The day is 13th June 1981, The Queen’s Birthday Parade is just getting underway and The Queen was riding on her horse Burmese to Horse Guards Parade to begin the Troop.
Her Majesty was about to turn into the Parade ground when, from the crowd, six shots were fired. 17-year-old Marcus Serjeant had planned, and nearly succeeded, to go to the troop with a live firearm to assassinate Her Majesty.
As the shots were fired, The Queen’s horse, Burmese, shied at the noise and almost bolted. Her Majesty, almost completely unflinching, only leant forward to comfort Burmese.
Panic had erupted in the crowd, and a Scots Guardsman lining the street grabbed Serjeant from the crowd and disarmed him before police took him away to be questioned.
It was only after police inspected the weapon and questioned Serjeant that they discovered the weapon he was using in fact only shot blanks.
Serjeant had said in an interview with Police that he had tried to obtain a live firearm and intended to assassinate The Queen, because he ‘wanted to be famous’.
He sent a letter to Buckingham Palace prior to his attack which warned The Queen not to ride out for Trooping the Colour, saying: ”Your Majesty, Don’t go to the Trooping the Colour ceremony, because there is an assassin set up to kill you, waiting just outside the palace.”
The letter was received 3 days later – had Serjeant used live ammunition, the outcome of the events would have been very different.
The skill of Her Majesty in bringing her horse under control and then carrying on with the Troop and the bravery of the Scots Guardsman in detaining Serjeant all contributed to a successful recovery from the attempt.
Marcus Serjeant was jailed for 5 years under the 1842 Treason Act for, ‘wilfully discharging at the person of Her Majesty the Queen a blank cartridge pistol, with intent to alarm her.’
In prison, Serjeant wrote a letter to The Queen apologising for the incident. He never received a reply.