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On the afternoon of July 6, 1907, an arrangement agent at Dublin Alcazar fabricated an abashing analysis in one of the site’s towers. He had been instructed to drop a knight’s gold collar central a safe absolute the Irish Crown Jewels, a accumulating of admirable insignia. But aback the messenger, William Stivey, went to accessible the aperture of the safe, he begin it was already unlocked.

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Stivey rushed to acquaint Sir Arthur Vicars, who presided over the Arrangement of Arms, a baby agency that, amid added duties, was amenable for the aliment of the jewels. Vicars bedevilled the alone two keys to the safe. One, which he had briefly accustomed to Stivey, was commonly kept in his abridged or on a alternation about his neck. The added was hidden at his abode in Dublin. Vicars told Stivey that he was assertive he had bound the safe afterwards aftermost aperture it. He raced to the office’s library, area the safe was located, and peered inside. The Crown Jewels—along with his own mother’s diamonds, which he had buried in the safe—were gone.

The baseborn jewels acquire never been found, and their dematerialization charcoal one of Ireland’s best aperitive mysteries. In the months afterward the theft, amazing revelations emerged about aegis breaches at Dublin Alcazar and cagey characters with links to the Arrangement of Arms. The British baron was accused of accoutrement up capacity of the crime. The brother of a acclaimed charlatan was alleged as a suspect. And at the affection of the aspersion were blue allegations—first whispered, again shouted—about a secret, gay activity arena aural the alcazar walls.

“There is added to comedy for actuality than aloof the annexation of the jewels,” Myles Dungan, columnist of The Burglary of the Irish Crown Jewels: An Unsolved Crime, tells Mental Floss. “There are reputations at risk.”

Dublin Castle, the arena of the abomination / Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A admirable circuitous in the centermost of the city, Dublin Alcazar was, for some 700 years, the bench of English and British aphorism in Ireland. The about-face of the 20th aeon was a almost “quiescent” aeon in Irish history, according to Dungan, but the advance for an absolute calm government was underway, ambience nationalists in action to unionists loyal to the Crown. It was adjoin this alive political altitude that the jewels—an constant attribute of colonial aphorism in Ireland—disappeared from the castle. 

Unlike their English counterparts, the Irish Crown Jewels were not acclimated in coronations, but were instead the brand of the Order of St. Patrick, founded in 1783 to accolade Irish nobles and office-holders with celebrated knighthoods. The jewels comprised several knights’ collars and a brilliant and brand adorned with Brazilian diamonds, shamrocks fabricated of emeralds, and bittersweet crosses. In 1907, the jewels were admired at added than £30,000; today, according to Dublin Castle, they would be account “several actor euro.”

Vicars, who captivated the centuries-old appellation “Ulster Baron of Arms,” was primarily amenable for archetype aloof genealogies and administering blazonry in Ireland. A abstruse fellow, he relished this alcove work, but was beneath enthused about caring for the Crown Jewels—another important allotment of his job. He was at times bewilderingly condescending about the insignia's security, an attitude that would appear to abode him until the end of his life. 


The agitation arguably started aback the Arrangement of Arms confused to new apartment in Dublin Castle’s Bedford Tower. A able allowance was congenital to abode the Crown Jewels, but in a amusing about-face of events, workers begin that the safe captivation the brand didn’t fit through the door. In arrangement with the castle’s Board of Works, Vicars absitively to put the safe in the library, a high-traffic amplitude that additionally functioned as the Arrangement of Arms's cat-and-mouse room. He never got about to accepting a abate safe, alike afterwards alteration the Order’s statutes to agree that the jewels should be relocated to the able room. 

The brand were aftermost apparent on June 11, 1907, aback Vicars took them out of the safe to appearance them to a visitor. Again came a alternation of alarming incidents that acicular to abominable affaire at the Arrangement of Arms.

On June 28, Vicars’s key to the advanced aperture of the belfry went missing; it would reappear two canicule afterwards the annexation was discovered. On the morning of July 3, the arrangement cleaner, Mrs. Farrell, accustomed at assignment to acquisition the aperture already unlocked. “Did she?” Vicars reportedly responded aloft actuality abreast of this apropos development. He analogously bootless to act when, three canicule later, Mrs. Farrell noticed that the able room’s alien aperture had been larboard ajar. 

When the dematerialization of the jewels came to ablaze afterwards that afternoon, Vicars assuredly summoned the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Board assured that the locks to the advanced door, able room, and safe had not been forced, advertence that the bandit had the aboriginal keys or ample copies. Chief Inspector John Kane of Scotland Yard was alleged in to advice breach the crime, which he believed was an central job.

Francis Shackleton (right) actuality taken in for analytic about his banking affairs / Topical Columnist Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Suspicion anon fell on Francis Shackleton, the adolescent brother of acclaimed Antarctic charlatan Ernest Shackleton. The Shackletons were a common Irish ancestors alive in England, area absorbing Francis rose in aloof circles, adequate friendships with the brand of the 9th Battle of Argyll, brother-in-law of Baron Edward VII. In 1905, Vicars offered Shackleton the position of “Dublin Herald” in the Arrangement of Arms; it was an unpaid, abundantly honorary title.

“He's on a aisle where, if he's a acceptable boy—which he wasn't—he will apparently get a courage or something,” Dungan says.

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Shackleton had been aggravating to accomplish his affluence through acreage belief in Mexico, but badge apparent that his affairs were strained—a believable motive for burglary the jewels. He additionally lived with Vicars during his visits to Dublin, which would acquire fabricated it almost accessible for him to blooper abroad with one of Vicars’s safe keys and annex a copy. 

But architecture a case adjoin Shackleton accepted problematic. For one, he had an alibi; he had larboard Dublin for England on June 11 and alternate afterwards the annexation was discovered. That didn’t aphorism out the achievability that Shackleton had orchestrated the abomination with the advice of an accomplice, but board may acquire been afraid to columnist Shackleton on this theory. At a time aback sex acts amid men were actionable in Britain, Shackleton’s homosexuality was an accessible secret; badge may acquire feared he’d acknowledge atrocious advice about arresting aristocrats in his orbit—like his acquaintance the Battle of Argyll, who was additionally accounted to be gay, or the duke’s abutting friend, the sculptorLord Ronald Gower.

“His activity in London was absolutely accurate by Scotland Yard,” Brian Lacey, columnist of Terrible Queer Creatures: Homosexuality in Irish History, tells Mental Floss. If Shackleton had annihilation larboard to lose, he ability discharge the tea to save himself from prosecution.

There were added acute affairs to consider. In his book, Dungan writes that badge apparent Vicars was in the addiction of hosting “soirées” at the castle, with “some of Dublin’s arch homosexuals” amid his guests. The son of the Lord Lieutenant, who represented the baron in Ireland, reportedly abounding these parties—another blueblood with potentially damaging access to the heist. The king’s secretary was fabricated acquainted of “scandalous conduct” at the castle, according to Dungan, and some acquire theorized that Edward VII stepped in to anticipate any abusive revelations from acceptable public. 

A address accounting by Inspector Kane aloft the cessation of his analysis afterwards vanished—perhaps because it absolute acknowledgment of “other actuality activity on in the Arrangement of Arms,” Dungan says. But addition had to pay for the annexation of the jewels, which had acquired ample embarrassment to the administration. Vicars was asked to resign, but he refused, ambitious a accessible inquiry. The Lord Lieutenant instead accumulated a viceregal agency in January 1908, which sat in private, had no ascendancy to bulldoze assemblage to accord evidence, and was primarily anxious with free whether Vicars “exercised due acuity … as the custodian” of the jewels. Not afterwards justification, Vicars was begin behindhand and accursed from his post. But the affairs were about a “whitewash,” added anxious with scapegoating Vicars than apprehension the facts of the crime, writes historian Sean J. Murphy. 

Officials may acquire hoped that heaping accusation on Vicars would put the beating at Dublin Alcazar to rest, and they were acknowledged in befitting any aroma of a gay aspersion out of the Irish press. But beyond the pond, abominable allegations were percolating. On July 4, 1908, a anathema banderole blared beyond the advanced folio of The Gaelic American, an Irish American newspaper: “ABOMINATIONS OF DUBLIN CASTLE EXPOSED.” 

The commodity proceeded to name Shackleton as “either the bandit or a activity to the annexation of the jewels.” Since his arrangement to the Arrangement of Arms, the allotment contended, “rumors began to broadcast in Dublin that there were nightly orgies at the Castle, in which several arresting Government admiral were alloyed up.” Those “whispered stories,” the commodity asserted, were true, but had been “hushed up” beneath the administration of Edward VII.

The allotment was appear anonymously, but it is accepted to acquire been accounting by Bulmer Hobson, a announcer and affecting affiliate of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which approved to authorize an absolute republican government. Hobson does not name his sources, but afterwards appear that the advice came from Pierce O’Mahony, a nationalist baby-kisser and Vicars’s half-brother. Hobson’s objectives in publishing the exposé were assuredly political.

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“What he absolutely was aggravating to appearance was that the British were angry and wicked,” Lacey says. 

Lacey appropriately suspects that the “nightly orgies” Hobson describes with a amazing curl were added acceptable “relatively nice drinks parties, in which [guests] may acquire camped it up a bit.” But Dungan is added absorbed to acquire Hobson’s allegations.

“I don't anticipate they're alien at all,” he says, “because it wouldn't acquire been the aboriginal time.”

In fact, the annexation of the Crown Jewels apparent the third gay altercation in two decades that affected baronial associates of the British establishment. In the aboriginal 1880s, allegations fabricated by an Irish nationalist account led to the acknowledgment of a “network of gay men who were alive in the city’s gay underground,” writes historian Brian Crowley—among them the administrator of detectives with the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Secretary of the General Column Arrangement of Ireland. The Dublin Alcazar Scandal—so alleged because it active Crown advisers in Ireland—was followed by addition blue accident in London. Accepted as the Cleveland Street Scandal, the activity began in 1889, aback badge apparent that a abettor of “telegraph boys” from the column arrangement were alive at a macho brothel accouterment to aloof men.

These incidents were the antecedent of abundant “public anxiety” and may explain why admiral were acquisitive to burrow alike alien aloof access to the annexation of the Crown Jewels, according to Lacey. “Any analysis that would acknowledge God-knows-what ... would accessible up a can of worms which leads appropriate up to the absolution itself,” he says. “That couldn't be allowed.”

Because no one was anytime arrested for burglary the jewels, theories about the break-in acquire broiled over the accomplished 115 years. Was it a nationalist plot, hatched to abash the Crown? Or conceivably unionists blanket the brand to agitate the advance for an free Irish government? Suspicion has additionally been casting on Francis Bennett Goldney, a above ambassador of Canterbury who, like Shackleton, captivated an honorary position at the Arrangement of Arms. Goldney, it turns out, was a thief; afterwards his death, it emerged that he had baseborn age-old charters acceptance to the Burghal of Canterbury and a painting acceptance to a duke.

But abounding accept that cash-strapped Francis Shackleton charcoal the best believable culprit, and acceptable enlisted an abettor to breach into the safe. That abettor may acquire been Captain Richard Gorges, a aggressive man with a belled reputation; he was accepted to be gay and was reportedly decumbent to violence, eventually activity to bastille for killing a badge officer. Gorges was acquainted with Shackleton, whose own ability for bent behavior became bright in the years afterwards the jewels went missing. In 1913, accepting declared bankruptcy, he was bedevilled of banking artifice and bedevilled to 15 months' adamantine labor.

Vicars—woefully careless, but disqualified out as a doubtable by police—also met a apologetic end. Afterwards actuality accursed from the Arrangement of Arms, he approved to authorize his own affiliated convenance in London, but was not acknowledged and confused aback to Ireland. In 1921, a mob claiming to be affiliated with the IRA attempt Vicars to afterlife alfresco his house. To the end of his days, he remained acutely acrimonious over his analysis during the Crown Jewels scandal. 

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“I ability acquire had added to actuate of had it not been for the abandoned way in which I was advised by the Irish [government] over the accident of the Irish Crown Jewels,” he wrote in his will, claiming Shackleton was the accurate culprit. “My accomplished activity and assignment was broke by this atrocious misfortune.”

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