Assassination Attempts on Queen Victoria

Attempts on the Queen's Life

It seems strange that the life of a monarch so deservedly popular should have been so often attempted, yet it is the fact that Queen Victoria has been several times shot at. It is a comfort to think that in cases a mere mad love of most notoriety or downright Insanity has prompted the attack.

Constitution Hill Incident

In June, 1840, there was great distress throughout the country, the Ministry was unpopular, and severe things were being said in some of the newspapers about the Court festivities. The Queen was occasionally received by her subjects in silence, and on one or two occasions unpleasant and ominous shouts were heard. Much anxiety was being felt as regards the state of the nation, when suddenly it seemed as if a thrill of indignant horror passed through the land, as the news spread that the young Queen had been fired at, on Constitution Hill, on June 18th: It was six o'clock on that summer's evening, and the Queen, as usual, was out driving with Prince Albert. A man leaning against the Park railing suddenly drew a pistol from his coat and fired at Her Majesty as she sat in the low open phaeton about six yards from him. The 'Queen was looking another way, and did not understand for a moment what had happened. The carriage stopped, but the Prince told the postillions to drive on. " I seized Victoria's hands," he wrote afterwards, " and asked if the fright had not shaken her, but she laughed."

The Queen and Prince now both saw the man standing with a pistol in each hand, and almost immediately he fired again. Prince Albert drew the Queen down beside him, and the ball must have passed just over her head. A crowd gathered, and the man was seized; meanwhile, the Queen, after standing up once in the carriage to show that she was unhurt, drove rapidly to the house of the Duchess of Kent, to be the first to tell the news before any exaggerated reports reached her mother's ears.

Then the royal pair returned to Hyde Park ; the crowds of people on the footpaths, in the carriages, and on horseback, received them with enthusiastic cheers. All the riders from Rotten Row, ladies and gentlemen, escorted the Queen and Prince that day back to Buckingham Palace. The Queen, pale, but smiling and bowing, kept up bravely till she reached her own room, and then burst into tears. For several days afterwards a similarly large volunteer body-guard escorted her from the Park to the Palace gates. At all the theatres, " God Save the Queen " was sung with enthusiasm ; and at her first appearance at the Opera after, the incident the tempest of loyal cheering and waving of handkerchiefs was beyond all precedent. The Lords and Commons, in full dress, came up to the Palace in a procession of about two hundred carriages, and presented an address of congratulation, which the Queen received sitting on her throne in state.

Edward Oxford

The wretched lad, Edward Oxford, whose failure was the cause of all this joy and thankfulness, was a discharged barman. It was proved that he came of a crazy family; and though the alarmists wanted to make out that he was one of a secret society pledged to treasonable practices, he was simply treated as a madman, and confined in Bedlam. Thence he was sent to Dartmoor, and ultimately released on his promise to go to Australia, where he was working as a house-painter as lately as 1882. His conduct in prison was good, and he always declared that his attack on the Queen was done out of sheer vanity and love of notoriety.

The Boy Jones

Having spoken of Oxford, we may as well refer to the other intrusions and attacks to which Her Majesty has been subjected, and so get done with the topic once for all. Our next instance is that of a very impudent, but comparatively harmless offender, known as " the boy Jones," who, in the course of two years, got four times into Buckingham Palace, and concealed himself behind furniture or-up the chimney in the daytime. At night he supplied his wants in the kitchens, and curled himself up in some bed in a spare room. Very much astonished were the Palace servants at the sooty marks found in these beds when they were required. He boasted of having heard a long conversation between the Queen and the Prince whilst he was secreted behind a sofa. He was sentenced to three months in the House of Correction as a rogue and vagabond. On being liberated he took to haunting the outside of the Palace and the Parks when the Queen was driving. At length he was induced to go to sea, and is said to have died a well-to-do man in one of the Colonies.

Second Attempt

On the 3oth of May, 1842, the Queen was fired at for the second time. As she and the Prince were returning home from the Chapel Royal on the previous day (Sunday), the Prince had seen a man step out and present a pistol) which missed fire. A boy came to the Palace in the afternoon and described the same incident, which had been seen apparently by no one else. The Queen and Prince resolved to go out next day as usual, though both were much agitated, and the Queen was far from well. Her Majesty, however, would not allow any of her ladies to accompany her, as was customary. The royal pair were returning from their drive, and had nearly reached the scene of Oxford's attempt two years before, when "a little, swarthy, ill-looking rascal," whom the Prince recognised as the would-be assailant of the day before, fired at the Queen, a shot which passed harmlessly by. The man was secured by a policeman. As for the royal couple—" We felt as if a load had been taken off our hearts," wrote the Princes, " and we thanked the Almighty for having preserved us a second time from so great a danger."

Hunchback named Bean

Joyful shouts again greeted the Queen's public appearance after this escape from danger. John Francis, the assailant, was sentenced to death, a sentence, however, which was commuted (in full accordance with the Queen's anxious desires) to banishment for life. On Sunday, the 3rd of July, the day after the sentence of Francis had been commuted, the Queen, whilst returning by the side of her uncle, King Leopold, from the Chapel Royal, St. James's, was again in danger from a would-be assailant. This time it was a hunchback named Bean, whose pistol missed fire, but was found to be loaded with bits of tobacco pipe. He eluded capture at the moment, and for about a fortnight all the poor hunchbacks in London had a very bad time of it. They were hooted at and accused in the public streets, and had to be very ready with alibis for the particular afternoon referred to. At length, Bean was caught and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

Hamilton

For seven years the Queen enjoyed an immunity from these attacks, till on May 19th, 1849, a man standing within the railings of the Green Park, fired at her as she was driving up Constitution Hill. Prince Albert was riding at some distance in front. The Queen did not lose her self-possession ; she stood up a moment and bade the coachman (who had stopped) drive on, and then talked to her three children, who were with her, to divert their attention. The man, an Irishman, named Hamilton, was arrested, and subsequently sentenced (as his pistol contained no bullet) to seven years' transportation.

Queen Victoria Assaulted

In June, 185, Her Majesty was the victim of an outrage of another character—one of the most wanton and cowardly of the whole series of attacks to which she has been subjected. She was returning from a visit to her uncle, the Duke of Cambridge, then suffering from his last illness. Beside the entrance of Cambridge House, a tall gentlemanly man was loitering as if waiting to get a sight of the Queen. As her carriage drove out of the gateway and was turning the corner into the road, this man rushed forward and struck the Queen a sharp blow on the face with a small stick. Her Majesty's bonnet was crushed by the blow, and a severe bruise and slight wound were inflicted on her forehead. The perpetrator of this cruel act soon found himself in the police station. He was a man of thirty, a gentleman by birth and education, but evidently not of sound mind. He was well nown for conspicuous conduct in the Park, and his eccentricities had lost him his position as an officer in the army. He was now sentenced to seven years' transportation. The Queen was well enough to be at the Opera on the evening after the assault, and was joyfully received.

Arthur O'Connor

In February, 1872, when about to alight from her carriage after a drive, a youth rushed at the Queen with a paper in one hand and a pistol in the other. The Queen's attendant, John Brown, seized the lad, who as usual, was found to be not quite right in his mind. Arthur O'Connor (for this was his name) was an Irish boy of about seventeen who had brooded over his country's wrongs till he fancied he could do some good by making Her Majesty read a petition he had drawn up on behalf of the Fenians. He had accordingly climbed over the railings to carry out the project which John Brown so promptly interrupted. But his damaged pistol was found to have no ball in it. Public indignation was strongly expressed on the occasion, and the culprit was soon put under care suited to his mental condition. The Queen had already been on the point of issuing medals to domestics who had served her long and faithfully, and so now John Brown had the first gold medal and an annuity of twenty-five pounds.

Roderick Maclean

The last of these attacks took place only four years ago (in 1882) at Royal Windsor. The Queen, accompanied by the Princess Beatrice, was entering her carriage at Windsor station, when she was fired at by a man named Roderick Maclean, who was at once arrested. The prisoner, who had formerly been respectable, but had recently fallen into want, was tried for high treason. Being found not guilty, on the ground of insanity, he was ordered to be imprisoned during Her Majesty's
pleasure.