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British RoyalsQueen Elizabeth II

The day shots were fired at The Queen during Trooping the Colour

The Queen’s most infamous moment during Trooping the Colour occurred in 1981, when a teenager fired six blank shots at her during the procession.

Three days before Trooping the Colour, a letter arrived at Buckingham Palace. It read: “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.” It was later revealed to be from the teenager who’d made the shots.

On 14 June 1981, as she rode down The Mall during the Trooping the Colour ceremony, six blanks were fired at The Queen from the crowd.

To her credit, The Queen did not falter—although the incident shook her, she calmed her horse and continued riding to the Horse Guards Parade to watch the Trooping. The Sovereign’s Escort closed in around The Queen as she continued along the procession; and the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales were close by her at the time.

The young man who fired the blanks and sent the letter, Marcus Sarjeant, was quickly arrested at the scene and charged under the Treason Act of 1842, which would have seen him jailed for seven years.

Seized by Lance Corporal Alec Galloway from the Scots Guards, Sarjeant said that “I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be somebody.”

He later told prosecutors that he was inspired by the assassination of John Lennon, and the assassination attempts on US President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II; police investigators found a note written by Sarjeant that read: “I am going to stun and mystify the world. I will become the most famous teenager in the world.”

Later that year, Sarjeant pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years imprisonment for the incident, with the judge saying that “the public sense of outrage must be marked. You must be punished for the wicked thing you did.”

Though he was sentenced to five years in prison, he ultimately served only three years before release. He changed his name, and wrote a letter to The Queen apologising. He never received a reply.

About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.