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Who Tried To Assassinate Queen Victoria? Eight Attempts To Kill A Queen - Part 2

Queen Victoria, ruler of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for almost 64 years from 1837 to 1901, is thought to be one of the most successful monarchs. But success comes at a price.

In Part 1 of this mini-series, we took a look at the first four assassination attempts made on Queen Victoria’s life.

A word of warning – we’re only halfway through!

Check out Part 2 below, where we give you the low-down on the final four would-be Queen-killers (one of whom actually managed to draw blood!).

William Charles tries to shoot Queen Victoria - Courtesy of Barrie Charles
William Charles tries to shoot Queen Victoria - Courtesy of Barrie Charles

Assassination Attempt No. 5 – Fighting For Freedom:

Name: William Hamilton

Date: 19th May 1849

Identity: William was born in Ireland and was forced to move to London in the 1940s. He struggled to get work in London and found it difficult to cope.

Events: William repeated the same failed assassination attempts that had happened four times in the previous nine years. You’d think after four other attackers had tried and failed with this technique, you’d try something new. But not William, he was obviously a stickler for tradition. William positioned himself in the same spot as Edward Oxford, the first would-be assassin, and pulled out a pistol as the Queen rode past in her carriage. William fired his pistol at the Queen, who was once again left unharmed.

Aftermath: William told the police he had loaded his gun with only gunpowder, but no bullet. There were rumours that he was part of an Irish revolutionary group that wanted to overthrow the Queen. But William admitted that the only reason he attempted to kill the Queen was because he was sick of being out of work and wanted to get into prison. His wish was granted! He was sentenced to seven years, five of which were spent on a convict ship near Gibraltar before being sent to Australia.

Robert Pate gets closer than any attacker before him
Robert Pate gets closer than any attacker before him

Assassination Attempt No. 6 – An Unintentional Success:

Name: Robert Pate

Date: 27th June 1850 (Almost exactly 10 years since the first assassination attempt in 1840)

Identity: Unlike the other would-be assassins, Robert was seen as a gentleman and came from a wealthy family. After serving in the army, Robert developed mental health problems. Many people in London (including the Queen herself) were familiar with Robert’s manic behaviour that he displayed in the parks around London.

Events: After making a visit to her dying Uncle, Queen Victoria and her children set off back to Buckingham Palace in their open-topped carriage. I don’t know about you, but if five people had tried to kill me whilst riding around London in a carriage, I would have a re-think about open-topped carriages. I’d make it a rule to travel around in a carriage with a roof (and very thick bullet-proof windows!). But I digress. Out of nowhere, a young gentleman strode out from the crowd and struck Victoria on the head with a metal-tipped cane. Pate was the first and only attacker who had managed to physically harm the queen.

Aftermath: Victoria was left with a bruise and a black eye, not to mention a scar that she sported for quite some time afterwards. Pate was given the maximum sentence of seven years and was transported to Tasmania. Rumour has it that he got special treatment in prison because of his status as a gentleman, so it wasn’t all bad.

Arthur O'Connor is wrestled to the ground after attempting to shoot Queen Victoria - Courtesy Barrie Charles
Arthur O'Connor is wrestled to the ground after attempting to shoot Queen Victoria - Courtesy Barrie Charles

Assassination Attempt No. 7 – Close, But No Cigar:

Name: Arthur O’Connor

Date: 29th February 1872

Identity: At just 17 years old, Arthur was one of the youngest to attack the queen. His attack was also the most political. He hoped to scare the Queen into letting Irish prisoners go free from jail.

Events: In the courtyard of Buckingham Palace, Queen Victoria was returning home after a ride in her carriage (there’s that carriage again – make your own judgement as to whether it had a roof or not!). Suddenly, she found herself staring down the barrel of a pistol. This was the closest an attacker had ever got to Victoria with a gun. Arthur had climbed over one of the palace fences without being noticed. Victoria’s manservant, John Brown, seized the attacker and dragged him to the ground.

Aftermath: Arthur claimed he just wanted to scare the Queen. He would have struggled to shoot her anyway because his pistol was broken. Arthur pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year’s hard labour and whipping. Victoria was concerned that he had got off lightly for his crimes so Arthur was shipped off to Australia. On the plus side, Victoria’s manservant received a medal for his bravery. So that’s nice.

Roderick Maclean takes aim at the Queen - Courtesy Borough of Windsor
Roderick Maclean takes aim at the Queen - Courtesy Borough of Windsor

Assassination Attempt No. 8 – Assassinating The Ultimate Enemy:

Name: Roderick Maclean

Date: 2nd March 1882

Identity: After a blow to his head, Roderick’s personality changed and he became paranoid about enemies everywhere. His sisters sent money to support him, but he believed he should have been given more.

Events: The only assassination attempt not to take place near Buckingham Palace, Roderick bought a pistol in Portsmouth and then walked more than 60 miles to Windsor to spot the Queen. As Victoria departed Windsor train station in her carriage, Roderick shot his pistol in the Queen’s direction. Some boys from the nearby Eton college saw the attacker and struck him with their umbrellas! Victoria had survived her eighth and final assassination attempt and got away unharmed.

Aftermath: It was revealed that Roderick had sent a letter to his sister blaming her for his attempt to kill the Queen. He claimed that if his sister had given him more money, he wouldn’t have had to commit the crime. At his trial, Roderick was seen as not guilty on grounds of insanity and sent to a psychiatric hospital where he stayed until he died.

No more attempts were made to assassinate Queen Victoria for the rest of her life. If we’ve learned anything from this, it’s to not ride anywhere in a carriage when you’re the Queen. Particularly a carriage with an open top! Oh and if you actually want to be a successful assassin, don’t just stand in a busy street and aim an old rusty pistol at your victim. Your gun will either fail to fire or miss the mark entirely. And it’ll all end with you getting tackled to the ground, or worse, beaten with umbrellas!

But the attempts on the Queen’s life didn’t seem to scare Victoria, who said in reaction to the displays of support and loyalty every time someone tried to kill her; “It’s worth being shot at to see how much one is loved”.

I don’t know Vicky. I think I’d be happy just assuming people liked me if it meant not being shot at. But hey, that’s just me.


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