Assassination attempts on Queen Victoria


Forum Staff
Oct 2009
"worth being shot at - to see how much one is loved"

-Queen Victoria, speaking of the public outcry at Roderick MacClean's attempt on her life

The 1840s was a time of political and social turmoil in Europe, republican sympathies being agitated by radical groups in Great Britain as well as the Continent.

In June of 1840, an eighteen year-old Londoner named Edward Oxford fired two pistols at Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as they rode through the city, but misfired and was apprehended by a pair of bystanders. Oxford was judged insane and acquited, but there were whispers that he was a pawn in a Chartist plot to overthrow the monarchy.

The summer of 1842 saw two more attacks. The first was under circumstances almost identical to the 1840 attack, and the would-be assassin, John Francis, was captured and banished. Two months later another teenager, one John William Bean, tried to shoot the Queen with a pistol he had failed to load properly. He spent the next eighteen months of his life in prison for his troubles, but was spared the flogging that Parliament had decreed for those who attempted to strike or shoot the Queen.

Revolutionary excitement reached a high-point in 1848, when the Queen and her family even made a brief flight to the Isle of Wight in fear of a Chartist revolt. The revolt did not take place, but the fears for the Queen's safety were nonetheless well-founded. In 1849, Irishman William Hamilton attacked the Queen with a pistol, but as with the previous attempt he had failed to load his weapon correctly.

In July of 1850 the Queen was brutally struck in the face by Robert Pate, a discharged army officer who may have been certifiably insane. At least one more assassination attempt took place in the 1850s. In 1872 she was threatened by another Irishman, this time seven year-old Arthur O'Connor, who waved an unloaded pistol at her as her carriage passed into Buckingham Palace. He was tackled by her friend and attendant John Brown.

One of the last and most infamous attempts on Queen Victoria's life was made by Roderick MacLean, an eccentric Scottish poet who was offended at the Queen's lack of interest in one of his works. In March of 1882 he missed while firing at her with a pistol at Windsor Rail Station; several schoolboys beat him with their umbrellas until he could be apprehended. MacLean was declared "not guilty, but insane" at his trial. The Queen, indignant at this lenient verdict, called for British law to be changed so criminals could be declared "guilty and insane".

All in all, Queen Victoria was subjected to no less than eight assassination attempts over the course of her 1837-1901 reign; it seems to have been the clumsiness of the would-be assassins, not God, that saved the Queen.
Jul 2008
Always thought it was the old British notion of compromise. To physically attack the Queen it is treason and the penalty would be death, but no sane Englishman would do such a thing. Ergo any assailant must be insane.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
Yeh, suprised they got off so easy. In a lot of countries, the attempted assasin would be executed, and most of these were not even put away for a long time.

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