Victoria at 194?
Tomorrow, we all celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. Well, actually—we all did celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday if we all happened to be in Canada last Monday. There, the event remains the occasion for a national holiday. No such luck in the UK. I am in London at the moment, researching my next book. (It has very little to do with the Queen, I’m afraid—but, as it is about an 1871 murder...
I was awoke at 6 o’clock by Mamma, who told me that the Archbishop of...– Queen Victoria in her diary for 20 June 1837. Her pointed use of “alone” here and several more times in this day’s entry shows that the young Queen reveled in her sudden and absolute freedom from her mother’s control.
4 May 1840
Today, exactly 173 years ago, is the day Shooting Victoria began. On 4 May 1840, Queen Victoria’s first assailant, Edward Oxford, fresh out of a job as a London barman, but with £5 in his pocket, walked into a shop on Blackfriars Road, Southwark, and emerged, £2 poorer but two flashy Birmingham-made dueling pistols richer. With these, five weeks later, he would shoot at the Queen outside...
New Zealand says no to bizarre baby names 4Real,... →
And no to “Queen Victoria,” as well . After all, there was only one Queen Victoria!
Getty Images: A 41 Gun Salute By The Kings Troop... →
At 87, Queen Elizabeth is Britain’s oldest monarch ever, having passed her great-great-grandmother Victoria for that distinction in December 2007. And she’s a little closer to becoming Britain’s longest-reigning monarch: she’ll pass Victoria and earn that title in September 2015.
Worst Poem Ever?
Of the eight assaults upon Queen Victoria, the last of them—Roderick Maclean’s attack, in 1882—was the one immortalized in verse: immortalized for all the wrong reasons. Robert McGonagall, widely considered to be the worst poet of the Victorian age, and a strong contender for worst poet in English, if not the worst poet of all time, found his inspiration (if that is the word) in the events of...
Since lunch I have had a long interview with the Queen, who was very gracious...– Gathorne Gathorne Hardy, Queen Victoria’s Home Secretary, diary entry for 22 September 1867, on Victoria’s disgust at Robert Pate’s assaulting her with his cane, seventeen years before.
Original Victoria Photoshoot
When, a couple years ago, I was contemplating titling my book Shooting Victoria, I felt compelled to check for any previous uses of the term, using the simplest, most effective method possible—I googled. The result was page after page of hits, almost every one of them connected with photography: specifically, I found hundreds of references to dozens of photoshoots of scads of Victoria’s Secret...
Shooting Albert: photographic edition
Victoria’s early years on the throne coincided with the rise of portrait photography, and the first ever photograph of a British royal was of her consort, Prince Albert. Albert sat for the Brighton photographer William Constable on the afternoon of 7 March, 1842, and so we know what he looked like when, two and a half months later, he stared down the barrel of John Francis’s flintlock pistol, sure...
The Unhappy Death of John William Bean
When I began researching Shooting Victoria, I knew that I would have to trace each one of Victoria’s seven assailants beyond their crimes and trials, to their later lives—and, if at all possible, to their deaths. And that turned out to be one of the greatest challenges in writing the book. Only one of the seven—the last, Roderick Maclean—actually died where he was placed after his trial, in...
WORTH BEING SHOT AT In 1882, after having pistols pointed at her eight times and once being assaulted with a cane, Queen Victoria finally summed up the glorious effect that the botched attempts had upon her. “It is worth being shot at,” she wrote to her daughter Vicky, “to see how much one is loved.” The illustration above, from Punch of 18 March 1882, depicts the popular acclaim that...
Queen Victoria assassination attempt: From the... →
Awards Longlist: Carnegie Medal for Excellence in... →
Shooting Victoria has made the list!
Notoriety of a Stick
Of all the assaults Queen Victoria suffered, the one that annoyed her most occurred on 27 June 1850, when Robert Pate came upon her carriage, turning into Piccadilly, and slashed at her with his cane, leaving a welt and blackening the royal eye. One can imagine her annoyance, then, when, nearly half a century later, on New Year’s Day 1899, Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper reported in an article entitled...
Queen Victoria: Dropped?
According to today’s Mirror, a leaked government document reveals that British Education Secretary Michael Gove intends to “airbrush Queen Victoria”—and Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Florence Nightingale—from the history curriculum for British primary schools. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/queen-victoria-removed-from-history-lessons-1586424
Edward Oxford at Home—1851
After taking his two shots at Queen Victoria in 1840, Edward Oxford was tried for High Treason and acquitted on the grounds of insanity. He spent the next 24 years of his life in the criminal lunatics’ wing of Bethlem Hospital. Above is a detail from the 1851 English census for Bethlem, which lists Oxford by his previous profession—barman. Among Oxford’s lunatic companions listed here...
William Hamilton's Birthday Present
On 19 May 1849—the official day of celebration of Queen Victoria’s 30th birthday—William Hamilton became the fourth person to “have a pop at the Queen.” The above image of the attack—from the Illustrated London News—captures the scene, as Hamilton stood just beyond the palings of Green Park and shot at Victoria as she returned to Buckingham Palace from a carriage ride. Of course the Illustrated...
A Truly Remarkable Life
A Walking Shadow, by Jenny Sinclair. Melbourne: Arcade Publications, 2012. As Queen Victoria’s first and best-remembered assailant, Edward Oxford deserves a place as one of the Victorian age’s great footnote figures. But at least as remarkable as his shooting two pistols at the Queen as an 18-year old in 1840 was what happened to him afterwards—during the sixty years left to him. Oxford was...
Ghosts of Edward Oxford
Last month in Newtown, Connecticut, another disturbed and enraged young man joined the dark fraternity: the boys and men who have converted their personal rage and disappointment into unspeakable violence, each one seemingly trying to outdo his predecessors in achieving greater and greater depths of evil, and in spreading the greatest amount of pain across one community, across the nation—across...
Oxford in Bethlem
Bethlem Hospital, located for most of the nineteenth century south of the River Thames, was for 24 years the residence of Queen Victoria’s first assailant, Edward Oxford. Acquitted on the grounds of insanity, Oxford remained confined at the Queen’s pleasure in the male criminal wing of the hospital, located on the upper right side of the plan above. For the first six months of...
From would-be royal assassin to pillar of society →
An article on Jenny Sinclair’s fascinating book focusing on Edward Oxford’s respectable life in Melbourne, Australia, post-shooting and post-asylum.
The Last of the Would-be Assassins
The very last of Queen Victoria’s assailants to die outlived his long-lived queen by nearly a quarter-century. Arthur O’Connor, Victoria’s sixth would-be assassin, was 17 when he clambered over the fence at Buckingham Palace, approached Victoria’s carriage, and thrust a rusty flintlock into her face, hoping to coerce her into freeing all Irish political prisoners in Britain. Instead, Victoria’s...
100 Notable Books of 2012 - NYTimes.com →
Shooting Victoria named one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2012!
The Murderer and the Media, 1842
On 21 May 1842—just over a week before Victoria’s second assailant, John Francis, made his two attempts upon the Queen—the Illustrated London News published, in its second-ever issue, a portrait of the murderer Daniel Good, whose execution John Francis witnessed, right before he began his own downward spiral into crime—ending up on the front page of the Illustrated...
To speak in rude and general terms, the Queen is invisible, and the Prince of...– William Gladstone, 1870, on growing discontent with Queen Victoria and her eldest son. The “royalty problem” reached a peak in 1871, but was effectively solved with the Prince of Wales’s dire illness and recovery at the end of that year, and with the public reaction to Arthur...
Queen Victoria faces "horrible conspirators and...
It was, according to Queen Victoria herself, the happiest day of her life: the first of May, 1851. On that day, she, Prince Albert, and her two oldest children strolled happily among 25,000 of her subjects in Hyde Park’s Crystal Palace, to open the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations: the world’s first world’s fair. Victoria’s advisers, deeply...
Royal Performance, 27 June 1850
The advertisement above from the 27 June 1850 issue of the London Standard details that evening’s events at the Covent Garden Theatre. The opera was a triumph. But it was eclipsed by a greater one, for it was on this night that Queen Victoria, injured for the first and only time by one of her assailants, presented her battle-wounds to an appreciative audience. Robert Pate had done...
London's Latest Cocktail: The Edward Oxford
The Cellar Door, in London, has recently created at the behest of the Société Perrier a cocktail in honor of Victoria’s first assailant, Edward Oxford: 25ml Campari 20ml Punt e Mes 7.5ml Lagavulin 20ml lemon juice Dash egg white Perrier (Shake all ingredients except Perrier. Double strain. Serve over Ice, top with Perrier and serve with the remainder of the Perrier bottle....
I shall never be otherwise than I am. I shall resemble no man, and yet I am fast...– 17-year-old John William Bean, Victoria’s third assailant, later dubbed the “hunchbacked miscreant,” reflecting upon his disability, in the weeks before his attempt of July 3rd, 1842.
Follow Queen Victoria on Twitter.... →
University of London graduate student Ashley Coates is making available, in near-real time, tweets taken from the Journals of Queen Victoria—from the Coronation onwards. Now tweeting: 1838—Victoria is 19; Melbourne is Prime Minister; and Prince Albert and Edward Oxford are both two years away. Follow the Queen’s day-by-day observations at @QueenVicTweets.
Signed Bookplates for Shooting Victoria
Last Tuesday’s reading and signing of Shooting Victoria at the Boulder Book Store was a great success—and a lot of fun: and so, naturally, I’m now looking into making some other appearances across the country. But you don’t need to wait until one of these appearances to obtain a signature for your copy of Shooting Victoria. If you live in the US or Canada,...
Shooting Victoria Book Event: Tuesday, 4...
See you there?
Guilty But Insane
In 1882, Queen Victoria’s seventh and last assailant, Roderick Maclean, was acquitted on the grounds of insanity. The Queen was livid at the verdict, and, in an extremely unusal move for a constitutional monarch, demanded of her Prime Minister, William Gladstone, that the law be changed. Gladstone complied, and a year later the curious insanity verdict of “guilty, but...
P C Trounce's Dangerous Salute
On 30 May 1842, Constable William Trounce of the London Metropolitan Police put Queen Victoria in grave danger—by saluting her. He had been posted to watch for suspicious activity outside Buckingham Palace in Green Park. He had been observing a nervous and furtive-looking young man for some time, when the royal carriage approached, returning from a ride around the parks. Trounce...
Edward Oxford: the Literary Edition
Edward Oxford is the only one of Queen Victoria’s seven would-be assassins who makes an appearance in a classic work of literature. He appears in Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop, the novel that Dickens was writing during the months before and after Oxford’s attempt. Although Dickens took a strong interest in the case, Oxford does not show up in...
"John Brown to the Rescue"
On Leap Day, 29 February 1872, young Arthur O’Connor scaled the wall of Buckingham Palace, rushed Queen Victoria’s carriage, and became her sixth assailant. The illustration above, from the Penny Illustrated Paper, depicts the assault. While I have never seen a more ghastly depiction of Queen Victoria herself than in this image, the illustrator has otherwise captured the...
The Queen Steals the Show
Q: How did Queen Elizabeth upstage David Beckham, Kenneth Branagh, Roger Bannister, J. K. Rowling, Rowan Atkinson, Paul McCartney, and roughly 14,000 Olympic athletes, to provide the most memorable moment of the 30th Olympiad’s Opening Ceremonies? A: She took a play from her great-great-grandmother’s playbook, and gave it a high-tech twist. Victoria set the standard...
"The Most Disgraceful and Cowardly Thing That Has...
On 27 June, 1850, at this site—Cambridge House on Picadilly, a stone’s throw across Green Park from Buckingham Palace—Queen Victoria suffered the only successful assault upon her. Robert Pate on that day waited for Victoria’s carriage to emerge from the “Out” gate of the mansion; the Queen had come to Cambridge House to visit her dying uncle. As the...
The Latest in Royal Protection, c. 1842
Sometime in the early 1840s, most likely after John Francis’s two attempts upon her life, Queen Victoria obtained this most unusual fashion accessory: a parasol two layers of silk, concealing close-linked chain mail. At three and a quarter pounds, the parasol was far too heavy for everyday use, but was, rather, likely intended for the Queen’s use when she faced a known threat,...
The Seven and the Census
One of the great challenges in writing Shooting Victoria was in resurrecting the dead: in digging up and presenting the sort of information about Queen Victoria’s seven assailants that would allow readers to understand them as living creatures. And among the most helpful tools in doing that, I found, were the English censuses, taken on the first year of every decade during the 19th...
"Hunchbacked Little Miscreant" Attacks Queen
On the 3rd of July 1842, exactly 170 years ago today, John William Bean—a diminutive, hunchbacked, deeply depressed 17-year old boy—pointed a flintlock pistol at Queen Victoria and pulled the trigger. His pistol misfired; he was seized by the boy standing next to him, but in the subsequent excitement, he escaped—only to be captured that evening, when the Metropolitan Police rounded up...
The Two Towers: Victoria and Elizabeth
It’s official; the Daily Mail reports today that Parliament has agreed to rename the Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament “The Elizabeth Tower” in honor of the present Queen. (This tower houses the famous “Big Ben”—which will retain its name.) The act mirrors the honor done early during her great-great-grandmonther Victoria’s reign, when the...