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 outside of Greenwich, it does have a great deal to do with the era to which she gave her name.) And so for me, tomorrow will be a work day—hunkered down in the British Newspaper Library. Still, I do hope to mark the day with an afternoon visit to the exhibit at Kensington Palace, “Victoria Revealed,” which covers the many sides of Victoria: child, wife, mother, empress. To the Queen!
I was awoke at 6 o’clock by Mamma, who told me that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here, and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing-gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham (the Lord Chamberlain) then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen. — 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.
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 Buckingham Palace.
On the very same day—4 May 1840—Queen Victoria sat in Buckingham Palace while the artist George Hayter sketched her for the official portrait of her wedding, which had taken place three months before. That portrait effectively demonstrates that although Victoria had only been on the throne for 3 of what would be 63 years, she had already reached a turning point in her reign. In her earlier coronation portrait, Victoria sits alone and gazes upwards into space, as if contemplating the coming years of her sole reign. In the wedding portrait, she gazes upwards as well, but now she gazes admiringly at a man: Prince Albert, whom she loved from the moment she saw him as an adult, and who was quickly becoming her co-ruler.
New Zealand says no to bizarre baby names 4Real, Juztice and Lucifer - Telegraph -
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 Marks The Queen's 87th Birthday -
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.
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 his day. And the event of 2 March 1882 provided the fodder for one of his best bad poems:
God prosper long our noble Queen,
And long may she reign!
Maclean he tried to shoot her,
But it was all in vain.
For God He turned the ball aside
Maclean aimed at her head;
And he felt very angry
Because he didn’t shoot her dead.
There’s a divinity that hedges a king,
And so it does seem,
And my opinion is, it has hedged
Our most gracious Queen.
Maclean must be a madman,
Which is obvious to be seen,
Or else he wouldn’t have tried to shoot
Our most beloved Queen.
The rest of McGonagall’s poem can be found in Shooting Victoria.
Since lunch I have had a long interview with the Queen, who was very gracious and cheerful. She spoke of…Oxford [the pot-boy who shot at her], and the attacks on her; dwelling most on the blow on her head, the mark of which, she said, remained for ten years. Firearms she had not minded, as if they missed there was nothing to trouble you, and a moving carriage prevented a good aim. — 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.
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 models.
Last week I presented the first known photograph of a British Royal—the ghostly fruit of Prince Albert’s 1842 sitting in Brighton—and so I thought it appropriate this week to present the results of the first known instance of shooting Victoria—photographically. Here she is with her firstborn, the Princess Royal. The exact date of this image is not known, but can be deduced by the age of her daughter. Vicky, conceived soon after Victoria’s marriage to Albert in February 1840, and three to four months in the womb when Edward Oxford made his assault, was born in November of that year. This photo was thus almost certainly shot in 1844 or 1845.
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 that he—and not his wife—was the target of a completely different sort of shooting. Well, we know what he looked like—sort of: the sitting was not a success. “He had eight pictures,” the photographer’s sister remembered, with some understatement—“not all good.” Two ghostly images survive in the Royal Collections. Here is one of them.
And by way of contrast, here is a far better photographic portrait of Albert, taken six years later. This hand-tinted portrait demonstrates that Albert was not simply the first photographed royal, he was also without question the first photogenic one. One begins to understand Queen Victoria’s profound physical attraction to her consort.
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 Broadmoor Asylum. The rest dispersed. Two—Oxford and O’Connor—took upon themselves aliases in order to separate themselves from their lives in England; they and two others—Francis and Hamilton—found new existences in Australia. One—Robert Pate—lived in Australia as well, only to return to England to live the quietest of lives. All of these I was able to trace to the grave. Only one of the seven—William Hamilton, the one who from the start hated and spurned the attention his crime brought him—eluded me. With his common name and his desire for anonymity, he stepped in August 1854 out of prison in Fremantle, Western Australia—and into an obscurity I could not penetrate.
Of the seven, John William Bean—the only one who was born, lived, and died in London—might have seemed the easiest to trace to his death. But John William Bean, too, faded into obscurity, clearly preferring that the world forget him and his 3 July 1842 assault upon the Queen. English censuses every ten years from 1841 on give us glimpses of him—giving up his employment as a gold-chaser and taking up as a newsvendor, marrying twice, raising his son Samuel in the family business. Bean last appeared in the 1881 census. I could find no death record after that. And so I spent hours—days—scouring British newspapers for any reference to Bean’s death. Finally, thankfully, I found it: not as I expected in a local or metropolitan daily newspaper, but rather in a national weekly journal. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 30 July 1882, presents a vivid portrait of Bean’s sad mental state in 1882—and obviously for some time before. Clearly, the depression that the nervous 17-year-old felt as he pointed a pistol at his Queen lived on in him for forty more years, until John William Bean, always tired of life, finally swallowed enough opium to end it all.