Only one of Queen Victoria’s assailants was actually sentenced to death for his crime. John Francis, the second to shoot at the Queen, was tried in June 1842 for High Treason, found guilty, and sentenced to be hung, beheaded, and quartered. And he was nearly put to death, even though it was never proven at his trial that there was a bullet in his gun. Francis’s defense attempted to prove that his gun was not loaded, and that Francis might have annoyed the Queen, but he did not intend to harm her. The prosecution countered with the assertion that, whether the gun was loaded with a bullet or not, Francis’s gun could have harmed Victoria—could even have killed her. They suggested that the wadding alone—the piece of paper rammed into the barrel to hold in the gunpowder—could have set fire to her dress. And the jury bought that claim. John Francis, then, was sentenced to death for firing a piece of paper at Victoria.
When his sentence was announced, Francis fainted and was dragged, insensible, back to prison. Two weeks later, his sentence was commuted to a lifetime of hard labor in an Australian penal colony. He died in Melbourne in 1885.