We continue with the accounts of Victoria’s attempted assassinations, covering her last three assailant’s stories, as well as a few others that got rather close to her.
5. In June 1850, Robert Pate became the fifth person to make an attempt on Victoria’s life. Once more, her children witnessed the attack – Bertie, Alice, and Affie – and this time, Victoria was injured.
Pate, a former army officer, waited for Victoria in Picadilly, where she was visiting the dying Duke of Cambridge, also her uncle. Again, in a phaeton, The Queen was vulnerable to attack. Pate struck her with a cane with a brass or possibly iron ferrule (base). The blow crushed her bonnet and made her bleed from the head.
Victoria, in defiance, attended the Opera the same night, to show how well she was, fearing the public’s distress if they did not see her.
The attack left the Queen with a black eye, a welt, and a scar that lasted for a decade. Pate received seven years transportation for the attack, though his defence tried to claim insanity – he was well-known for his ‘unusual’ walks around Hyde Park, and his eccentricities lost him his job within the Army. Sources claim Pate ended up in Tasmania.
6. Queen Victoria had a period of 22 years rest from such attempts, but Arthur O’ Connor broke this peace in February 1872.
O’Connor was the nephew of the Irish politician, Fergus O’Connor, and hoped to usurp his uncle’s fame with his own. He wished to persuade The Queen to free all Irish prisoners in Britain. He planned to interrupt the Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral and thrust an edict stating his wishes in Victoria’s face, forcing her to sign with a gun. He knew he would surely die, but wrote in the order that he should be treated as a brave political enemy, and should face death by firing squad, rather than hanged like a common criminal.
However, it was to be in the grounds of Buckingham Palace that he confronted The Queen after he was thrown out of the Cathedral for suspicious behaviour the night before. Victoria had just returned from a carriage ride, and O’Connor decided the time was right. He thrust the pistol in The Queen’s face, holding the paper in the other, but John Brown, Victoria’s trusty servant, threw him to the ground, where he was apprehended.
Naturally, it was reported she was undaunted by the attack, but Victoria seemed to find this the most frightening attack, crying “Save me!” to Jane Churchill, her Lady of the Bedchamber. Perhaps it was because this attack was inside the Palace grounds – a little too close to home. It was also the first attempt on her life since Prince Albert’s death, over a decade before.
Brown received a medal for his bravery, whilst O’Connor was to be imprisoned; this was later commuted to exile in Australia. This sentence may not seem too harsh, but many a prisoner didn’t make it to Australia, thanks to the treacherous boat journey.
7. The last attempt on Victoria’s life was by Roderick Maclean. It appears poet and aristocrat Maclean had a fixation on the ‘supernatural properties’ of the colour blue, as well as the number four. He turned his fixation on The Queen in March 1882, supposedly after receiving a curt reply to some poems he sent to Victoria.
Princess Beatrice was with her mother, entering a carriage to leave Windsor Station when Maclean used a cheap revolver to shoot at Victoria. Police were around, but security in the 19th century was poor, and the police watched Victoria, as opposed to the crowds around her. By this point, telegraph lines were so developed that the news spread around the world within hours.
Maclean was to be tried for High Treason, as he indeed shot at The Queen but was found insane shortly before the trial. He would, therefore, be found not guilty, and acquitted of the crime, living his life in a mental asylum instead of prison. Victoria was furious about this and demanded the Prime Minister, William Gladstone, do something about it.
Gladstone changed the ‘insanity verdict’ (not guilty by reason of insanity) to ‘guilty, but insane’, which remained law until 1964.
The Boy Jones. Comparatively harmless to those mentioned above, Young Edward Jones managed to sneak into Buckingham Palace four times between 1838 and 1841.
Jones, 14, seems to be the world’s first celebrity stalker. He would hide behind furniture or up chimneys until the Palace settled down for the night. In the darkness, he would pilfer food from the kitchens, and find a spare bed to hunker down for the night. Only when the beds he used came to be needed, that Palace attendants would find sooty black footprints in the sheets, evidence of his intrusion.
Edward boasted of hearing long conversations between Victoria and Albert whilst he hid behind a sofa, and he was also caught with Victoria’s underwear stuffed down his trousers! Jones sat on Victoria’s throne, leafed through books from the royal library, and read one of her letters; he was found numerous times inside the Palace. His explanation was that he ‘had always wanted to see that palace’ and then write a book about it, but there was public outrage that he managed to return after each visit.
His first arrest saw him leave free, having been charged with theft and not taken anything from the Palace. But his further break-ins saw him sentenced to three months in a House of Correction as a rogue and vagabond, and three months hard labour for the next intrusion. His obsession, however, seemed to be Buckingham Palace, and not Victoria, making him more innocent than the likes of Oxford and Pate.
Upon release, he lingered outside the Palace and the parks when Victoria went for a carriage ride. He was, after some time, persuaded to go to sea, leaving England. Jones became an alcoholic, settling in Australia; he died after a drunken fall in 1893.
Similarly, a drunken silversmith managed to get into the Palace in 1838. He wanted to meet Queen Victoria, so waited for her outside her bedroom – he eventually fell asleep in the room next door.