The Truth About Every Assassination Attempt On Queen Victoria

In History of the World Part I Mel Brooks famously told us it was good to be the king, and apparently he really believed it, because he repeated the line in Robin Hood, Men in Tights. But who hasn't wanted to be the king? Or queen? Or both? The job comes with estates, royal treasuries, servants from here to next Tuesday ... What's not to like?

Full disclosure: There are one or two eensy-weensy, barely noticeable drawbacks. Read the job description, they'll probably fall under "and other duties as assigned." Watch out for that one.

Because even though you're royal, and depending on the era and location, you might even be considered royal as a divine act, somebody, somewhere, is going to disagree with you. Not everyone thinks a monarchy is a good idea. Still don't, though that's hard to believe.

There's always the possibility that someone, or several someones, might disagree strongly enough to try to rearrange the socio-political landscape and then water it with the blood of the recently slain tyrant who — might be you.

Victoria and Albert

Queen Victoria of England, for example. In her defense, while the English monarchy promoted from within, so to speak, it's not like they hired off the street and let people work their way up the governmental ladder.

Victoria had her supporters, but also her detractors. Over the course of 42 years, at least eight times someone tried to cut short her reign. (Spoiler: they failed.) Seven of the eight involved some form of handgun. Here are a few of the highlights:

The first, Edward Oxford, fired not once, but twice, from a distance of less than twenty feet, and missed, not once, but twice. After prison he was shipped to Australia. John Francis was a two-fer. His pistol misfired and he got away; he tried again, also less than twenty feet away, but missed. Eventually he, too, was banished.

John William Bean's pistol also failed to fire (are you detecting a pattern here? We're detecting a pattern here). He got hard labor. William Hamilton took his shot, but claimed his weapon was firing a blank — powder, no bullet. Banished, nevertheless.

All assail the Queen

Robert Pate had the distinction of being the only would-be attacker to actually harm Victoria. He got close enough to smack her with his cane. He was subdued, and she stood up and proclaimed she was not hurt, though she later sported a fairly massive bruise and black eye. Penal colony for him.

Arthur O'Connor jumped the fence at Buckingham Palace and got within a foot of the queen with a pistol that was actually broken and unusable. He was eentually exiled to Australia. Roderick Maclean fired at the queen (and missed) while she was being cheered by the lads from Eton College, who used their umbrellas to pummel the miscreant until he was taken into custody. How very English. Maclean spent the rest of his life in a facility for the insane.

And Victoria continued to reign, for good or for ill. She died in bed at age 81.