The 7 assassination attempts on Queen Victoria’s life which left her scared to go outside


Queen Victoria, whose birthday falls on May 24, 1819, once joked that “it is worth being shot at to learn how much one is loved”.

Queen Victoria — who was Monarch for 64 years — faced not one, but seven assassination attempts on her life after taking to the throne in 1837.

In comparison, Queen Elizabeth, who sat on the throne for 70 years and lived until 96 years old, had three assassination attempts made against her life.

Victoria, whose birthday is May 24, 1819, once joked that “it is worth being shot at to learn how much one is loved”, and sought to keep a stiff upper lip.

But her journals tell a different story. As time went on and the number of attempts made against her life mounted, she struggled with crowds and some of the “lenient” sentences given to her attackers.

Here, takes a closer look at the seven assassination attempts that speckled her long reign.

A painting of Oxford's assassination attempt

Edward Oxford fired a pistol at Victoria and Albert in 1840 (Image: Getty)

The teenager who sought fame

Edward Oxford was the first of Victoria’s assassins, and he was one who was very nearly successful. After seeing her riding in an unguarded open-top carriage with Prince Albert one evening, the gun-obsessed 21-year-old loner clocked how easy it would be to do the deed.

Soon, he became engrossed with the idea, particularly when he realised that she was four months pregnant with her first child. After securing the weapons necessary in Lambeth, South London, he went to Constitution Hill on June 10, 1840, to wait for Victoria to take her evening carriage ride.

And at the sound of horses’ hooves, he stepped from the shadows and fired his pistols, spooking the horses which then bolted off. Fortunately, the Queen was unharmed — but her strife was not over yet.

It later emerged that Oxford had sought notoriety and he was eventually acquitted on the grounds of insanity, making the Queen furious. After spending almost three decades in an insane asylum, he was shipped off to Australia under the alias John Freeman.

Queen Victoria depicted riding in a carriage

Three attempts were made on Victoria’s life between 1840 and 1842 (Image: Getty)

The ‘rascal’ who tried more than once

Just two years later, John Francis, a 19-year-old whose business had failed and whose landlord had kicked him out for stealing, headed to Buckingham Palace on May 29 to take the queen’s life. However, Albert spotted him wielding a gun and alerted the guards but he slipped away.

Albert then accompanied Victoria on her ride the following day in a bid to spot “the rascal’s face” in the crowd. Just as with Oxford, when the carriage reached Constitution Hill, Francis stepped forward and shot. But he too missed and was sent to prison and later sent abroad to what is now Tasmania.

Another notoriety-seeking teen

Then on July 3, 1942, another teenager attempted the deadly deed. John Bean, who had been mistreated due to his spine curvature and lived on the streets, joined the crowds outside Buckingham Palace.

He raised a pistol and fired with no gunshot. Nevertheless, a bystander witnessed the entire scene and then dragged him to the police station. At his trial, the judge concluded that he had, just like Oxford, sought “notoriety”, and was sentenced to just 18 months in prison.

However, historians note that the ordeal was downplayed as it was feared that the incident may inspire copycats. Bean later took his own life in 1882, describing himself in his letter to his wife as having been more “sinned against than sinning”.

Victoria's portrait surrounded by pictures

On one occasion, Victoria was smacked over the head by a cane (Image: Getty)

Motive unknown

On May 19, 1849, Irish immigrant William Hamilton followed in the footsteps of many of the wannabe assassins before him and went to Constitution Hill. He attempted to shoot the Queen but he had much in common with his predecessors: he failed.

The Queen heard the noise and is said to have asked her footman what happened who matter of factly responded: “Your majesty has been shot at.”

His motive remains a mystery as the police found no evidence of his being involved in an Irish revolutionary group hoping to bring down the Queen as was suggested. After serving a seven-year prison sentence, he too was sent to Australia.

A portrait of Queen Victoria

Victoria later grew anxious when surrounded by crowds later in life (Image: Getty)


A strike over the head

Then on June 27, 1850, Victoria was riding an open-top carriage with her three children after vising her uncle in Piccadilly, when she was struck over the head.

Robert Pate, a former British Army officer, whacked her over the head with a metal-tipped cane which drew blood and had the potential to kill. But the Queen remained calm, simply stating “I am not hurt”.

The Morning Post noticed how nonplussed the queen was, writing “Her Majesty betrayed no feeling of alarm”, demonstrating “complete self-possession”.

Yet historian Dr Bob Nicholson, writing for the BBC in March, notes that her diaries show a different side as she described the incident as a “horrid dream” which left Albert “dreadfully shocked”.

She was left feeling anxious in crowds, later writing in her journal that when the public was close to her carriage she would think of “the possibility of an attempt being made” on her life.

Hopes of a hero’s death 

More than 22 decades later, Victoria’s life was attempted for the penultimate time. Arthur O’Connor, whose uncle was a radical Irish revolutionary, concocted a plan to die a hero’s death.

He planned to put a gun to the Monarch’s head and force her to free Irish Republican prisoners. But he was caught by Victoria’s servant John Brown as he climbed over Buckingham Palace’s gates.

The 17-year-old was handed what Victoria felt was an “extremely lenient” sentence of one year of hard labour and a whipping. He was later sent to Australia, in a bid to put the Queen’s mind to rest, but he later returned to Britain, proclaiming that he hoped to be killed by police. He lived out the rest of his years in and out of asylums.

The final attempt

In 1882, the final assassination attempt was made on Victoria’s life. Roderick Maclean, whose personality had changed after a blow to the head, fired at Her Majesty while she rode a carriage. But he missed and spent the rest of his days in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital.


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