrassed by the very richness of their spoils. The poor man who became a robber of the royal treasure because he had lost £14 17s., and who had for his confederates the servants of the palace and Abbey, might well have been afraid to seize the royal crown and other jewels.
It would have been simply impossible to have got rid of them or turned them to account. Obtained by the spoil of a castle or the sack of a town, the contents of the treasury would have been rich booty indeed, and would have afforded splendid trophies. As it was, and even at the reduced prices which robbers always obtain, had they not been disturbed, they would have been able to divide among themselves a sum equal to the whole proceeds of a subsidy levied upon the length and breadth of the land, and collected by the whole power of the State. That the robbers had not completed the work they had planned, is evident from the list of valuables which the party assembled in the chamber found upon the floor. With a feeling approaching to horror they must have picked from the dirt at their feet, " the ring with which the king was consecrated," and "the secret seal of the king's father," which were found among fragments of vessels of gold and silver, spoons, knives, and rings of various kinds.
There is little reason to doubt that a large quantity of the treasure—that consisting of the plate and jewels—was recovered. One of the principal thieves, Richard de Podelicote, was found with two thousand pounds' worth in his possession. This man subsequently confessed the whole matter, and so did another of the robbers. Their accounts are not quite consistent, as is usually the case. Podelicote is always spoken of as the great culprit, and in his confession he takes the whole blame of the matter, as well as the previous robbery of the conventual plate from the refectory. A portion of his confession runs thus :—" He was a travelling merchant for wool, cheese, and butter, and was arrested in Flanders for the king's debts in Bruges, and there were taken from him £14 17s., for which he sued in the King's Court at Westminster, at the beginning of August, in the thirty-first year, and then he saw the condition of the refectory of the Abbey, and saw the servants bringing out silver cups, and spoons, and mazers. So he thought how he might obtain some of these goods, as he was so poor, on account of his losses in Flanders ; and so he spied about all the parts of the Abbey. And on the day when the king left the place for Barnes, on the following night as he had spied out, he found a ladder which was at a house near the gate of the Palace, towards the Abbey, and put that ladder to a window of the Chapter-House, which he opened, and closed by a cord ; and he entered by this cord, and thence he went to the door of the refectory, and found it closed with a lock, and he opened it with his knife, and entered, and there he found six silver hanaps in an ambry behind the door, and more than thirty silver spoons in another ambry, and the mazer hanaps under a bench, near together ; and he carried them all away, and closed the door after him without shutting the lock. And having spent the proceeds by Christmas, he thought how he could rob the king's treasury. And as he knew the ways of the Abbey, and where the treasury was, and how he could get there, he began to set about the robbery, eight days before Christmas, with the tools which he provided for it, viz., two ` tarrers,' great and small knives, and other small `engines' of iron ; and so was about the breaking open during the night hours of eight days before the Christmas to the quinzain of Easter, when he first had entry on the night of a Wednesday, the eve of St. Mark (April 24) ; and all the day of St. Mark he stayed in there, and arranged what he would carry away, which he did the night after, and the night after that, and the remainder he carried away with him out of the gate behind the Church of St. Margaret, and put it at the foot of the wall, beyond the gate, covering it with earth, and there were there pitchers, cups with feet and covers. And also he put a great pitcher, with stones and a cup, on a certain tomb. Besides, he put three pouches full of jewels and vessels, of which one 'hanaps' entire, and in pieces. In another, a great crucifix and jewels, a case with silver and gold spoons. In the third `hanaps,' nine dishes and saucers, and an image of Our Lady in silver-gilt, and two little pitchers of silver. Besides, he took to the ditch by the Mews a pot and a cup of silver. Also, he took with him spoons, saucers, spice-dishes of silver, a cup, rings, brooches, stones, crowns, girdles, and other jewels, which were afterwards found with him. And he says that what he took out of the treasury he took at once out of the gate near St. Margaret's Church, and left nothing behind within it."
The other robber, who confessed, speaks of a number of persons—two monks, two foresters, two knights, and about eight others, being present at the " debrusure." His account, too, makes it a week earlier than the other.
The affair was evidently got up between the sacrist of Westminster, Richard de Podelicote, and the keeper of the palace, with the aid of their immediate servants and friends. Doubtless they speculated upon comparative impunity, while the king was so far away and occupied with such important matters, and they arranged accordingly. An extraordinary instance of the amount of cunning and foresight exercised by the robbers is shown by the circumstance of the cemetery —the green plot enclosed by the cloisters—being sown with hemp early in the spring, " so that the said hemp should grow high enough by the time of the robbery that they might hide the treasure there, and the misdeed be unknown." This shows that the plot was deeply laid, and the crime long prepared for. From the confession will be seen that upwards of four months were consumed in making an entry into the treasury.
Doubtless the criminals had their deserts, though the record does not give the sentence passed upon them.—[Dean Stanley's " Westminster."]
In 1449, the precious hoard of saintly relics, valuable jewels, and other riches, in the treasury of the Republic of Venice, very narrowly escaped dispersion through an artful robbery. Among the suite of the house of Este, indulged, according to custom, with an inspection of the wonders of the treasury of St. Mark's, was a Canadian, named Stammato, in whose bosom the sacred spectacle awakened more desire than veneration. Watching his opportunity, and closely noticing the localities of the spot, the ingenious plunderer secreted himself behind an altar in the body of the Cathedral, and obtained fresh access by means of false keys. After numerous difficulties, and by the labour of many successive nights, he removed one compartment of the marble panelling which girded the lower part of the treasury. Having thus gained access at will to the interior, he carefully replaced the panel, leaving it removable at pleasure, and, renewing his nightly visits, he selected, without fear and without suspicion, such portions of the entire spoil at his command as most gratified his fancy. It was, doubtless, a lust for gold which allured him, in the first instance, to the Birretta, or ducal cap of the Doge, studded with gems of inestimable price. For the full enjoyment of his plunder, it seemed necessary that another should know of its possession. Accordingly, having exacted a solemn oath of secrecy from one of his countrymen, Grioni, a Canadian of noble birth, he led him to an obscure lodging, and poured before the astonished eyes of his companion the dazzling fruits of his plunder. While the robber watched the countenance of his friend, he mistrusted the expression which passed across it, and the stiletto was already in his grasp to insure his safety, when Grioni averted the peril by saying that the first sight of so splendid a prize had almost overcome him. As a token of benevolence, perhaps as a bribe, Stammato presented his unwilling accessory with a carbuncle, which afterwards blazed in the front of the ducal bonnet. Grioni, seeking an excuse for a short absence, and bearing in his hand this well-known and incontestable evidence of his truth, hastened to the palace, and denounced the criminal. The booty, which amounted to the scarcely credible sum of two million golden ducats, had not yet been missed, and was recovered undiminished. Stammato expiated his crime between the two columns; the rope with which he was executed having been previously gilt, in order that, like Crassus, he might exhibit in his death a memorial of the very passion which had seduced him to destruction.
In an account of " jewells and other furnishings," which were "sould and deliuered to the Queene's most excellent Matte from the xth of April, 1607, to the xth of February followinge, by George Heriote, her Highnes' jewellor," there is the following :—" Item, deliuered to Margarett Hartsyde, a ring set all about with diamonds, and a table diamond on the head which she gaue me to understand was by her Maties directions : price xxxli."
The item in reference to Margaret Hartsyde is remarkable, because it appeared that this female, who had been in the royal household, was tried at Edinburgh on May 31st, 1608, for stealing a pearl worth 110 sterling, belonging to the queen (Anne of Den-mark). She pretended that she retained these pearls to adorn dolls for the amusement of the royal infants, and believed that the queen would never demand them ; but it appeared that she used " great cunning and deceit in it," and disguised the jewels so as not to be easily known, and offered them to her Majesty in sale.
The king, by special warrant, declared her infamous, sentenced her to pay four hundred pounds sterling, as the value of the jewels, and condemned her to be imprisoned in Blackness Castle until it was paid, and to confinement in Orkney during her life. In December, 1619, eleven years afterwards, " compeared the king's advocate, and produced a letter of rehabilitation and restitution of Margaret Hartsyde to her fame, who was convict of theft in August, 1608, as his process instructs."
After the death of Queen Anne of Denmark, consort of James I., her effects were brought from Somerset House, and the king examined them. He found that the queen had received from Heriot, her jeweller, thirty-six thousand pounds worth of jewels, of which no vestige appeared. The jeweller produced the models, and swore to the delivery of the property. Pierrot, the queen's French attendant, and her favourite maid Danish Anne, were suspected of the embezzlement of these jewels and of a vast sum of ready money which the queen had hoarded. Both were examined, and afterwards committed to the custody of Justice Doubleday, to be privately imprisoned in his house, but no trace was ever found of the missing jewels.
The daring attempt of BLOOD to steal the REGALIA in the Tower, during the reign of Charles II., although generally known to most readers, may be briefly stated. Sir George Talbot, who was appointed Master of the Jewel-House, committed the charge of showing the regalia to an old servant of his father, named Talbot Edwards, giving him the profits which arose from the exhibition. About three weeks before his attempt, Blood, who was a disbanded officer of the Protectorate, went to the Tower in the habit of a parson, " with a long cloak, cassock, and canonical girdle," accompanied by a woman whom he called his wife—his real wife being then in Lancashire. The lady requested to see the crown, and her wish having been gratified, she feigned " a qualm upon her stomach ;" and Mrs. Edwards, after giving her some spirits at her husband's request, invited her to repose upon a bed. She soon recovered, and " at their departure she seemed very thankful for the civility." After an interval of a few days Blood returned, and gave Mrs. Edwards four pairs of white gloves, as a present from his intended wife. At a subsequent visit, he told her that his wife "could discourse of nothing but the kindness of those good people in the Tower," and that she had long studied, and at last bethought her, of a handsome way of requital. " You have," quoth he, " a pretty gentlewoman to your daughter, and I have a young nephew, who hath two or three hundred a year in land, and is at my disposal. If your daughter be free, and you approve of it, I will bring him here to see her, and we will endeavour to make it a match." This was readily assented to by old Mr. Edwards, who invited the disguised ruffian to dine with him on that day. The invitation was willingly accepted, and Blood, " taking upon him to say grace," performed it with great seeming devotion, concluding his " long-winded " oration with a prayer for the king, queen, and royal family. After dinner, " he went up to see the rooms, and seeing a hand-some case of pistols hanging there, expressed a great desire to buy them, to present to a young lord who was his neighbour ;" but this was merely a pretence, by which he thought to " disarm the house," and thus execute his design with less danger. At his departure, which was with " a canonical benediction of the good company." he appointed a day and hour for introducing his young nephew to his future bride ; and as he wished, he said, " to bring two friends with him to see the regalia, who were to leave town early on that morning," the hour was fixed at about seven o'clock.
On the appointed day (May 29th, 1671), " the old man had got up, ready to receive his guests, and the daughter had put herself into her best dress to entertain her gallant, when Parson Blood, with three more, came to the Jewel-House, all armed with rapier blades in their canes, and every one a dagger and a pair of pocket-pistols."
Blood told Mr. Edwards that they would not go upstairs until his wife came, and desired him to show his friends the crown, to pass the time till then. This was complied with ; but no sooner had they entered the room where the crown was kept, and the door, as usual, been shut, than " they threw a cloak over the old man's head, and clapt a gag into his mouth, which was a great plug of wood, with a small hole in the middle to take breath at; this was tyed with a waxed leather, which went round his neck. At the same time they fastened an iron hook to his nose, that no sound might pass from him by that way either." Thus secured, they told him, " that their resolution was to have the crown, globe, and sceptre, and if he would quietly submit to it, they would spare his life, otherwise he was to expect no mercy." Notwithstanding this threat, " he forced himself to make all the noise he possibly could do to be heard above ; " they then "knocked him down with a wooden mallet, and told him if yet he would lie quiet, they would spare his life, but if not, upon his next attempt to discover them, they would kill him, and pointed three daggers at his breast." Edwards, however, by his own account, was not yet intimidated, but " strained him-self to make the greater noise ; " in consequence, they gave him "nine or ten strokes more with the mallet on his head (for so many bruises were found upon the skull), and stabbed him into the belly." This ferocious treatment occasioned the old man, " now almost eighty years of age," to swoon ; and he lay sometime in so senseless a condition that one of the miscreants said, " He's dead, I'll warrant him." Edwards, who had come a little to himself, heard his words, and conceiving it best to be thought so, " lay quietly." The rich prize was now within the villains' grasp, and one of them, named Parrot, " put the globe (orb) into his breeches, Blood held the crown under his cloak," and the third was proceeding to file the sceptre in two, in order that it might be put into a bag, "because too long to carry," when their proceedings were interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a son of Mr. Edwards from Flanders, who, having first spoken to the person who stood on the watch at the door, went upstairs to salute his relations. Seizing the opportunity, the ruffians instantly " basted away " with the crown and orb, leaving the sceptre unfiled.
The old keeper now raised himself, and, freeing his mouth from the gag, cried, " Treason ! Murder ! " which, being heard by his daughter, she rushed out of doors and reiterated the cries, with the addition, " The Crown is stolen ! " The alarm being thus given, young Edwards and Captain Beckman, his brother-in-law, pursued the robbers, who were advanced beyond the main guard (at the White Tower), and were hastening towards the draw-bridge. Here the warder " put him-self into posture to stop them," but, on Blood firing a pistol at him, he fell, though unhurt, and the thieves got safe to the little Ward-house Gate, where one Sill, who had been a soldier under Cromwell, stood sentinél ; " but he offering no opposition, they passed over the drawbridge, and through the outward gate upon the wharf." Horses were stationed for them " at St. Katherine's Gate, called the Iron Gate," and, as they ran that way, they raised a cry of " Stop the rogues ! " by which device they proceeded unopposed, until overtaken by Captain Beckman, at whose head Blood discharged his second pistol ; but the Captain avoided the shot by stooping down, and immediately seized the ruffian. The crown was still beneath his cloak ; and although every chance of escape was now over, he struggled vigorously to retain his prey ; and when it was wrested from him, said, " It was a gallant attempt, however unsuccessful, for it was for a crown ! "
In this " robustious struggle " a large pearl, a fair diamond, and a number of smaller stones, were bulged from the crown ; but both the former and several of the latter were subsequently "picked up" and restored. The balas ruby which had been broken off the sceptre was found in Parrot's pocket, so that nothing of considerable value was eventually lost. (In the account of this transaction given in the London Gazette, which was partly written before Hunt and his two companions were seized, is this passage :—" With the two that were taken were found the crown and the ball, only some few stones missing, which had been loosened by the beating of the crown together with the mallet or beetle spoken of.")
Parrot (who had been a silk-dyer in Thames Street, and afterwards a lieutenant in the Parliament's service) was stopped by a servant, and Hunt, Blood's son-in-law, who had been waiting with the horses, was soon afterwards seized, together with two others of the party.
The attempted robbery was soon afterwards made known to the king, who commanded that the two per-sons first seized, and who had been lodged in the White Tower, should be examined in his own presence at Whitehall. This circumstance is supposed to have saved them from the gallows.
During his examination Blood behaved with the most unblushing effrontery. He not only acknowledged having been leader in the atrocious attempt upon the life of the Duke of Ormond (whom he had intended to hang at Tyburn), but also avowed that he had been engaged to kill his Majesty himself, with a carbine, from among the reeds " by the Thames side, above Battersea, where he often went to swim ; " that the cause of this resolution, in himself and others, was "his Majesty's severity over the consciences of the godly, in suppressing the freedom of their religious assemblies," but that " when he had taken his stand among the reeds for that purpose, his heart was checked by an awe of Majesty," which made him not only to relent himself, but likewise to divert his associates from their design.
When further questioned, as to those associates, he replied "that he would never betray a friend's life, nor ever deny a guilt in defence of his own." At the same time, he told the king that he knew these confessions had laid him open to the utmost rigour of the law ; but that there were hundreds of his friends, yet undiscovered, who were all bound " by the indispensable oaths of conspirators, to revenge each other's death upon those who should bring them to justice ; " which " would expose his Majesty and all his ministers to the daily fear and expectation of a massacre. But, on the other side, if his Majesty would spare the lives of a few, he might oblige the hearts of many, who, as they had been seen to do daring mischief, would be as bold, if received into pardon and favour, to perform eminent services for the crown."
After this examination Blood and his accomplices were remanded to the Tower, there to be kept as close prisoners ; but to the surprise of the nation they were all subsequently pardoned and released. Blood himself had landed property granted to him in Ireland, to the amount of £500 per annum ; and was likewise admitted into " all the privacy and intimacy of the court," in which he industriously employed his influence, and became " a most successful solicitor" in other's behalf ; but " many gentlemen courted his acquaintance as the Indians pray to the devils, that they may not hurt them."
When it had been determined to pardon Blood, who, both by his own confession, and on strong evidence, was guilty of the attempt upon the Duke of Ormond's life, Lord Arlington was sent to inform his grace that it was his majesty's pleasure that Blood should not be prosecuted, " for reasons " which he (his lordship) " was commanded to give him " ; but the duke interrupted him with the shrewd remark, " That his majesty's command was the only reason that could be given, and that therefore he might spare the rest."
Whilst the principal ruffian was thus favoured, old Edwards, after much intercession, could obtain only a grant on the Exchequer of £200 for himself and .too for his son; but the payment, even of these sums, was so long delayed, and the expense of curing the old man's wounds so considerable, that they were obliged to sell their orders for half the amount in ready money.
Blood, in the latter part of his life, appears to have professed Quakerism. He died August 29th, 1680.
A singular anecdote is related of the famous Lord Lovat, of Jacobite tendencies. This nobleman was one evening in a ball-room in the house of Mrs. Howison Craufurd, of Crawfurdland, in the county of Ayr, and was engaged in conversation with the great-grandmother of that lady. As he was playfully examining and holding in his hand her diamond solitaire, a voice whispered in his ear "that government officers were in pursuit of him, and that he must decamp." Decamp he did, taking with him, perhaps by accident, the costly jewel. The lady was in the greatest trepidation at her loss, and her family were resolved to recover the jewel. Many years afterwards, on his return from France, Lovat, whose character in no respect rose above suspicion, was taxed with the robbery, and refunded a sum which gave twenty pounds to each of a host of granddaughters, then in their girlhood.
In the disorders attendant on the French Revolution a great robbery of jewels in the public treasury occurred in 1792. France then possessed precious stones, and diamonds especially—including the famous " Regent "—valued at twenty-one millions of francs. After the report of M. Delattre, in 1791, the quantity of diamonds in the inventory made in 1774 amounted to 7,482. At different times from that period, during seventeen years, 1,471 had been sold, but purchases of other diamonds to make buttons for Louis XVI., and to ornament his sword, raised the number to 9,547.
This magnificent collection was stolen in a singular manner. After the days of bloodshed of August loth and September 2nd the national treasury was closed to the public inspection, and the Commune of Paris placed seals upon the cupboards in which were deposited the crown, the sceptre, the hand of justice, and other ornaments of the coronation. In the morning of September 17th, Sergent and two other commissioners perceived that during the night robbers had got into the vast chambers of the Treasury, or Garde-Meuble as it was then called, by climbing the colonnade at the side of the Place Louis XV., and getting through one of the windows. They had broken the seals without forcing the locks, taken out the inestimable riches from the cupboards, and had disappeared with-out leaving any trace of their operations. An anonymous letter revealed that a portion of the treasures was hidden in a ditch in the allée des Veuves, in the Champs Elysées. Sergent proceeded there with the other commissioners, and found, among other objects, the famous " Regent " diamond, and the magnificent cup of agate-onyx, known under the name of the Abbé Suger's chalice, and which was afterwards placed in the cabinet of antiquities of the national library.
Every endeavour was made to discover the perpetrators of this robbery, but in vain ; it was suspected that the guardians of the treasury, themselves, knew all about it, and Sergent got the nickname of " Agate " from the mysterious manner in which he had found the cup.
Twelve years afterwards several individuals were brought to trial for forging notes on the Bank of France. One of the accused disguised his real name under that of " Baba." After having denied the crime imputed to him, he made a full confession of the manner in which the forgeries were effected. " It is not the first time," he said, " that my avowals have been useful to society, and, if I am condemned, I will implore the mercy of the emperor. Without me Napoleon would not have been on the throne ; to me is due the success at Marengo. I was one of the robbers of the treasury ; I assisted my confederates to conceal the ` Regent' diamond and other objects in the Champs Elysées, as keeping them would have betrayed us. On the promise that was given to me of pardon I revealed the secret. The ` Regent' was recovered, and you are aware, gentlemen, that the magnificent diamond was pledged by the First Consul to the Batavian government to procure the money which he so greatly needed."
The criminals were condemned to the galleys, with the exception of Baba and another, who were confined in the Bicêtre. Napoleon made great efforts through-out Europe to discover and purchase many of the precious stones and objects of art that had been stolen, and succeeded in several cases. In an inventory of the crown jewels made in 1810, the jewels enumerated amounted to 37,393.
Four remarkable jewels have disappeared from the treasury : the celebrated " Sanci " diamond ; the magnificent opal, known under the name of the " Burning of Troy," which belonged to the Empress Josephine ; a splendid brilliant, worn by Napoleon I. on his marriage, supposed to have been lost at Waterloo ; a unique blue diamond, stolen in 1792. In 1848, during the transport of the crown jewels to the treasury, two pendeloques of diamonds, and the button of a hat, of rare beauty and size in brilliants, were stolen, during the short distance from place to place.
The celebrated onyx, " Cup of the Ptolomies," a two-handled vase, holding above a pint, and measuring four and four-fifth inches high by fifteen and one-fifth in circumference, measured over the handles, was stolen in 1804 from the Musée at Paris, and its gold mounting, enriched with gems, melted down by the thieves ; fortunately they were arrested in Holland, and the vase recovered undamaged, and it has been again elegantly remounted by Delafontaine. It is covered with masks, vases, and other Bacchic emblems, admirably executed in relief. After its presentation in the ninth century by Charles the Bald, to the Abbey of St. Denis, it was used to hold the consecrated wine at the coronation of the queens of France. Its gold mounting bore a legend, added at the time of its dedication :
"Hoc vas Christi tibi devota mente sacravit
One fact shows the high value formerly set upon this relic. Henry II. pawned it to the Jews of Metz for a million of livres tournois (50,000), equivalent to five times that amount in modern currency.
Sir Horace Mann, in one of his letters to Walpole (1784), relates a curious incident, which, he says, much amused the court (of Florence) and the town :—" One of the King of Prussia's soldiers stole out of a Catholic church the jewels that adorned a Madonna. He owned possession, but denied the theft, saying that the Madonna had given them to him. There were no witnesses to disprove him. The king, therefore, sent for some Romish priests, and asked them if there was anything impossible for a Madonna. They were shocked at the question, and affirmed her omnipotence. " In that case," replied the king, " I cannot condemn the soldier, but I will forbid him from receiving any more presents from a Madonna."
A robbery of jewels, under singular circumstances, occurred in Paris towards the close 0f 1827, at the house of the famous actress, Mademoiselle Mars. It was well known by every one that this lady possessed a costly collection of precious stones, and it was a grand sight to see her adorned with diamonds on the stage, in which she was frequently advertised to appear. On the 19th of October, in the year mentioned, Ma-demoiselle Mars—who resided in an hotel forming an angle of the Rue de la Tour des Dames and the Rue Larochefoucault—went to dine at M. Armand's, of the Theatre Français, who played with her in almost all her pieces. The house was left in charge of a female friend, and the porter and his wife, together with Constance, the lady's maid. M. Valville, the stepfather of Mademoiselle Mars, was also dining out that evening ; but returning about half past nine, found the maid at the porter's lodge, who showed unusual eagerness to assist the old gentleman in taking his hat and cane. The principal entrance to the hotel being shut, she left him standing there while she went round and made her way in through a back door, to open the front one from within. As she admitted M. Valville, she exclaimed that " thieves had taken everything, the drawers were empty, and there must be thieves in the house," adding, " Thank Heaven, nothing can be done to me ; there is no proof."
Information of the robbery was instantly sent to Mademoiselle Mars, who, on her return home, found the officers of justice already there, taking the depositions of the inmates. No clue could be obtained ; but the strange behaviour of Constance, the maid, when under examination, and her prevarications, led her to be arrested. This woman, who had entered the service of Mademoiselle Mars under a forged character, had, it appeared, married an engraver, François Eugène Mulon, and suspicions being roused that he was the perpetrator of the robbery, in con-junction with his wife, he was arrested at Geneva, and confessed his guilt. He declared that, in the frequent visits he had made to his wife, he had had opportunities of seeing the diamonds, and knew where they were kept. By the aid of tools and false keys made by himself, he opened the sécretaire and took the diamonds and two bank-notes of a thousand francs each. He came and went off with his booty unperceived by any one, and after travelling to various places, he arrived at Geneva on the 23rd of October. He had taken all the stones from the settings, and melted them into two ingots 0f the weight of forty-eight ounces. As he represented himself as a dealer in jewels, the smelter to whom he had applied assisted him unwittingly ; not so, however, a gold-smith, to whom he offered the gold, who having seen the notice of the robbery, informed the police. Being asked for his passport, he was immediately arrested, and, after some denials, confessed to the crime. The diamonds were found done up in a small parcel, in his boot. The stones out of the settings were valued at eighty-eight thousand francs ; and with the ingots, at ninety-six thousand francs.
On the trial of the husband and wife, which excited immense interest throughout France, it resulted that Mulon could not possibly have entered the house on the night of the robbery, but that his wife had passed the jewels out to him through the window of her own room.
Notwithstanding the strong endeavours to save the culprits, they were sentenced to the pillory and ten years' hard labour.
In the " Greville Memoirs " we have a notice (Jan. 20th, 1850) of the robbery, at Brussels, of the Princess of Orange's jewels :—" There is reason to believe that Pereira, the prince's friend, had some concern in it ; many people suspect that both he and the prince were concerned. The princess was in the country, and only one maid-servant in the house where such valuable property was left. The jewels were in a case, and the key of the case was in a cabinet, which was opened, the key taken, and the large case or chest opened by it. Small footsteps (like those of Pereira, who had very small feet) were traced in the house, or near it, and the day of the robbery the porter was taken by Pereira's servant to his house, and there made drunk. The robbery was discovered on Friday morning, but no steps were taken to inform the police until Sunday night."
On the death of Queen Charlotte (Nov. 16th, 1818) there were strong suspicions that a robbery of the royal jewels had been effected. The queen left an enormous quantity of precious stones, the diamonds alone having been valued at nearly a million. After wearing them on public occasions, her Majesty invariably consigned them to the care of the court jewellers, Rundell and Bridges, but the " George " and the diamond-hilted sword worn by the king were placed in a cabinet at Windsor Castle. This was examined after the queen's death by the regent, but the contents were missing. Inquiries were made, but fruitlessly. It was surmised, however, that George III. had put them away, especially as the queen had, on one occasion, missed from her room a gold ewer and basin of exquisite workmanship, enriched with gems. They were missed previous to the last mental indisposition of the king, who professed that he knew nothing whatever about them, but greatly feared they had been stolen by a confidential servant. Many months after his malady set in, the ewer and basin were discovered behind some books in his study, to which the king alone had access. It is supposed that, having concealed them by excess of caution, he totally forgot the circumstance through growing infirmity of intellect.
In a few days it was announced that " all now missing of the late king's jewels are his Star and Garter, valued at seven thousand pounds." How the diamond-hilted sword was discovered is not stated ; the Garter appears to have been lost.
Cathedral treasures, although no doubt guarded with mundane precautions in addition to the sacred prestige attached to them, have been the frequent objects of robbery at all times. In an interesting letter from Toledo, by Mr. J. C. Robinson, to the Times (Nov. 27th, 1877), we read
"The splendid church-plate, jewels, embroidered vestments, etc., preserved in the Cathedral treasury, were formerly the great glory and boast of Toledo, and were freely and liberally shown. Now, however, they are shut up and entirely withdrawn from public inspection, and I was informed that this resolution was taken in consequence of serious robberies which had occurred within the last few years. It is true that Toledo has been before this sorely tried by estrangero visitors, and a notable exploit of one arch-robber was related to me many years ago on the spot. Marshal Soult (as is well known) collected, modo sue, Spanish pictures, but it is not so generally known that the Napoleonic army numbered another distinguished virtuoso in its ranks.
" In the course of my wanderings in the Peninsula, however, I have come upon some frequent memories of the doings of Marshal Junot. He was mad on bric-a-brac, and he had a special predilection for precious stones. Finding himself, on one occasion, at the court of King Joseph, at Madrid, Junot took the opportunity of going to Toledo to see the sights of the place. As may be imagined, everything was freely shown to this master of legions : the splendid jewels of the Cathedral treasury were freely handed to him for his appreciative inspection, and, really, the self-control of this ardent collector seems almost meritorious when it is recorded that he carried away only one little memento of his visit. Among the notable relics of Toledo is the famous gold crown placed on the head of the Virgin on high festivals, radiant with exquisite enamel-work and splendid gems. No royal crown in the world can compare with this truly celestial diadem. The summit was adorned with one priceless gem—an emerald of matchless colour and lustre. After due examination, and not without pointing out, en connoisseur, all the special points of the gem to the little crowd of dignitaries assembled to do him honour, Junot, with the sigh of an ecstatic crocodile, coolly twisted off the gem with his finger and thumb, put it into his waistcoat pocket, and in the very words of the immortal Robert Macaire, simply remarking, 'Ceci doit être moi,' took his departure with smiles and salutations. This gem is now replaced by a facsimile in glass."
The late Duke of Brunswick was a victim of diamond-buying infatuation, and had a collection of them valued at five hundred thousand pounds. He spent his last years in Paris, and such was his fear of being robbed of these objects of worship, that he would not sleep from his house a single night. He resided in a house built more for safety than comfort, and was proof against fire and thieves. It was surrounded by a lofty, thick wall, on the top of which was a chevaux-de frise, so arranged that when a strange hand was laid on one of the spikes, a bell immediately began ringing. This defence cost the duke no less than two thousand pounds.
The diamonds were kept in a safe let into the wall, and the duke's bed stood before it. Had the safe been attempted forcibly, four guns would be dis-charged, and kill the burglar on the spot, and with the discharge of the guns was connected the ringing of an alarm bell in every room, to arouse the household-His bedroom had only one small window ; the bolt and lock on the door were of the stoutest iron, and could only be opened by a man who knew the secret. A case containing twelve loaded revolvers stood by the side of the bed.
Similar terrors haunted the mind of Governor Pitt, the owner of the magnificent diamond afterwards purchased by the Regent Orléans in France. After his return to England with his precious charge, he used to change his lodgings frequently, and would never give his address for fear of exciting attention. It is stated that he was in a constant state of nervous agitation if any one regarded him particularly.
There is considerable philosophy in the story that Goldsmith tells of a mandarin who took much pride in appearing with a number of jewels on every part of his robe, and who was once accosted by an old sly bonze, who followed him through several streets, and bowing often to the ground, thanked him for his jewels. " What does he mean ? " cried the mandarin ; " friend, I never gave thee any of my jewels." " No," replied the other, " but you have let me look at them, and that is all the use you can make of them yourself ; so there is no difference between us, except that you have the trouble of watching them, and that is an employment I don't much desire."
In the " Insurance Cyclopædia " (1871-1877), we find, under the head of " Amsterdam," an account of the " Marine Insurance Ordinaire " there promulgated in 1598, curious as containing a form of policy, under which the diamonds and other precious stones sent to Holland to be " cut " were insured against all the risk of transport on land and on water, including robberies and thieves, and all other perils and adventures. This system of insurance is practised at Amsterdam to the present day.